2018 W. NCAA Picks: Stanford Goes For 5 Straight In 400 Medley Relay


400 Medley Relay

  • NCAA Record: 3:25.15, Stanford (Howe, Williams, Hu, Manuel), 2018
  • American Record: 3:25.15, Stanford (Howe, Williams, Hu, Manuel), 2018
  • U.S. Open Record: 3:25.15, Stanford (Howe, Williams, Hu, Manuel), 2018
  • 2017 NCAA Champion: Stanford (Howe, Williams, Hu, Neal)

They thought they had finally done it. After years of Stanford dominance in the 400 medley relay, Cal appeared to have slayed the dragon and won their first NCAA title in the event since 2012. Then it came up on the board: 1. Stanford. Cal DQ. The streak continued. Four-straight NCAA titles for the Cardinal while the Golden Bears remained shut out.

In that NCAA final Cal got a big advantage on the opening leg with a near-American Record performance from Kathleen Baker (49.80), and Stanford pulled things even going into the freestyle where Abbey Weitzeil managed to hold off Lia Neal, before we found out she jumped early. Between Pac-12s and NCAAs that win gave Stanford seven straight over Cal, and they made it eight last month as both teams went under the NCAA Record.

At the Pac-12 Championships in February the two teams registered the two fastest times in history – 3:25.15 and 3:25.50 – with the Cardinal on top. The two teams had strikingly similar splits throughout the race. Ally Howe and Baker were both 50.2 on back, Noemie Thomas (50.20) and Janet Hu (50.38) were within less than two tenths on fly, and Simone Manuel (45.95) was just .05 quicker than Weitzeil (46.00). The main difference maker was the breaststroke, where Stanford’s Kim Williams (58.61) out-split Cal freshman Alicia Harrison (59.06) by four tenths.

After breaking the American Record at Pac-12s in the 100 back last season, Howe wasn’t able to match that speed at NCAAs, particularly in the medley relay where she was 1.73 seconds slower than her record-breaking 49.69. Provided she can stay even with Baker on the lead-off (who had a pair of 49.8s at NCAAs), Stanford should be good to win their fifth straight title. With a slight advantage on breast and the uncanny anchor ability of Manuel on the end, Cal will need something special to stop the Stanford machine. If Cal holds a 1.6 second leg after the backstroke leg this is a different story, but I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of last year.

Behind the two Pac-12 behemoth’s are a pair of Big Ten squads who sit 3rd and 4th in the country. Indiana has improved their supporting cast for the fastest female breaststroker in history, Lilly King, on this relay every year, with this season’s lineup looking to be their best. They broke the B1G Record at Big Ten’s, clocking 3:27.81, and look primed to jump into the top-3. Senior Ali Rockett and junior Christine Jensen have both seen huge improvements this year, with Rockett leading off in 51.25 on back and Jensen splitting 51.01 on fly. King was half a second slower on the relay than she was individually at Big Ten’s, meaning she probably has another full second in her with a takeover, and freshman Grace Haskett has shown promise on the anchor leg. She’ll likely be diving in alongside Manuel and Weitzeil, so as long as she stays composed under the pressure Indiana should be good for 3rd. After not even fielding a team in 2015, they’ve gone from 7th to 5th and now are poised for a top-3 in this event.

Minnesota was just over a second back of the Hoosiers at Big Ten’s, putting up a time of 3:28.96. Breaststroker Lindsey Kozelsky is their best leg, as she sits 2nd to King in the NCAA rankings, while Tevyn WaddellDanielle Nack and Zoe Avestruz are solid on the other three strokes.

They’ll need some big swims to maintain their seed, as five teams have been 3:29 this season. Tennessee got a monster 49.11 fly split from Erika Brown to win SECs, the fastest in history, and they’ll need a similar performance to fend off conference rival Texas A&M. The Aggies were 2nd at NCAAs last year and are getting back versatile sprinter Béryl Gastaldello who missed SECs. They’re particularly strong on the front half, with Lisa Bratton and Anna Belousova (ranked 8th and 5th in their respective 100s), and Gastaldello really shores up their back half (either on fly or free).

Texas, Michigan and USC are the three others sub-3:30. Claire Adams should be able to get down to her sub-51 PB on backstroke, potentially pushing Texas into the 3:28s. USC, who was DQed at Pac-12s (albeit in a 3:30.8), also have at least a second to drop from their invite time of 3:29.9, with Louise Hansson having gone 50.17 flat start at Pac-12s and splitting only 51.1 in November. Michigan, along with 3:30 teams Ohio State, Louisville and Auburn will need a big swim to land in the top-8. If the Trojans slip up like they did at Pac-12s, the Wolverines may be there to take their place, with breaststroker Miranda Tucker and freestyler Siobhan Haughey (or Gabby DeLoof) leading the charge.


Place Team Season Best 2017 NCAA Finish
1 Stanford 3:25.15 1st (3:26.35)
2 California 3:25.50 — (DQ in A-Final)
3 Indiana 3:27.81 5th (3:28.58)
4 Texas A&M 3:29.40 2nd (3:27.60)
5 Texas 3:29.51 3rd (3:27.74)
6 Minnesota 3:28.96 12th (3:30.85)
7 Tennessee 3:29.26 18th (3:32.81)
8 USC 3:29.96 7th (3:29.46)

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I don’t think Ally Howe actually went that slow last year, probably just a touchpad error.


I do, shes never really come close to that magical time that broke Coughlin’s record. I think the video confirms it too


If you compare lane 2 (Stanford) and lane 6 (A&M) they are listed with 51.42 and 51.6 splits, but you can see in the video Howe touches more than a body length ahead of A&M’s backstroker.


You dont see that…you dont even see Ally Howe touch, the video cuts it off. You just see her come up at around the same time as Texas A&M and far behind Baker.


Ervin. You may want to look again. Stanford touches second way ahead of lane 6. Over a body length ahead of lane 6 and just ahead of lane 5 and 7.


No, you cant see Ally touch…the video literally does not show it.


OK You can’t see her hand touch but you can see her finish and Stanford dive in. There is no way she loses a second and a half once she goes out of view after the flags. Look at the flags and compare her to lane 6.


You can’t see any of that…shes completely out of view. The girl was slower here than when she broke the NCAA record…stop trying to make it seem otherwise. Hopefully she rebounds at her last collegiate meet.


you’re blind. I give up. And i’m not saying she was at her AM, I’m saying she wasn’t 51 mid like lane 6.


And you’re hallucinating, seeing things that arent there!


Sigh. OK we obviously are seeing two different things. It would be nice to be in the same room to show each other what we are saying, as this back and forth is now just becoming comical for both of us.


Y’all blind


50.2 is decently close.

Go See Cal

Watch for a 58 split from Cal on the breast!


Louise Hansson will split 48.7

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

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