2018 W. NCAA Previews: American Record Holder vs. NCAA Record Holder in 50 Free

2018 WOMEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

50 FREESTYLE

The NCAA Championships will pit the American Record holder, Abbey Weitzeil, against the reigning NCAA champion and NCAA Record holder, Stanford’s Simone Manuel, in the 50 free. One of the main questions concerning this race heading into the postseason was of Manuel’s undisclosed injury. Despite battling injury for most of the season, however, Manuel’s performances at the Pac-12 Championships didn’t seem to be impacted at all. She put up a blistering 21.20 in this event at conference, missing her best time by just .03. With that, Manuel appears to be the favorite, but Weitzeil still has that American Record swim under her belt. She became the fastest swimmer ever in the event with a 21.12 in 2016, and has been looking good in-season.

While those two would be tough to beat at their bests, there are a couple of swimmers who could surprise for the title. Ohio State’s Liz Li joins Manuel in the 21.2-range this season after putting up a lifetime best and conference record at Big Tens. Li placed 3rd in this race last season and comes into the meet seeded 2nd to Manuel. Tennessee’s Erika Brown is also in the 21-low range after having a huge breakout season thus far. Before this season, Brown had never broken 22 seconds. She’s now an SEC Champion with a best of 21.39.

Outside of Weitzeil, Manuel, and Li, the returning finalists this season are Cal’s Maddie Murphy and UNC’s Caroline Baldwin. As a freshman, Murphy placed 6th with a lifetime best 21.76. This season, she’s exactly where she was last year in terms of seed time for the meet. She was able to shave a couple of tenths from Pac-12s to NCAAs last time around, so she’s in a good position to earn All-American status again. Baldwin had a great summer and has done a good job of translating that success into the yards pool. She knocked 3 tenths off her best for a 21.48 at midseason, and though she wasn’t as fast at ACCs, there’s a good chance she’s got a lot left in the tank for NCAAs.

There are several other women who could potentially make this final. Virginia’s Caitlin Cooper comes to mind after her speedy 21.54 to win ACCs. Then there’s Cal’s Amy Bilquist, who’s been on top of her sprint game with a lifetime best 21.74 at Pac-12s. Though she missed the SEC Championships for undisclosed health reasons, Texas A&M’s Béryl Gastaldello has had a breakthrough this season. Her 21.69 from the 2017 Art Adamson Invite was her first best time in this race since 2015. She’s already gotten back into the swing of things, competing at sectionals to prepare for NCAAs. Auburn’s Aly Tetzloff (21.83), Texas’ Rebecca Millard (21.91), and Alabama’s Bailey Scott (21.96) have all been sub-22 and should be fighting for a finals spot as well.

Though under normal circumstances NC State’s Ky-Lee Perry would definitely be considered a top 8 threat, we have to consider her a bit of a darkhorse here. Perry has a season best of 22.01 and a lifetime best of 21.80. Perry, the 2017 ACC Champion in this race, was out 4-6 weeks after dislocating her elbow. Another darkhorse to look out for is Arizona’s Katrina Konopka. She enters as the 27th seed in 22.17, but has a lifetime best of 21.71 from 2017 Pac-12s. Konopka was a member of Team USA’s 200 medley relay that set a World Record at the 2017 Short Course World Championships.

TOP 8 PICKS:

Place Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Simone Manuel (Stanford) 21.20 21.17
2 Abbey Weitzeil (Cal) 21.41 21.12
3 Erika Brown (Tennessee) 21.39 21.39
4 Liz Li (Ohio State) 21.28 21.28
5 Caroline Baldwin (North Carolina) 21.48 21.48
6 Amy Bilquist (Cal) 21.74 21.74
7 Caitlin Cooper (Virginia) 21.54 21.54
8 Maddie Murphy (Cal) 21.96 21.76

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Bob

Kinda surprised no one said anything on this

Swimmer A

I’ll say somethin

Swimmer A

Got nothin to say

Tammy Touchpad Error

Abbey gonna hold her off here. 20.9 incoming.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently working on her M.A. in …

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