2019 W. NCAA Previews: 200 Breaststroke Presents a 2:07 Logjam


200 Breaststroke

  • NCAA Record: Lilly King (Indiana), 2:02.60 – 2018
  • American Record: Lilly King (Indiana), 2:02.60 – 2018
  • US Open Record: Lilly King (Indiana), 2:02.60 – 2018
  • Meet Record: Lilly King (Indiana), 2:02.60 – 2018
  • 2018 Champion: Lilly King (Indiana), 2:02.60 – 2018

Indiana senior Lilly King is the 3-time defending champion in the women’s 200 breaststroke, and the only woman last year who was able to approach her, Texas A&M’s Bethany Galat, has graduated.

That makes King a prohibitive favorite in the event. If there’s any hope for the field, it’s that her 200 at Big Tens was just 2:05.14: in spite of swimming the fastest-ever time in the 100. 2:05.1 isn’t unbeatable, but even that time is faster than any other returning swimmer went at NCAAs last year.

Nobody’s unbeatable, but King is by-far the safest bet at this year’s meet.

After her, the race is pretty wide-open. Texas A&M, who scored 57 points in this event alone with 4 A-finalists, will be a big factor in the final again. Sydney Pickrem is the top returning swimmer in the race besides King – she placed 3rd last season. Both she and her teammate Anna Belousova were under 2:05 at SECs, with Belousova coming in as the 2nd seed for SECs (2:04.80) and Pickrem 3rd (2:04.89).

There is a divide forming in the 200 breaststroke. There’s a group of swimmers consistently capable of 2:05s-and-better, and a group that still is a big leap away from those kind of times. The three aforementioned are the ones in the former group, so in spite of the fact that both Belousova and Pickrem added time in this event at NCAAs last season, and in spite of the fact that one of them will have to add medley relay duty to their lineups, they’re still an easy pick for the 2 and 3 spots in some order.

So from there we’re looking at a battle for 4th, and it’s a wide-open battle. After NC State freshman Sophie Hansson (2:06.73), there are 11 swimmers seeded in the range from 2:07.0 to 2:08.0.

So how do we split those hairs? One way is by looking at who did what last season at NCAAs (specifically in prelims, which is where top 8 spots are earned).

Swimmer School 2019 Seed 2018 Add/Drop in Prelims
Sophie Hansson NC State 2:06.73
Grace Zhao Stanford 2:07.07 -0.76
Bailey Bonnett Kentucky 2:07.19 +0.51
Delaney Duncan Eastern Michigan 2:07.38 -1.22
Margaret Higgs South Carolina 2:07.40 -0.33
Nikol Popov Tennessee 2:07.60
Miranda Tucker Michigan 2:07.64 +1.26
Noelle Peplowski Indiana 2:07.75
Riley Scott USC 2:07.78 +1.86
Calypso Sheridan Northwestern 2:07.98 +2.67
Silja Kansakoski Arizona State 2:08.01 +0.63
Vanessa Pearl Florida 2:08.04

There’s a few numbers that jump out here. Zhao and Duncan nailed their tapers last season, while Tucker, Scott, and Sheridan struggled (though Tucker almost got back down to her season-best in finals and ultimately placed 4th).

Duncan had a huge drop last season at NCAAs, but she entered on a different plane. Her 2:07.38 at this year’s MAC Championships was almost a second-and-a-half faster than her lifetime best. Does she have another full second drop in her? If she does, she becomes the favorite for 4th.

Zhao did have to come down pretty hard for Pac-12s this year to earn an invite, which she didn’t have to do as much of last year. That could impact her ability to drop more time this season.

Among the swimmers without much history to lean on is NC State freshman Sophie Hansson. She’s the 4th seed, and dropped 2-and-a-half seconds in the event at ACCs. There’s more focus on her 100 (57.74) than her 200, but she didn’t have the same monster drop in that event at ACCs from her mid-season swim (only 7 tenths). That might mean she’s got enough left to at least match her ACC time in the 200, but with a freshman, and one new to short course yards, it’s throwing darts to guess whether drops are ‘comfort in the course’ or rest.

From outside of that group, the most exciting names come from Stanford freshmen. This was a weakness for the Cardinal last season, but they filled the hole in a hurry this year. Allie Raab (16th seed – 2:08.11) didn’t swim a lifetime best in this 200 breaststroke from 2015 until Pac-12s earlier this month; and at Pac-12s, she dropped a second-and-a-half. She needed to rest at Pac-12s to qualify for NCAAs, but it’s clear that she’s re-learning how to swim this 200 breast, and it’s working for her. Her teammate Zoe Bartel is due: her best time is 2:06.24, done in high school, indicating that she’s got the potential to make the leap to that top group, but has been only 2:08.65 (mid-season) this year, leaving her seeded 21st.

Staying on theme of freshmen, I have a good feeling about Vanessa Pearl in this race. She had big drops in both IM races at SECs, but her 200 breaststroke improvement was more muted – only .13 seconds faster than she swam in high school. I think she’s got more to go, but it’s just such a crowded field, there might not be quite enough room for her.

We can’t lose track of Minnesota junior Lindsey Kozelsky either. She’s seeded 18th in 2:08.42, and while this hasn’t been her best season to date, that’s ok, because lasst year she wasn’t able to go a season-best at NCAAs. She was 11th at NCAAs in this event in 11th, and 7th last season. If she’s truly winding up for a big swim, then she’s dangerous in this race.

There are quite a few B finalists lurking very low in the seedings as well, including USC’s Maggie Aroesty (27th seed), and Louisville’s Mariia Astashkina (2:09.30). Aroesty won the B final at last year’s championship.

The one other swimmer needing to be mentioned is Bailey Bonnett of Kentucky. Last season, she didn’t drop a ton of time at NCAAs, but she was half-a-second off her season best in prelims, and was right back at her season-best in finals. In a field like this, if she can get close to her season-best in prelims, she should be in for the top 8. If not, the potential to slide is there.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Lilly King Indiana 2:03.60 2:02.60
2 Sydney Pickrem Texas A&M 2:04.89 2:04.62
3 Anna Belousova Texas A&M 2:04.80 2:04.80
4 Miranda Tucker Michigan 2:07.64 2:06.27
5 Zoe Bartel Stanford 2:08.65 2:06.24
6 Sophie Hansson NC State 2:06.73 2:06.73
8 Bailey Bonnett Kentucky 2:07.19 2:07.17
7 Lindsey Kozelsky Minnesota 2:08.42 2:07.37

Darkhorse: Emma Barksdale, South Carolina (2:08.43 – 19th seed) – Barksdale will get more attention in the 200 IM (7th seed) and 400 IM (3rd seed), but we haven’t yet seen her maximize her potential in the 200 breaststroke. This summer, she dropped almost 3 seconds in the long course version, and she’s been dropping time all season in yards as well. If she can stay focused following her primary races, she’s might climb into the top 8. Even though South Carolina doesn’t have any medley relays, she is on the team’s 400 and 800 free relays, so she’ll still have as many races as most of the breaststrokers.


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Texas A&M Swim Fan
2 years ago

Yeah, King’s the favorite & the one to beat but anything can happen in this one! She better not be complacent with those three previous championships & underestimate Pickrem & Belousova. I believe the outcome will be closer than expected & it could go to either one of the three in my opinion. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it once more: “Texas A&M is “Breast Stroke U””. Look at past results! No other school places more swimmers in the “A Finals” of this event than A&M. If you are a breast stroker, look no further than College Station where Steve Bultman & staff will develop you & help you in your quest to get faster in this event!!… Read more »

Reply to  Texas A&M Swim Fan
2 years ago

What part of “Unshaved and Not tapered for BIG 10s” people don’t get. Once Lily does those things, it’s no longer a “race” but more so “they’re swimming next to her”

Tea rex
2 years ago

“Logjam at 2:07”
Eery how much that could apply to the world men’s LCM.

2 Cents
2 years ago

King is the favorite and should win. I picked her to win. I just hope she doesn’t let her competitive side get the best of her and go out blazing and die at the end trying to win by 10 seconds. That is the only way she would not win, and it would have to be a piano from the Tom Shields collection to drop on her for any kind of upset to happen.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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