2019 W. NCAA Previews: Forde & Pickrem to Battle for 2nd Place in 4IM


400 Individual Medley

  • NCAA Record: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 3:54.60 – 2018
  • American Record: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 3:54.60 – 2018
  • U.S. Open Record: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 3:54.60 – 2018
  • Meet Record: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 3:54.60 – 2018
  • 2018 Champion: Ella Eastin (Stanford), 3:54.60 – 2018

Ella Eastin‘s 2018 400 IM performance at this meet last year was perhaps one of the most stunning in college swimming history – from breaking every record in the books by multiple seconds to handing Katie Ledecky what’s likely the biggest loss margin of her career. It’ll be hard to top this year, but Eastin has continued her stellar run this season, fully taking over the spotlight as Stanford’s star.

At the 2018 Pac-12 Championships, she was 3:57.32 in the 400 IM, then cruised to a 4:01.49 in prelims at NCAAs before her 3:54.60 finals swim. At Pac-12s last month she was 3:57.75 (and an easy 4:03.87 in prelims), similarly setting herself up for the NCAA drop. And this was after she went an eye-popping 4:32.89 in the 500, an event she’s not even swimming this week. The No. 1 pick is as clear as it can be, especially with four of last year’s top eight out of the NCAA.

Stanford’s Ella Eastin (Photo: Rafael Domeyko)

Teammate Brooke Forde and Texas A&M’s Sydney Pickrem are the only other entrants who have been sub-4:00. Forde, who dropped a second at Pac-12s in 2018 and then two more at NCAAs, was within a second of her PR at Pac-12s this year. Pickrem didn’t swim the 400 IM at SECs this year, but went her solid season-best at the 2018 Art Adamson Invite in November. At SECs in 2018, she was 3:59.30 before going her lifetime best 3:59.05 at NCAAs. At Art Adamson in 2017, she was 4:05.50, so either her training cycle was different this year, or she’s primed to drop at NCAAs.

South Carolina’s Emma Barksdale is the next-fastest seed with her season- and lifetime-best of 4:01.52. She came into the 2019 SEC Championships with a PR of 4:05.43, then went 4:03.96 in prelims and 4:01.52 in finals. Last year, she gained a few tenths between SECs and NCAAs. Indiana’s Bailey Andison also touts a best time swum this season, going 4:02.37 at Big Tens last month. Andison is in her first year with IU after transferring from Denver, so it’s hard to project exactly how she’ll hold up that taper between Big Tens and NCAAs in a new training program.

Cal sophomore Sarah Darcel was off her lifetime best this season, topping out at a 4:05.55 at Pac-12s last month. But her lifetime best of 4:03.00 ranks high in this field, and she was able to shave a couple seconds off between conference and NCAAs last year. Just behind her we’ve got Florida first-year Vanessa Pearl, who hit a lifetime best of 4:03.56 in February at her first SECs – we’re banking on her to repeat in her first NCAA appearance.

We’ve picked Stanford junior Allie Szekely, the No. 14 seed, to round out the A-final. No one else entered has been sub-4:05, and even a relatively off performance would keep her in the top eight. Yes, we’re banking on her bouncing back from last year’s sophomore slump, but her upside is too strong to ignore.

Top 8 Picks
Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Ella Eastin Stanford 3:57.75 3:54.60
2 Brooke Forde Stanford 4:00.27 3:59.34
3 Sydney Pickrem Texas A&M 4:01.73 3:59.05
4 Emily Barksdale South Carolina 4:01.52 4:01.52
5 Bailey Andison Indiana 4:02.37 4:02.37
6 Sarah Darcel Cal 4:05.55 4:03.00
7 Vanessa Pearl Florida 4:03.56 4:03.56
8 Allie Szekely Stanford 4:05.93 4:02.34

Dark horse: Northwestern sophomore Calypso Sheridan. She was 22nd at last year’s NCAA Championships, but is the No. 12 seed this year. She swum a lifetime best 4:05.93 at Big Tens last month, as well as in her 200 IM, 200 breast and 100 back; she also went a 100 breast best in a March 1 last chance swim. For what it’s worth, she dropped half a second between conference and NCAAs last season, and seems to be in great shape, judging by a five-second drop in the 400-long-course-meter IM at the Des Moines Pro Swim Series between Big Tens and NCAAs.

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No love for McHugh? Maybe this will be her big year in the SCY 400 IM

With the caveat that she was clearly not tapered for Big Tens, she was only 10th at that meet. I personally would’ve put her top 5, but I think that swim scared me off her. She’s definitely got a chance at an A final, she’s certainly a talented enough swimmer for it, but just couldn’t make a better case for her than the swimmers listed ahead of her who all have lifetime bests in the 4:03 range.


Sheridan may be top 4 if she can hold off Barksdale.


Andison will be close to breaking 4:00 if not under. I think she’ll be 4th at worst


I bet Forde and Pickrem don’t love this headline.


See I would love this headline. Makes me want to be an underdog and try to beat them


They probably don’t read these

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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