2021 NCAA Women’s Championships: Day 1 Finals Live Recap


The 2021 NCAA Women’s Championships are off in less than an hour, with the only event of the night the 800 free relay timed finals. This year’s new no-prelims-relays rule won’t have any effect on the 800 relay, which is always run in timed finals.


This race looks like a showdown between Cal and Virginia, and whether or not Isabel Ivey swims this relay for Cal could be the difference between first and second. Ivey, one of the top freestylers in the nation, swam all four of the other relays at Pac-12s.

Meanwhile, Texas, NC State, Kentucky, Stanford and Florida are all poised for top finishes; they’re all seeded with 6:58s. Texas has Kelly Pash and Kentucky Riley Gaines, the two of them tied for the #2 seed in the individual 200 free at 1:42.70 behind Virginia’s Paige Madden (1:42.39).

Georgia is also seeded under seven minutes with a 6:59, as no other teams have been under 7:01 this season. Their big leg is Courtney Harnish, who is seeded fourth in the individual 200 free with a 1:42.96.


  • NCAA Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • American Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • U.S. Open Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • Meet Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • 2019 Champion: Stanford (Drabot, Eastin, Ruck, Forde) – 6:47.22
  • 2020 Top Performer: Tennessee (Small, Brown, Pintar, Cieplucha) – 6:53.27

Top 3 (final)

  1. Virginia – 6:52.56
  2. Kentucky – 6:57.02
  3. Cal – 6:57.06

There were no more than four teams in each heat to adhere to social distancing guidelines tonight, as will be the case in relays to come.

The final heat went to Virginia, helped by Isabel Ivey being kept off of this relay, as they were challenged by Cal and Texas. Texas led after the first leg, as sophomore Kelly Pash hit a 1:43.07 for the lead-off. Paige Madden went second for the ‘Hoo’s, pulling them into a big lead. Ella Nelson extended that lead on the third leg for UVA, with Alex Walsh bringing it home for them. Virginia clocked a 6:52.56, getting a 1:41.63 leg from Madden, 1:43-lows from Nelson and Walsh and a 1:44.6 lead-off from Valls. Cal and Texas were second and third in the heat, but Kentucky’s time from an earlier heat held up for second overall, a great performance from the SEC Champions.

Virginia’s time was the fastest of the night by over three full seconds, a commanding victory, as they were one of just three teams to have four splits break 1:45.

NC State, swimming in the final heat, gained six seconds after taking Katharine Berkoff and Kylee Alons off of the relay. They place 17th, the only team to not score tonight, after they were seeded fourth overall.

In the penultimate heat, Stanford, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky squared off. Florida’s Talia Bates got the Gators off to a good start with a 1:43.70 lead-off, but Riley Gaines pulled Kentucky in a huge lead on the second leg. Kentucky won this easily, going 6:57.02 and dropping from seed. That was a lights-out swim for the Wildcats, who had three swimmers go faster than they did at SECs, and they surge to a silver medal finish tonight among all heats. Georgia also broke seven minutes at 6:59.82, while Stanford was just third in 7:01.05 after they broke 6:50 in 2019.

Morgan Scott led off Alabama in heat three, churning out a 1:44.15 to give them a lead, with Cora Dupre splitting a 1:43-high to follow, giving them a big lead over Michigan, who themselves had a large lead on Tennessee. Though their lead shrunk over the back-half, the Crimson Tide still dropped from seed to go 7:00.38 and overtake the top position with just two heats left. Michigan also put up a strong swim, going 7:01.81 to move to the #3 position and drop from seed. The final two heats have four relays, each.

In heat two, Chloe Stepanek of Texas A&M led off the Aggies in a lifetime best of 1:42.89, which makes her the fifth woman under 1:43 in this event this year and the ninth-fastest freshman ever in the event. The race tightened up, and in the final turn, A&M, Indiana and VT were about even. IU got the touch in 7:02.42, though, ahead of A&M (7:02.48) and VT (7:02.73).

Heat one was a race between Ohio State, Louisville and Wisconsin, and only one team in this field won’t score as there are only 17 teams racing this relay. So long as a team finished first or second in this first heat, they’d secure at least two points. OSU took the win in 7:00.79, dropping three seconds from seed, while Wisconsin and Louisville also dropped about two seconds from seed.


  1. Virginia 40
  2. Kentucky 34
  3. California 32
  4. Texas 30
  5. Georgia 28
  6. Alabama 26
  7. Ohio St 24
  8. Stanford 22
  9. Florida 18
  10. Michigan 14
  11. Indiana 12
  12. Texas A&M
  13. 13. Wisconsin 8
  14. Virginia Tech 6
  15. Louisville 4
  16. Tennessee 2

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27 days ago

Predictions – Will CAL use Ivey and “punt” the 200 Medley Relay or save her for the sprint relays?

Reply to  wow
27 days ago

Will two cross country trips take anything out of the Bears while Virginia stayed close to home for both ACC’s and NCAA’s?

Reply to  Bevo
27 days ago

Cal to Houston is not ‘cross-country’

Reply to  Whoa
27 days ago

It is if you’re from Cali.

Reply to  wow
27 days ago

They have pretty good sprinters so if I were Teri (I’m not….) I would take her off the 2 medley and go for gold here.

27 days ago

It sucks that these line-ups have to be kept so secretive

Reply to  wow
27 days ago

Think about it as being a Christmas present under the tree. Until Christmas morning, it can be anything: a go-cart or a new dress shirt. Part of the fun is finding out.

Reply to  BearlyBreathing
27 days ago

Wow was clearly a (Christmas present) box shaker as a kid…

27 days ago

Bummer there are only 17 relays. I’m sure that no Ivy League hurt things a bit, but still not great to have almost everyone score. Reminds you of how D3s used to be.

Reply to  Joe
27 days ago

Real bummer is we have to listen to rowdy some more.

Reply to  Swimfan
27 days ago

can’t argue with you there…

Reply to  Swimfan
27 days ago

No bummers at all from where I sit. My junior was heartbroken this time last year, Soooo awesome this meet is happening!

Reply to  Swimfan
27 days ago

You don’t have to love the guy, but there are so few people who are as involved with and passionate about the sport as he is, especially at a level where they are in a position to announce at any meet in the world. For that, if nothing else, the man deserves far more respect than he gets from this community.

Reply to  Daddy
27 days ago

You act like he’s a volunteer lol. If you saw how much Rowdy gets paid for all of his various ambassadorships you’d maybe not fee so bad for him.

Reply to  Daddy
27 days ago

Just because you’re an Olympic gold medalist with no other hobbies outside swimming doesn’t mean you deserve the right to commentate on EVERY major swim meet for the past 25+ years…

ole 99
Reply to  Joe
27 days ago

How dare you besmirch our Honorable Mention All America 400 medley relay with a 1:04 breastroke. Josh worked hard to learn that stroke during warm up.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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