2021 W. NCAA Picks: After Racing King as a Freshman, Hansson Seeks 200 BR Title


  • When: Wednesday, March 17 – Saturday, March 20, 2021
  • Where: Greensboro Aquatic Center / Greensboro, NC (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Prelims 10 AM / Finals 6 PM (Local Time)
  • Short course yards (SCY) format
  • Defending champion: Stanford (3x) – 2019 results
  • Streaming:
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results


  • 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
  • 2019 Champion: Lilly King (Indiana), 2:02.90
  • 2020 Top Performer: Sophie Hansson (NC State) – 2:05.59

The 2020 NCAA Championships would’ve been the first look at a post-Lilly King NCAA breaststroke field, but COVID-19 has delayed that look to this year.

The top performer of 2020, Sophie Hansson of NC State, is the top seed for the 2021 NCAA Champs. This time around, Hansson is a bit faster; she’s been 2:04.87, a time done at the 2020 ACC Championships to win the conference crown.

The breaststroke groups at NC State and Virginia are both pretty ridiculous; both teams have two women seeded to make the A-final, while the Wolfpack and Cavaliers make up eight of the top 20 seeds for this meet. That’s depth. For the Wolfpack, junior and SMU transfer Andrea Podmanikova joins Hansson in the top eight at #4 (2:05.86), while they also have freshman Abby Arens at #16 (2:07.56) and senior Julia Poole at #18 (2:07.73). For the ‘Hoos, sophomore Ella Nelson leads the way with the #5 seed (2:05.91), followed by freshmen Alex Walsh at #8 (2:06.72) and Anna Keating at #14 (2:07.26) and junior Alexis Wenger at #19 (2:07.79).

Podmanikova has come down significantly since leaving SMU, going from 2:08.66 in 2019 to her current best, nearly three seconds faster. Arens has taken a half-second off since high school, while Poole set a lifetime best at ACCs by almost a second. For UVA, Nelson was a few-tenths off of her best time at 2021 ACCs, while Walsh was almost a second off of hers mid-season (she did not swim it at ACCs), Keating a couple-tenths off hers and Wenger over a second off. Keating and Wenger went lifetime bests mid-season, while Nelson’s best is from 2020 and Walsh’s from 2019.

Both NC State and Virginia surely are targeting NCAAs, rest-wise, but the ‘Hoos seem to have more to drop from ACCs based on the above data. Freshman Walsh, in particular, showed a flash of brilliance when she came back on Kate Douglass over the back-half of the 200 IM at ACCs; it feels like Walsh could be the big mover in the 200 breast from seed. Douglass has, of course, been 2:03 this year, but won’t race this at NCAAs in favor of the 100 free, where Virginia has less scoring opportunities.

The SEC is very deep here, too. Georgia’s women have two in seeded in the top 10, while Kentucky has two in the top 15. Sophomore Zoie Hartman and senior Danielle Dellatorre will go for it for the Bulldogs, with Hartman at #2 (2:05.05) and Dellatorre at #9 (2:06.81). For Kentucky, sophomores #3 Gillian Davey (2:05.59) and #15 Lauren Poole (2:07.33) are dangerous, too. Hartman and Davey look the strongest, and both were denied freshman NCAA debut experience last season, along with every other sophomore in the field.

Freshmen Anna Elendt (Texas), Kaitlyn Dobler (USC) and Mona McSharry (Tennessee) sit at #6, #7 and #10, respectively. Elendt was 2:06.04 in November, while Dobler hit a 2:06.53 to win the Pac-12 title and McSharry was 2:07.13 at SECs to finish behind Hartman, Davey and Dellatorre.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten could both be shut out of this final completely, but there are some names to watch for both. #11 Allie Raab is the top Stanford swimmer here (2:07.15), just ahead of #12 Cal’s Ema Rajic (2:07.16), while Stanford senior Brooke Forde is tucked out of sight down at #35 with a dual meet time of 2:09.83. Forde’s best is a 2:07.35, a time she swam to win the 2020 Pac-12 title.

Then there are two Hoosiers ranked top-20, with sophomore Emily Weiss at #13 (2:07.20) and junior Noelle Peplowski at #17 (2:07.61). Peplowski made the A-final in this event at 2019 NCAAs, with a lifetime best of 2:06.94 in the final, so she could move up and challenge for a spot in the 2021 A-final.

As a freshman, Hansson was third at 2019 NCAAs behind only King and Sydney Pickrem, two of the best 200 breaststrokers in the world. This is Hansson’s race, but there is so much youth in this field; seven of the top ten seeds are freshmen or sophomores. In total, this event is tied with the 100 breast as the deepest at the top; both events have nine swimmers with ‘A’ cuts.


Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Sophie Hansson NC State 2:04.87 2:04.87
2 Alex Walsh Virginia 2:06.72 2:05.87
3 Zoie Hartman Georgia 2:05.05 2:05.05
4 Gillian Davey Kentucky 2:05.59 2:05.59
5 Ella Nelson Virginia 2:05.91 2:05.68
6 Andrea Podmanikova NC State 2:05.86 2:05.86
7 Danielle Dellatorre Georgia 2:06.81 2:06.81
8 Allie Raab Stanford 2:07.15 2:06.85

Darkhorse: Vanessa Pearl, Florida (2:07.85 – 20th seed) – Pearl finished sixth at the 2021 SEC Championships in the 200 breast, clocking a lifetime best 2:07.85 in the final, bouncing back from gaining time and placing last in the 400 IM A-final the day before. She was 2:24.99 in long course in 2019, and she made the 2019 NCAAs as a freshman but was only 2:09.69 at the meet to finish 24th. Nobody seeded above her, not even Swedish standout Hansson, has been that fast in long course; if it clicks at NCAAs, Pearl could surprise a lot of people.

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1 year ago

What is your reasoning for assigning such a significant improvement to Walsh but little or none to all the others? Do you really believe that Hansson, Hartman and Davey will all three fail to drop any time at all? personally I find that unlikely.

Reply to  David
1 year ago

Haha dude they’re not assigning time drops read…It’s Season Best in 1 column and Lifetime Best in the other not what they’re predicting they’ll go

Reply to  B1Guy!
1 year ago

B1Guy! is correct.

Though, this does highlight an interesting point about how many of these swimmers have already gone lifetime bests this season.

Reply to  B1Guy!
1 year ago

I don’t think u r understanding,David is simply saying if Walsh is predicted to come second she would need a significant time drop to beat three/four other swimmers with lifetime and season best faster than her.

Blue chute
1 year ago

if uva swims legal breaststroke then it’s gonna be a good race #1kickinpullouts

1 year ago

“while Walsh was almost a second off of hers” ? Walsh swam 200 back at ACCs and did not do the 200 breast.

1 year ago

I think Walsh goes 2:03 to win

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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