2021 W. NCAA Picks: Can Frosh Alex Walsh Threaten the 2IM American Record?

2021 NCAA WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • 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

Women’s 200 Individual Medley

In the last years, Stanford’s Ella Eastin has dominated the 200 IM scene with her 2018 American record swim of 1:50.67. At the most recent NCAA championship meet, it was Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson who upset Eastin in the IM race with a sub-1:51 performance of 1:50.79. During the 2019-2020 NCAA season, Virginia newcomer Kate Douglass swam a blistering 1:51.36 as a freshman. After pandemic restrictions canceled the 2020 championships, sophomore Douglass came back with a 1:50.92 lifetime best in November to threaten Eastin’s American record. Looking at this year’s NCAA psych sheets, however, Douglass has opted to focus on the sprint free events and 100 fly. Now, all eyes will be on a new prospective Virginia freshman in 2021: 19-year-old Olympic hopeful Alex Walsh.

At the 2021 ACC Championships, Douglass was leading the 200 IM final heading into the breaststroke. Then, freshman Walsh unleashed a lethal 31.98 breast split to make up a second deficit on Douglass. Into the last 25 of the race, Walsh out-swam Douglass for an upset win with a monster lifetime best of 1:51.53, crushing her 2018 best of 1:53.69. Douglass finished second in the race at 1:51.97. While she saved more energy during her backstroke leg at ACCs, Walsh is well-known for her backstroke and breaststroke skills, a rare yet powerful combination in IM racing. While shaving another full second off a month-old lifetime best is a lot to ask, Walsh could certainly repeat Eastin’s NCAA title/American record feat. With two full seconds over the next-fastest swimmer in this event, Walsh could easily top the 2021 podium.

Eastin 2018 AR Walsh 2021
FL 24.59 24.48
BK 27.45 28.48
BR 32.28 31.98
FR 26.35 26.59
Time 1:50.67 1:51.53

In the race for second place will be Cal junior Alicia Wilson and Georgia sophomore Zoie Hartman, both nearly matching their respective conference-winning times. Wilson easily won the 2021 Pac-12 title in a 1:53.65, which was just off her 1:53.58 from 2020 invite season. Meanwhile, Hartman was the 2021 SEC champion at 1:53.68, which is a half-second over her 2020 lifetime best of 1:53.05. Wilson is more of a front-half swimmer when comparing her IM splits to Hartman, who was also a two-time SEC breaststroke champion. Meanwhile, 2021 Big Ten champion Kristen Romano of Ohio State is coming off a fantastic conference meet, smashing her lifetime best from 1:56.19 in prelims down to 1:54.19. As the group prepares to meet in Greensboro, who will have the fastest finishing 50 to take NCAA runner-up?

Julia Poole 2017 USA Swimming World Team Trials (photo: Mike Lewis)

Tied at sixth on the psych sheets are Virginia sophomore Ella Nelson and Florida junior Vanessa Pearl at 1:54.72, just two-tenths behind NC State senior Julia Poole (1:54.52). Poole placed third at ACCs behind Walsh and Douglass with a competitive 32.58 breast split, who stayed ahead of Nelson during the final. At the 2020 UT Double Dual Finals during 2020 invite season, Nelson swam her current season best with a quick 32.18, which could edge Pool if replicated in Greensboro. Meanwhile, Pearl’s lifetime best of 1:53.98 came all the way from the 2019 SEC Championships, where she placed 4th behind upperclassmen Meghan SmallSydney Pickrem, and Emma Barksdale. In 2021, Pearl closed her race in a 27.79, which is nearly a half-second slower than her 2019 closing 50 of 27.20. Poole, Nelson, and Pearl are in fact all breaststrokers, bringing another competitive battle to this year’s final.

Kelly Pash 2017 USA Swimming World Team Trials (photo: Mike Lewis)

The difference between 8th and 9th place points is just 2 points, yet you can earn more points if a swimmer improves the championship final (22-32 scoring points) over the B-final winner’s maximum 20 points. Looking at the bubble swimmers, #8 seed Texas’ Kelly Pash and Georgia’s Danielle Dellatorre swim two different IM races, with Dellatorre’s breaststroke being her lethal weapon over Pash’s. However, Dellatorre’s front-half is not as strong as Pash’s, making the Bulldog senior’s race more “catch up” while Pash’s race is more focused on building a lead before her weak portion. Both winner outcomes could happen if Dellatorre’s back-half is fast enough to pass Pash’s front-half lead. Behind them are freshmen Abby Arens of NC State (1:55.45) and Phoebe Bacon of Wisconsin (1:55.55), who owns a lifetime best of 1:55.39 that can contend for the A-final.

SwimSwam Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Alex Walsh Virginia 1:51.53 1:51.53
2 Zoie Hartman Georgia 1:53.68 1:53.05
3 Alicia Wilson Cal 1:53.58 1:53.58
4 Kristen Romano Ohio State 1:54.19 1:54.19
5 Ella Nelson Virginia 1:54.72 1:54.72
6 Vanessa Pearl Florida 1:54.72 1:53.98
7 Julia Poole NC State 1:54.52 1:54.52
8 Kelly Pash Texas 1:55.13 1:55.13

Darkhorse Threat: Isabelle Stadden, Cal (1:55.80, 14th seed) — At the 2021 Pac-12 Championships, Cal freshman Isabelle Stadden‘s lead over USC breaststroker Isa Odgers was diminished from 1.24s to 0.23s heading into the final 50. At the last turn, Stadden and Odgers were even, now making the race about endurance over stroke versatility. At the finish, Stadden over came Odgers with a 27.68 split to give Cal a 1-2 finish to kick off the championship meet. Already a talented backstroker, Stadden just needs to replicate her same finishing speed in her IM race to potentially move up to the top final.

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Joel Lin
6 months ago

Hoo hand on the wall in 1:49.

Tomek
6 months ago

Can’t wait for this meet to start

Nonrevhoofan
6 months ago

No question, I am biased. Abby Harter was slightly off at ACCs; I think she may surprise some folks in this race.

SwimFani
6 months ago

She will swim faster than the American Record! Hope she stays legal

Cinderblock
6 months ago

If she ditches the vanquishers for some speed sockets she’d drop a 1:45

Sam B
6 months ago

Kathleen Baker?

Admin
Reply to  Sam B
6 months ago

Kathleen Baker has exhausted her NCAA eligibility.

Hswimmer
6 months ago

If her backstroke is half a second faster and breast she will get it since she always closes hard.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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