2021 W. NCAA Picks: Scratches Plague NC State, Michigan, & USC 200 FR Relays

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 Freestyle Relay

  • NCAA Record: Cal (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil), 1:24.55 — 2019
  • American Record: Cal (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil), 1:24.55 — 2019
  • US Open Record: Cal (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil), 1:24.55 — 2019
  • Meet Record: Cal (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil), 1:24.55 — 2019
  • 2019 Champion: Cal (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil), 1:24.55
  • 2020 Top Performer: Auburn (Meynen, Fisch, Kutsch, Clevenger), 1:25.41

A new generation of NCAA 200 free relays will have their chance to go all out in Greensboro after being denied that opportunity almost a year ago.

Since the release of the initial 2021 NCAA Championship selections, three swimmers have decided to cut their championship seasons short and scratch out of the meet. All three of these swimmers were crucial members to their respective team’s 200 free relays, ultimately jeopardizing their squad’s future performance in Greensboro. Among the affected teams for this relay include #2 seed NC State, #9 seed Michigan, and #11 seed USC.

NC State’s relay including MacCausland is seeded 0.05s behind top seeded Virginia (1:26.54). NC State still looks very strong with senior Kylee Alons, who has been as fast as 20.82 in a relay, and 21.8 legs Sophie Hansson and Katharine Berkoff. However, both options to replace MacCausland could affect the Wolfpack’s original chances of staying in the top three. The next fastest NCAA qualifier is Olivia Calegan, who swam 22.84 in the individual event, nearly a full second off of MacCausland’s anchor from ACCs. One option to improve NC State’s potential placing would be the addition of a relay-only swimmer, the best candidate being senior Sirena Rowe, who did not have any individual qualifying events. This season, Rowe was a 22.43 in the 50 free, which is the next-fastest Wolfpack time and four-tenths faster than Calegan. Alone, this would improve NC State to a projected 5th place. Another reason to consider Rowe as a relay-only addition is her 22.09 relay split from 2020, which would almost maintain NC State’s current seed time, and split 21.73 on the 5th place 2019 NCAA relay.

At the same time, Pyshnenko and Delgado’s scratches have left Michigan and USC’s relays weakened, raising eyebrows on who will best replace each leg. For Michigan, the only other options to join sprint specialist Maggie MacNeil (21.50 lead-off) along with Olivia Carter (22.23) and Claire Newman (22.50) would be 1:45-point 200 freestylers Megan Glass or Sophie Housey, who have been as fast as 23-mid from a flat start, or distance freestylers Sierra Schmidt and Kaitlynn Sims. The USC Trojans will still have top breaststroker Kaitlyn Dobler (22.2 lead-off), sub-22 Jemma Schlicht, and 22-low leg Marta Ciesla (who will likely join the squad relay-only). Their two best options to replace Ecuadoran Delgado are 100/200 flyer Hallie Kinsey and BR/IMer Isa Odgers, who both split 1:46/1:47s on the 2021 Pac-12 800 free relay.

In contrast, the UVA Cavaliers’ 200 free relay looks to be the most dominant in the field with the likes of versatile stud Kate Douglass on their relay. At this year’s ACCs, Douglass led off in a 21.50, which is one of the top-five fastest splits of the entire field during conference championships. However, Douglass anchored the 2021 title-winning 200 medley relay in a blistering 20.62, nearly a second faster than her free relay lead-off. Freshman Alex Walsh is another member of this relay who could pull out a split no other relay could replicate. At 2021 ACCs, Walsh swam lights-out in the water, popping 9.9s off the first 25 before nailing the turn to surface ahead of NC State to take the relay title with her 21.09 anchor. It would certainly make Virginia’s relay dazzle if Douglass and Walsh can replicate both performances. With sophomore Lexi Cuomo‘s 21.72 leg and senior Kyla Valls, who is capable of a 22-low leg, the Cavaliers will be near-unstoppable in Greensboro.

The Cal Bears enter their first NCAAs with a Weitzeil-less free relay, yet still have one of the best chances in the field to place top three, with nearly all four legs under 22 seconds. Swimming just as fast as UVA’s Walsh on her leg at Pac-12s was junior Izzy Ivey, ripping out a swift 21.14 split. Without the power of Weitzeil’s 20-point legs, the Bears are at a slight disadvantage with no other leg to match UVA’s 20-point Douglass. The Bears do have 21-mid legs Emily Gantriis and Elise Garcia, yet it would be up to Eloise Riley to replicate her 21.78 leg from the 2020 medley relay at NCAAs after swimming 22.33 at Pac-12s.

Behind Virginia and Cal will be an SEC re-match between Alabama and Mizzou, where the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers by three-tenths to win the 2021 title. Alabama’s relay features sub-22 legs Cora Dupre (21.43), Morgan Scott (21.56), and lead-off Kalia Antoniou (21.87) along with 22-low Flora Molnar. Antoniou was actually 0.13s faster when she won the individual 50 free title at 21.69, which can bump Alabama under the 1:27-barrier. However, Mizzou’s second chance to fix improvement at NCAAs could be an even bigger opportunity to out-swim Alabama. During the SEC final, the quartet of Sarah Thompson (21.65), Megan Keil (21.77), Amy Feddersen (21.85), and Alex Moderski (22.09) combined for a time of 1:27.36 to place second. In 2020, Thompson anchored Mizzou’s relay in a 21.30 while Keil anchored their medley relay in 21.60. With those improvements, Mizzou has the potential to swim four one-hundredths faster than Alabama’s fastest projected relay.

The Stanford Cardinal also face a similar performance situation that can boost their total relay time. Stanford is currently loaded with 21.5 legs Emma Wheal and Amalie Fackenthal, along with 22-low Lauren Green. However, Anya Goeders has three potential 50 free splits that range by a half second. On the 2021 Pac-12 relay, Goeders led off in a 22.46, which was 0.18s slower than her 22.28 from the individual final. Goeders has been as fast as 21.91 from a flat start in the 50 free, which would already boost Stanford’s relay by a half second.

The Ohio State Buckeyes will also look to improve on their Big Ten winning time of 1:27.53, seeded 6th. Members of the title-winning relay include 21.57 leg Amy Fulmer, 21.79 leg Katherine Zenick, 22.0 lead-off Taylor Petrak, and 22-low leg Emily Crane. However, the Buckeyes have another sub-22 relay swimmer that could add sparkle to the 200 free relay, senior Freya Rayner. Rayner anchored the Buckeyes’ 200 medley relay in 21.90, which is two-tenths faster than Crane’s leg. In 2020, Rayner also swam 21.05/21.65 free splits. Whether Ohio State choose Rayner or will keep Crane, they will be part of a very competitive heat with Stanford and Mizzou.

It could be a tight race for 8th place between the Texas Longhorns, who will compete in the second-fastest heat with Stanford, Ohio State, and Mizzou, and the Tennessee Vols, who will compete in the third-fastest heat. Both teams are seeded only four one-hundredths apart, and both have the potential to improve the same amount of time. Texas had a trio of 21.8 legs at Big 12s, including Julia Cook (21.82), Grace Cooper (21.84) and Kelly Pash (21.86). However, Bridget Semenuk led off in a 22.44, which was only 0.11s off her 2020 time that won Big 12s. Tennesse will have anchor leg on the other hand, with Bailey Grinter splitting 21.68 and 21.45 at this year’s SECs. However, the Vols also have two 22.0 legs, Megan Sichterman and Mona McSharry, and 22-low Natalie Ungaretti.

SwimSwam Top 8 Picks:

Place Team Season Best 2020 Rank
1 Virginia 1:26.54 3rd
2 Cal 1:26.84 4th
3 Mizzou 1:27.36 5th
4 Alabama 1:27.02 12th
5 Ohio State 1:27.53 9th
6 Stanford 1:27.81 15th
7 NC State 1:26.59 8th
8 Texas 1:27.96 16th

Dark Horse Threat: Georgia (1:28.61 —13th place) — Georgia is currently seeded 13th on the psych sheets at 1:28.61, almost a half second slower than the 8th seed. Ace breaststroker Zoie Hartman has a solid split of 21.90 while freshman Maxine Parker was 21.50 anchoring the 200 medley relay, just 0.15s off her 200 free relay split (21.65). On a similar note, Gabi Fa’Amausili was been 21.99 during the 50 free prelims, which was 0.14s off her relay split (22.13). If both Parker and Fa’Amasuili dropped 0.15s from their SEC final splits, that would boost their seed time three-tenths, which would contend for 10th place. However, breaststroker Danielle Dellatorre‘s leg will be the most crucial to perfect to increase UGA’s chances of placing top eight. Dellatorre was 22.93 on this year’s relay, yet has been 22.40 on last year’s relay. If Dellatorre swam at least under 22.50 at NCAAs, along with Parker, Fa’Amausili, and Hartman perfecting their legs, the Bulldogs could pull off a 1:27.7.

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Snarky
3 months ago

NCST’s Rowe was 21.48 relay split this year at Janice Dowd Invite.

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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