2021 W. NCAA Picks: The First Non-King Breaststroke Champion Since 2015

2021 NCAA WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

WOMEN’S 100 Breaststroke

Between 2016 and 2019, Indiana’s Lilly King won four consecutive NCAA titles in the 100-yard breast, as well as the 200 breast to match Olympian Brendan Hansen‘s NCAA breaststroke sweep from 2001-2004. The 2020 NCAA Championships would have been the first time the swimming community would see a new 100 breast NCAA champion in four years before its sudden cancellation. Now, the wait is over. Who will be the first non-King 100 breast NCAA champion since 2015, when Stanford’s Sarah Haase came home with the title?

The best candidate to take over the sprint breaststroke title is NC State junior Sophie Hansson, who represents Sweden internationally. As a freshman, Hansson placed third behind King’s 55.73 American record and Eastern Michigan’s Delaney Duncan, getting to the wall at 57.90. Both last season and this season, Hansson took time off her 57.90 lifetime best. First, Hansson set the ACC meet record in 2020 at 57.74. At the 2021 ACC Championships, Hansson momentarily lost her ACC meet record to Virginia junior Alexis Wenger (57.67) before taking it back in the final with another lifetime best of 57.45. Wenger finished second in the final with a 0.07s-drop from the morning to hit 57.60. As a freshman, Wenger also placed in the 2019 NCAA final alongside Hansson, finishing sixth at 58.64. On the psych sheets, Hansson and Wenger rank 2nd and 3rd respectively. Wenger has an impressive 26.0 medley relay split, yet Hansson’s closing speed is what earned her the 2021 ACC title over Wenger. Can the same happen at this year’s NCAAs?

Topping the psych sheet is Georgia sophomore Zoie Hartman, coming in with her lifetime best of 57.40, a mere five one-hundredths ahead of Hansson. During the 2021 SEC final, Hartman took the race out in a 27.23, again only 0.11s faster than Hansson’s ACC final swim. She then took the race home in a 30.29, again just 0.07s slower than Hansson. In 2020, both Hansson and Wenger had fastest season bests than Hartman, who had swum 58.21 that season compared to Hansson and Wenger’s sub-58 times. Yet Hansson and Wenger both have NCAA racing experience while Hartman was denied the opportunity as a freshman. In 2021, how will Hartman swim in her NCAA debut?

Behind the lead trio is a trio of freshmen looking to make an impact at their NCAA debut meet. Seeded only two one-hundredths apart are USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler, the overall high school national record-holder, and Tennessee’s Mona McSharry, an Irish national record-holder. Both swimmers swam near-identical races at their respective conference meets, splitting 12.4/14.7/15.2/15.4. On the second 25 split, Dobler swam 14.67 to McSharry’s 14.78. While Dobler took the Pac-12 title after breaking the meet record in prelims (57.80), McSharry settled for second at SECs behind Hartman at 57.82. However, Dobler’s season best time is a 57.71, which broke Olympian Rebecca Soni‘s 2009 program record.

The other top-8 contender is Texas rookie Anna Elendt, a German native, who swam 58.06 at the 2020 Texas Hall of Fame Swimming Invitational. Elendt’s back-half race splits looked much stronger in contrast to Dobler and McSharry’s front-half race splits. However, Elendt won the 2021 Big 12 title in a 58.45, closing in a pair of 15.4s. Another European native contending in this year’s NCAA final is NC State junior Andrea Podmaníková of Slovakia, who could give the Wolfpack a second A-finalist in this event with her 58.10 seed time.

During Lilly King‘s dominant collegiate career, she was a four-time defending Big Ten champion before translating to winning at the NCAA Championships. However, the Big Ten’s highest 100 breast seed this year is Ohio State sophomore Hannah Bach. At the 2020 Big Ten Championships, Bach had a promising prelims swim of 58.76, yet placed 8th in the final at 1:00.26. At this year’s championships, Bach redeemed herself by winning the 2021 title at 58.29, hitting bouncy splits of 12.2/14.5/15.2/16.2. Bach certainly has the opening speed to keep up with this year’s field, yet will have to perfect the final 50 to have a solid finals showing.

Seeded just outside of the top 8 are Cal junior Ema Rajic (58.45) and Stanford junior Allie Raab (58.74), both looking to improve from their 2019 NCAA performances. As a freshman, Rajic placed 8th in the A-final at 59.43 after swimming a quick 58.97 prelims effort. Raab’s prelims swim did not go as well as Rajic, placing 28th overall at 59.94 after swimming 59.60 during conference. Both Rajic and Raab were at 59.3s last season, yet with their newly-minted lifetime bests both Pac-12 veterans have equal shots at qualifying into the top final. Tied with Raab for 10th place on the psych sheet is Louisville junior Kaylee Wheeler (58.74).

More finals contenders to keep an eye on are Virginia freshman Anna Keating (58.81), Northwestern senior Sophie Angus (58.89), San Diego State senior and 2019 NCAA B-finalist Klara Thormalm of Sweden (59.14), Alabama freshman Diana Petkova of Bulgaria (59.16), NC State senior Olivia Calegan (59.17), Florida freshman Cecilia Porter and Georgia senior Danielle Dellatorre (59.22).

SwimSwam Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Sophie Hansson NC State 57.45 57.45
2 Zoie Hartman Georgia 57.40 57.40
3 Alexis Wenger Virginia 57.60 57.60
4 Kaitlyn Dobler USC 57.71 57.71
5 Mona McSharry Tennessee 57.82 57.82
6 Anna Elendt Texas 58.06 58.06
7 Andrea Podmaníková NC State 58.10 58.10
8 Hannah Bach Ohio State 58.29 58.29

Dark Horse Threat: Emily Weiss, Indiana (24th seed — 59.61) — At the 2021 Big Ten Championships, Indiana sophomore Emily Weiss placed 5th in the top final at 59.79, slightly gaining from her 59.61 prelims swim. Weiss’ splits may have indicated she was not fully rested, taking her race out in a 27.78 while closing in a 32.01. In 2020, Weiss was the Big Ten runner-up as a freshman with a solid 58.78, closing the race at 31.45. However, Weiss’ lifetime best of 58.40 is a former high school national record, which was set back at the 2018 IHSAA State Championships. Weiss has the speed and the racing endurance, with the 2021 Big Ten 200 breast title to her name as well. Knowing Weiss’ successful past and her affiliation with Indiana (aka Lilly King‘s alma mater), she could impress at her first NCAA Championships.

In This Story

6
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
6 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
cal bear
2 months ago

Don’t sleep on Rajic. She’s swam a best almost every time!

Huh
2 months ago

Dobler wins this

Blake L
2 months ago

Don’t sleep on Dobler.

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 …

Read More »