2021 W. NCAA Picks: The Women’s 200 Fly is Ripe for Upsets and Darkhorses

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 19

March 13th, 2021 News


  • 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

This year’s NCAA Championship field in the women’s 200 fly doesn’t project as the fastest field we’ve ever seen in the event. It’s taken sub-1:51 to win the NCAA title in 3 of the last 4 championship meets. The winning times of 1:51.11 in 2015 (Kelsi Worrell) and 1:51.35 in 2017 (Ella Eastin) were close as well.

The last NCAA Championship meet, in 2019, had three swimmers go sub-1:51, led by Louis Hansson’s winning 1:50.28.

This year’s race, by comparison, doesn’t have anybody with a lifetime best better than 1:52.0.

But, even if the times don’t stack up to prior editions, don’t overlook the 200 fly as one of the best races of this year’s championship.

For one, all but one of the top 10 seeds have been a lifetime best already this season. The one exception is Kentucky junior Izzy Gati, the 7th seed.

Given that the Kentucky women were, as a group, on fire at the SEC Championships, leading to their first-ever team title in the conference, that leads to one of two logical conclusions: either Gati just had a bad meet, or she’s saving a special swim for the NCAA Championships.

In either case, Gati has the most obvious upside among those 10 seeds.

But that’s what else makes this race so exciting – while there are good names in this field (like Dakota Luther and Olivia Bray and Olivia Carter and Courtney Harnish), there is a higher-than-average possibility of a swimmer making their national name with a surprise title.

There are also big team race implications here. The favored Virginia women have a high seed in #11 Jessica Nava, a junior who is not among the core ‘stars’ of the team, but who could benefit from momentum if the Cavaliers go big in the preceding 200 breaststroke (where they have two top 8 seeds) and look on their way to the title.

If the battle is for 2nd behind them, Texas (2), Georgia (2), Michigan (1), and Cal (1) all have top 6 seeds.

That one Michigan swimmer, Olivia Carter, was the highest-placing swimmer at the last NCAA Championship meet in 2019 who is still NCAA eligible. That year, however, she was a Georgia Bulldog. Having now transferred to Michigan, she’ll have a chance to interrupt the high seeds of her former teammates, including US National Teamer Dakota Luther, who is the top seed.

Luther was in the B final of that last NCAA Championship when she and Carter were freshmen teammates, and she won that B final, and was actually a little faster than Carter, in spite of placing lower.

Because of the overall parity in this race, there are a lot of good darkhorse choices. In fact, there’s a darkhorse that we’ve actually picked to be in the top 8: Texas A&M senior Jing Quah.

The 8th-place finisher at the 2019 NCAA Championships, Quah hasn’t been anywhere near her best times this season. She comes into the meet seeded 27th with a time of 1:55.96. While that’s a fairly low seed even by her standards, dropped a lot of time at her last NCAA Championship meet.

While this race could go a lot of ways, it’s Dakota Luther, entering the meet with season-bests in the 200 fly and 200 IM, has to be the favorite. Her first NCAA title would join her in the record books with her mom, Whitney Hedgepeth, who won 5 titles (3 individual, 2 relays) in the early 1990s.

The Texas women have had a few tough tapers in the last few seasons, but there is some good reason for hope. The team has felt like it has a strong youthful energy thanks in part to a very-talented freshman class. This butterfly group especially, which includes the #1 seed Bray, the #4 seed Kelly Pash, and the #12 seed Emma Sticklen, goes freshman-sophomore-freshman. They won’t remember that history as well, and Bray and Sticklen come in with the kind of elite pedigree that can change a history.

If the young Longhorns catch a wave, they could put 3 in the A final here.

SwimSwam Predictions

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Dakota Luther Georgia 1:52.04 1:52.04
2 Olivia Bray Texas 1:52.03 1:52.03
3 Courtney Harnish Georgia 1:53.18 1:53.18
4 Izzy Gati Kentucky 1:53.73 1:52.24
5 Kelly Pash Texas 1:52.69 1:52.69
6 Olivia Carter Michigan 1:52.17 1:52.17
7 Abby Harter Virginia 1:53.73 1:53.73
8 Jing Wen Quah Texas A&M 1:55.96 1:53.05
Dark Horse: Miriam Guevara Northwestern 1:55.11 1:54.31

Miriam Guevara had an infamous Big Ten Championship swim in this 200 fly, where she placed 2nd. After qualifying for the A final of two races in the same session, the 100 back and 200 fly, she coasted through the 100 back final, with guaranteed 8th-place points, to save energy for the 200 fly. Officials invoked a rarely-used “honest effort” rule to disqualify her in the 100 back.

She won’t have to deal with that double at the NCAA Championships, which uses a different event schedule than this year’s 5-day Big Ten lineup. She’ll still have a 100 fly/100 back twofor on Friday, but on Saturday she’ll be free to focus on this 200 fly. That freedom gives her a shot to do some damage in the final.

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NW Coach
2 years ago

Sam Baron from UCLA was 1:55.1 in a dual meet!!! That’s your darkhorse!

Dark horse
2 years ago

Sydney Harrington ranked 9th from Navy posting 1:53 this year??

Reply to  Dark horse
2 years ago

Guess it depends on how you define a darkhorse. Does the 9th seed really qualify?

2 years ago

Dark horse: Tristen Ulett

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago


2 years ago

Weakest analysis so far.

Reply to  Oldmanswimmer
2 years ago

Yea. Ignoring Klinker, Carter very low for no reason, and Guevara a dark horse because she got a DQ.

Go Bears
2 years ago

Bear Klinker should be in the A final.

2 years ago

Don’t forget Taylor Pike of A&M. She’s been on fire this year, and after being in the consoles twice, I feel like she’s very hungry for a spot in the A final.

Reply to  USA
2 years ago

Never count out a Steve Bultman swimmer, especially in a 200 event.

2 years ago

I would keep an eye out for Alena Krause from Louisville. She went 1:54 in season and had a strong LC time in the middle of the season too. I think she will turn some heads and finish top 8.

2 years ago

Don’t think Carter will be that low and Klinker looks to be in the final as well.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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