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
- Championship Central
- Psych Sheets
- Live Results
Top 8 Seeds:
- NC State
- Ohio State
The 400 medley relay is seeded to be a very tight race at the top, with the 4 top seeds all entering at 3:26. As is the case in all 5 relays this year, UVA is the top seed, and is such by .45 seconds in this relay.
The relays will be run very differently at this year’s NCAAs, due to new protocols surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Firstly, they will be run in a timed finals format, as opposed to the traditional prelims/finals format. This will have an effect because teams won’t have to worry about missing out on the A or B final in prelims, and there’s no risk of getting DQ’d in prelims. It also means that any of the entered teams could potentially make the podium or win the event in finals.
UVA is the top seed, and our pick to win the event, although there will be plenty of competition. At ACCs, UVA was led off by Alex Walsh in 51.57, then Alexis Wenger split 57.56 on breast, Alexa Cuomo was 50.46 on fly, and Kate Douglass anchored in 46.66.
Believe it or not, there’s still a bit of room for improvement for this squad. Walsh’s 51.5 lead-off was off her personal best 100 back of 50.88. If Walsh can swim down near her best time, or swim a best time, at NCAAs, this relay is at a minimum a half-second faster. Also, even though Douglass’ 46.66 anchor split is elite, and she will be the fastest freestyler in the 400 medley field, her lifetime best flat-start 100 free is 46.83, indicating she could be a little bit faster anchoring the relay this time around. UVA is entered at 3:26.25, and if Walsh and Douglass are indeed faster this time around, and Wenger and Cuomo hold their splits, they could ultimately be threatening the 3:25.09 NCAA Record. However, UVA does have one disadvantage compared to the other top 4 teams. All 4 members of the relay are racing individually on day 2, and all but Wenger are also on the 200 free relay. With the 400 medley at the end of the session, UVA’s squad may not be as fresh as the other teams.
The path to victory for UVA isn’t completely clear, however, as there are 3 other teams seeded within .63 seconds of them. Cal is seeded 2nd at 3:26.70, which they swam a Pac-12s. Isabelle Stadden led Cal off in 50.86, a lifetime best, with Ema Rajic splitting 57.68 on breast, Izzy Ivey splitting 50.44 on fly, and Emily Gantriis anchoring in 47.72. Unlike UVA, there aren’t any glaring areas of improvement for this Cal relay. However, Ivey isn’t racing individually on day 2 of the meet, and will instead most likely be racing on the 200 free and 400 medley relays at beginning and end of the session. This could leave Ivey a little more fresh for the 400 medley, as she won’t have to race in prelims, and will have plenty of rest between the relays.
Texas is the 3rd seed at 3:26.86, which they actually swam the the Texas Hall of Fame Invite in December. Julia Cook led that relay off in 51.15, with Anna Elendt splitting 57.83 on breast, Olivia Bray clocking a 50.33 fly split, and Kelly Pash anchoring in 47.55. Texas is another case where there’s clear room for improvement from their season best. Firstly, Olivia Bray‘s 50.33 fly split is slower than her personal best. Bray has a best time of 50.19 in the 100 fly, so if she’s on form in the relay, it’s possible we see a sub-50 split from her. Also, Pash’s 47.55 split on this relay is a couple tenths of a second slower than her season best flying 100 free split of 47.27. Elendt’s personal best 100 breast is 58.06, which seemingly leaves a little bit of room for her to improve on the 57.83 flying split as well. Also, it’s worth noting that Pash is the only member of this Texas relay that will be racing individually on day 2, leaving the other 3 swimmers fresh for the relay.
NC State is the 4th seed, rounding out the fastest heat of 4 teams. They enter the meet with a 3:26.88, which they swam at ACCs, head-to-head with UVA. Katharine Berkoff led the Wolfpack off in 50.55, with Sophie Hansson splitting 57.98 on breast, Kylee Alons posting a 50.21 fly split, and Heather Maccausland (who has scratched the meet) anchoring in 48.16. This relay has clear room for improvement as well. Hansson is the 2nd seed in the individual 100 breast with her season best of 57.45, far faster than her 57.98 flying split. If Hansson is in top form on this relay, we should see her pushing the 57.00 mark, which would be an enormous advantage for NC State following Berkoff’s backstroke leg, and leading into Alons’ fly. Alons’ fly split at ACCs was the fastest fly split out of all the conference meets this year, and she’ll need to be at least as fast this week to give NC State a shot.
It’s going to come down to the anchor for the Wolfpack, as Maccausland’s 48.1 already lagged behind the rest of the freestylers in the fastest heat, and with her scratching the meet, they’ll have to dig even deeper into their bench. That being said, if Berkoff, Hansson, and Alons can build up a significant lead, anything is possible in this field. With Maccausland out of the meet, the most likely candidates to fill her spot on the anchor seem to be Julia Poole, Abigail Arens, or relay-only swimmer Sirena Rowe.
After NC State, the seeds jump up into the 3:29s, with the next-fastest heat of 4 consisting of Alabama (3:29.19), Ohio State (3:29.39), UGA (3:29.41), and Northwestern (3:29.58). Of this group, UGA sits in the most favorable position. That’s because Zoie Hartman only split 57.74 on the breast leg of the relay at SECs. Hartman is the top seed in the individual 100 breast with a 57.40, leaving a lot of room for improvement on her relay split.
Top 8 Picks:
- NC State
- Ohio State
Darkhorse – Stanford: Stanford is seeded 10th in the event with their season best of 3:30.08, which they swam at Pac-12s. Stanford is out darkhorse pick for a few reasons. Firstly, Stanford has a history of performing well at NCAAs during Greg Meehan’s tenure as head coach of the team. Secondly, Stanford used senior Lauren Green on the anchor at Pac-12s, where she split 48.79. Green has a personal best flat-start 100 free of 48.78, indicating she could provide a significantly faster split this time around.