2021 W. NCAAs Previews: ACC Rivals UVA and NC State Set to Battle in 200 Medley

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

200 Medley Relay Top 8 Seeds:

  1. UVA – 1:32.93
  2. NC State – 1:33.52
  3. Ohio State – 1:34.46
  4. Alabama – 1:34.68
  5. Texas – 1:34.82
  6. Cal – 1:35.18
  7. Stanford – 1:35.52
  8. Mizzou – 1:35.61

The 200 medley relay has shaken out to be a fascinating relay this year. The clear-cut top two teams in the field are from the ACC, with Virginia leading the way, and NC State firmly in 2nd. UVA broke the NCAA Record in the event with their ACC performance, bringing the record under 1:33 with some truly astonishing splits, including a 20.60 anchor from sophomore Kate Douglass. NC State finished 0.59 seconds behind UVA at ACCs, although, they’re still 0.94 seconds ahead of #3 seed Ohio State.

  • NCAA Record: Virginia – 1:32.93
  • Defending (2019) NCAA Champion: Tennessee – 1:34.10

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.

Starting with the NCAA Record-holders, UVA is in prime position to pick up an NCAA title here. The Cavaliers are the top seed in all 5 relays, but the fields in most of the relays are very tight. They enter the 200 medley with more than a half-second cushion over NC State, which it appears is the only team that could challenge for 1st.

UVA had excellent splits all-around at ACCs, leading the field in every stroke except backstroke. Caroline Gmelich led the Cavs off in 23.70, with Alexis Wenger taking breast with a 26.03 split, Alexa Cuomo splitting 22.58, and Kate Douglass anchoring in her blistering 20.60.

NC State has the advantage of Katharine Berkoff on the lead-off leg. Berkoff split 23.37 at ACCs, which only Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil (23.02), and Alabama’s Rhyan White (23.35) were faster than at this year’s conference meets. That means that in a fastest heat which will consist of UVA, NC State, Ohio State, and Alabama, NC State and Bama should be in a tight battle for the lead as the breaststrokers dive in.

NC State had a 26.31 breast split from Sophie Hansson at ACCs, along with a 23.02 fly split from Sirena Rowe. The Wolfpack has their own powerhouse anchor, as Kylee Alons split 20.82 bringing them home at ACCs. Berkoff is likely to give NC State a lead over UVA on backstroke, so the game for NC State will be to not allow UVA to whittle down much of that lead during the breast and fly legs. Luckily for the Wolfpack, it seems Sophie Hansson could be a little faster on the relay than she was at ACCs. Hansson is seeded 2nd in the individual 100 breast (57.45), right ahead of UVA’s breaststroker, Alexis Wenger (57.60), who split nearly 3-tenths of a second faster than Hansson at ACCs.

Beyond UVA and NC state, an exciting battle for 3rd is brewing. Ohio State, Alabama, and Texas are all seeded within 0.36 seconds of each other, although they want all be racing head-to-head. Ohio State and Alabama will be in the fastest heat with UVA and NC State, while Texas finds itself in the favorable position of being the top seed in the 2nd-fastest heat, which will also include Cal, Stanford, and Mizzou.

Ohio State was led-off by Emily Crane at Big Tens (23.66), with Hannah Bach splitting 26.03 on breaststroke, and Katherine Zenick swimming 22.87 on fly. The Buckeyes were anchored by Freya Rayner, who split 21.90. With a high-21 anchor, Ohio State will need to have a lead going into the free leg.

Alabama, like NC State, has the advantage of a reliably-elite backstroke leg. Rhyan White, who is the 2nd-fastest 50 backstroker in the NCAA this year, and is the top seed in both individual backstroke events, gave Bama a 23.35 back split at SECs. Having one of the top back splits in the entire field will be critical for Alabama, as they only had a 27.35 breaststroke split from Kaila Wong at SECs. Morgan Scott split 22.45 on fly at SECs, and could be one of the top flyers in this relay, and Cora Dupre anchored in 21.53.

Texas finds themselves in the beneficial position of being the 5th seed in the event. That means they’ll get to be in the middle of the pool, and the top seed in the 2nd-fastest heat. The Longhorns were led-off at Big 12s by Julia Cook in 24.04, with Anna Elendt splitting 26.26 on breast, Olivia Bray 22.74 on fly, and Grace Cooper 21.78 on free. Interestingly for Texas, Elendt, Bray, and Cooper are all freshmen.

Cal could be one of teams looming to take 3rd, but it doesn’t seem like their relay will be at full power. Izzy Ivey, Cal junior, is swimming the 100 fly/100 back double on day 3 of the meet, which makes it look like Cal plans on having Ivey sit out of the 200 medley relay, and compete on the other 4 relays. This would make sense for the Golden Bears, as they can have either Rachel Klinker, who is seeded 16th in the 100 fly (51.79), or Elise Garcia, one of the Cal sprinters who is also entered in the 100 fly, replace Ivey on this relay.

Cal does have a possible secret weapon, even without Ivey, as freshman Isabelle Stadden could be significantly faster on the backstroke leg than she was at Pac-12s. Stadden split 24.29 at Pac-12s, which was a lifetime best, but she also split 24.52 on the first 50 of the 100 back at the meet, which would seemingly indicate that she could be under 24 seconds in a 50 to the touch. If Stadden is indeed faster, and Klinker or Garcia can match Ivey’s 22.7 fly split from Pac-12s, it’s possible Cal could work its way into the mid-1:34 range with OSU, Bama, and Texas.

TOP 8 PICKS:

  1. UVA
  2. NC State
  3. Texas
  4. Ohio State
  5. Alabama
  6. Cal
  7. Stanford
  8. Kentucky

Darkhorse – Indiana: The Hoosiers are seeded 16th out of 17 teams in this relay. IU was disqualified in the 200 medley at Big Tens, because their backstroker had her feet too high on the start. They then had to time trial the event later in the meet, where they swam a 1:36.80. Backstroke is a weak point for this IU squad, as Bailey Kovac was 25.12 on the lead-off during the time trial. However, it would most likely only take IU swimming about a half a second faster than their seed to move up a handful of spots, well into the top 16.

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Yup
4 months ago

How can you be a ‘darkhorse’ if your best chance is to move a handful of spots to 12th/13th or so?

DMSWIM
Reply to  Yup
4 months ago

I think they are a darkhorse for the Top 8, not to win.

Swimfan
4 months ago

UVA better hope that official from the men’s meet isn’t on their lane. Wenger definitely has multiple dolphin kicks.

Beth Mahoney
Reply to  Swimfan
4 months ago

Absolutely. The DiGiorno Effect in action. It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno.