2022 W. NCAA Picks: All Eyes on Stanford in the 800 Freestyle Relay

2022 NCAA WOMEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • When: Wednesday, March 16 – Saturday, March 19, 2021
  • Where: McAuley Aquatics Center / Georgia Tech / Atlanta, GA (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Short course yards (SCY) format
  • Defending champion: Virginia (1x) – Meet Results
  • Psych Sheets

WOMEN’S 800 FREESTYLE RELAY

  • NCAA Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • American Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • U.S. Open Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • Meet Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • 2021 Champion: Virginia (Valls, Madden, Nelson, A. Walsh) – 6:52.56

With a quartet of Olympians on a re-loaded team this season, it’s going to be tough to beat Stanford in the 800 freestyle relay. Heading into the NCAA Championships, the Cardinal hold the top-time in the nation by three-seconds, followed by Virginia. After the top-two teams, there is another three-second gap before the race for 3rd. 

At the 2022 Pac-12 Championships, Stanford won the 800 freestyle relay by almost nine-seconds, en-route to posting the fastest time in the NCAA this season (6:50.21). Stanford’s 800 freestyle relay lineup from the Pac-12 Championships will very likely be the same lineup used at the NCAA Championships. 

There’s also a good possibility that Stanford goes an even faster time at NCAA Championships when looking at the lineup’s lifetime best splits in the 800 freestyle relay.

Stanford already has a comfortable lead over the rest of the competition in this event, but if Ruck can get near her split from the 2019 NCAA Championships, the Cardinal have a chance to do something absolutely lethal on day one. 

It’s hard to bet against Virginia based on their performance at the ACC Championships, but Stanford seems too tough to beat in this relay. The Cavaliers have a little bit of wiggle room with their 800 freestyle relay lineup. At the 2022 ACC Championships, Virginia posted what is now the 2nd fastest time in the country behind Stanford (6:53.47).

Although it seems unlikely that Virginia will defend their NCAA title in this event, Walsh’s split is what separates the Cavaliers from the rest of the field in the race for 3rd. Tiltmann holds the 11th fastest time in the NCAA this season, which was from her lead-off split on this relay at the ACC Championships. Nelson has been a staple on this relay for Virginia through the years, so it’s almost definite that she’ll be on the NCAA lineup. 

Emma Weyant could be on this relay instead of Bathurst. Her lifetime best in the event is 1:45.28 from a December 2020 virtual meet in Florida. This season, her top 200 freestyle time comes from the February 2022 Cavalier Invite where she posted a 1:48.49. She has only made three appearances in the 200 freestyle this season for Virginia, so it’s tough to estimate how fast she’d be on the relay.

After Stanford and Virginia, the next eight teams have all produced sub-7:00 relays. 

Texas’s top time from this year came from the Minnesota Invite (6:56.94). Notably, this lineup did not include Evie Pfeifer, who’s best time (1:43.77) comes from leading-off the 800 freestyle relay at the Texas Hall of Fame Invite in December 2020. At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Pfeifer split a 1:44.00 en-route to Texas taking 4th in this event. Kelly Pash will almost certainly be on this relay as she holds the 14th fastest time in the country this year, which is her Minnesota Invite lead-off split (1:43.83). She will likely be joined by Olivia Bray who posted Texas’s fastest split (1:43.79).

The Golden Bears currently sit 5th in the NCAA rankings (6:57.59). In 2021, Cal was 3rd in the 800 freestyle relay and returned all relay legs this year. The Golden Bears also have a possibility to add freshman Leah Polonsky to the NCAA lineup. She anchored Cal’s relay in 1:44.42 seconds at the Pac-12 Championships. 

It will be interesting to see if Cal uses Isabel Ivey on this relay at the NCAA Championships. She led-off the relay at the Pac-12 championships (1:43.80), which was Cal’s fastest split. She also won the 200 freestyle at the Pac-12 Championships in a lifetime best 1:42.29 seconds. However, she was not on this relay at the NCAA Championships last year. Cal’s middle-legs from the Pac-12 championships were Ayla Spitz (1:45.03) and Alicia Wilson (1:45.86), who were both on the relay at the NCAA Championships last year, with Spitz’s being the fastest on the team (1:43.87). 

Tennessee was 16th in this event at the 2021 NCAA Championships (7:04.08), but currently holds the 3rd fastest time in the country this year (6:56.81), which is from the 2022 SEC Championships. The Vol’s received a huge boost this year from star-freshmen Ellen Walshe and Julia Mrozinski, who had the fastest splits on this relay. Mrozinski led-off in 1:43.21 seconds, which is the 8th fastest time in the NCAA this season. Walshe produced a 1:44.06, followed by Trude Rothrock (1:45.22) and Tjasa Pintar (1:44.32). At the 2021 NCAA Championships Rothrock and Pintar produced 1:44.94 and 1:44.89 splits, respectively. 

In 2021, Kentucky was 2nd in this event (6:57.02) and all swimmers from that lineup return this year: Izzy Gati, Riley Gaines, Sophie Sorensen, and Kaitlynn Wheeler. The Wildcats were led by Gaines’s 1:42.81 split, and a trio of 1:44’s. At this year’s SEC Championships, Kentucky posted a 6:57.60, which currently ranks 5th in the NCAA this season.

A trio of teams have times in the 6:58 range that cover seeds 7-9: Ohio State (6:58.17), Indiana (6:58.60), and Michigan (6:58.82). All three of those times came from the showdown for the win during the 800 freestyle relay at the B1G Championships. At the NCAA Championships, this race will serve as a rematch for those three teams where the difference between 1st and 3rd was .65 seconds. 

These three team’s times from the B1G Championship are already significantly faster than their times from the NCAA Championships last year. In 2021, Ohio State was 7th (7:00.79), Michigan was 10th (7:01.81), and Indiana was 11th (7:02.42). 

  1. Stanford, 6:50.21
  2. Virginia, 6:53.47
  3. Texas, 6:56.82
  4. California, 6:57.59
  5. Tennessee, 6:56.81
  6. Kentucky, 6:57.60
  7. Indiana, 6:58.60
  8. Ohio State, 6:58.17

Dark Horse–Alabama: The Crimson Tide currently sit 17th (7:03.06) in the rankings, but at the 2021 NCAA Championships, Alabama placed 6th (7:00.38) with a lineup that all returned this year: Morgan Scott (1:44.15), Cora Dupre (1:43.77), Gracie Felner (1:46.76), and Kaila Antoniou (1:45.79). At the SEC Championships, Scott was not on the 800 freestyle relay. If she’s back on this lineup at the NCAA Championships, that would be a boost for Alabama. In the individual 200 freestyle at the SEC Championships, Scott was 4th (1:44.20). 

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RMS
3 months ago

Stanford will definitely win this race. UVA better make the most of this season. Next year Stanford will be national champs with Curzan and Hooke on board.

SirWilliam
Reply to  RMS
3 months ago

Stanford needs Curzan and Hook to help level the playing field. UVa will still have the deeper squad next year in terms of NCAA scoring.

Team Regan
3 months ago

I feel like USC has a chance as well

Tightpants
3 months ago

Lady Vols for 3rd in this race

Swim fan 69
3 months ago

I think Louisville is one to watch for a potentially large time drop as well. Nothing for the win, but I think they could be up there.

WestCoastRefugee
3 months ago

Stanford will probably still take it, but this race will be closer than you think.

Swimfan
3 months ago

Highly doubt uva goes faster than they did at accs. Stanford might not go faster either but I don’t think they slow down.

Meow
3 months ago

Taylor Ruck’s 1:39 was a relay split, it’s probably not accurate to predict that time for a lead off.

CanSwim13
Reply to  Meow
3 months ago

They state its a split not a lead off. And the listed order of swimmers is time, not order of relay

Sue Knows Fly
3 months ago

I believe Stanford will challenge the 6:45.91 record. All four of these women will go substantially faster than they did in Federal Way at Pac 12’s. They need a 4.3 second drop across 4 swimmers. It’s not likely but it’s certainly a distinct possibility. And they’ll absolutely want to explode on the first night to send a message.