2022 W. NCAA Picks: Battle of the Accolades in the 100 Backstroke


  • 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


This might be the deepest race of the meet. The 100 backstroke features the American Record holder, multiple Olympians, the Olympic bronze medalist, last year’s NCAA champion, and the unofficial record holder in the 50 backstroke. 

Regan Smith of Stanford broke the American and U.S. Open record in the 100 backstroke as a high schooler, which is her lifetime best (49.16). En-route to breaking the Pac-12 meet and conference record at the Pac-12 Championships a few weeks ago, Smith produced the nation’s top time in the 100 back this year (49.23). Given that she is the American and U.S. Open record holder, she is slightly favored to win the event, but this field is so talented that anything can happen.

NC State’s Katharine Berkoff won this event last year (49.74), and was the only swimmer in the field to go sub-50 seconds. Berkoff won this event at the ACC Championships (49.41), which ranks her 2nd on the psych sheet and makes her the 3rd fastest performer in history. 

Finishing 2nd to Berkoff at the ACC Championships was Gretchen Walsh of Virginia, who has made huge strides in her backstroke this season. Walsh’s time from the ACC Championships (49.71) establishes her as the 7th fastest performer in history. Also at the ACC Championships, Walsh became the first swimmer to go faster than 23 seconds in the 50 backstroke (22.82) while leading off Virginia’s 200 medley relay. Walsh will certainly be out fast, but if she can hold on, she will be a force to be reckoned with. 

Rhyan White of Alabama burst onto the national scene by qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in the 100 and 200 backstroke events. White won this event at the SEC Championships (50.18). She currently sits 4th on the psych sheet (50.15), which is her lead-off split in the 400 medley relay at the Tennessee Invite in November 2021. At the 2021 NCAA Championships, White was 2nd to Berkoff (50.21).

Virginia’s Reilly Tiltmann won the B-final as a freshman at last year’s NCAA Championships (51.33). This year, she’s seeded 5th (50.42) with her time from the ACC Championships where she was 3rd behind Berkoff and Walsh. It would be huge for the Cavaliers if they can get two swimmers into the A-final of this stacked field. 

Taylor Ruck of Stanford has the potential to join Smith in the A-final. She was 3rd in this event at the 2019 NCAA Championships (50.34), before taking a redshirt year to train for the Olympics in Canada. Ruck was 3rd in this event at the Pac-12 Championships (51.21) behind Smith and Stadden, and sits 8th on the psych sheet. 

Phoebe Bacon of Wisconsin was 3rd in this event as a freshman last year (50.39). Also at last year’s NCAA Championships, Bacon won the 200 backstroke, the event that put her on the Tokyo Olympic team last summer. Bacon sits 10th on the psych sheet (51.38), which is her winning time from the B1G Championships. 

Known as a butterflier, Olivia Bray of Texas is also an excellent backstroker, sitting 6th on the psych sheet (50.87), which is her time from the Big 12 Championships. She posted that time leading off Texas’s winning 400 medley relay. Last year as a freshman, Bray was 16th in this event (52.64). Her teammate, Julia Cook, was 6th in this event last year (51.32). This year, Cook is 15th on the psych sheet (51.62).

Finishing 2nd to Smith at the Pac-12 Championships was Isabelle Stadden of California (51.08). She sits 7th on the psych sheet with her time from the Minnesota Invite (51.00) . Last year at the NCAA Championships as a freshman, Stadden was 5th (50.87).

Last year at the NCAA Championships, Grace Countie of UNC Chapel Hill was 7th (51.55). This year, she was 5th at the ACC Championships (51.95), and is seeded with her prelims time (51.54), which sits 12th on the psych sheet. 

Despite Cook, Stadden and Countie all qualifying for the A-final last year, this year’s field is incredibly deep. There’s only room for eight on the podium.

Dark Horse–Nyah Funderburke, Ohio State: Funderburke posted the top time in the 100 backstroke at the B1G Championships (51.62), but wasn’t on the Buckeyes’ scoring roster, so she was unable to race in the finals at night. This year, there was a shift in the rules for the B1G Championships. Teams were still permitted to bring a roster of 24, but only 18 of the 24 were able to score. She sits 14th on the psych sheet with her prelims time from the B1G Championships. If she’s able to get up and go in the morning like she did a few weeks ago, Funderburke could secure herself a lane in the A-final. 

Top 8 Picks:

Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1. Regan Smith Stanford 49.23 49.16
2. Gretchen Walsh Virginia 49.71 49.71
3. Katharine Berkoff NC State 49.41 49.41
4. Rhyan White Alabama 50.15 50.02
5. Reilly Tiltmann Virginia 50.42 50.42
6. Phoebe Bacon Wisconsin 51.38 50.39
7. Taylor Ruck Stanford 51.21 50.34
8. Olivia Bray Texas 50.87 50.87


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1 year ago

This race has more talent than all the actors in the movie “Ocean’s Eleven.”

1 year ago

Just my outside observer viewpoint, seems like many of the folks who just missed out on making the Oly team are coming back with a little extra fire in their belly, and many of the folks who got back from Tokyo enjoyed some well deserved time off. Therefore, my gut has to go to Berkoff.

1 year ago

Smith-Berkoff-Walsh-White-Ruck-Tiltman-Bacon-Bray is my A final results prediction

HOO love
1 year ago

walsh-tiltmann fan club here!! gonna be a great race and would love to see both of these ladies in the A final

1 year ago

Hey swimswam, Claire Curzan just went 49.52 in her 100 BK lead off on TAC A

Reply to  Melanie
1 year ago

except she’s not in this race?

1 year ago

Will somebody go a 48 in the 100 back here? Possibly if not we are maybe a year away from that. It will be fun to see that. I think it will be Reagan for the win!

1 year ago

I think Regan will win but Berkoff could upset given the amazing shape she has shown at ACC’s

1 year ago

I think Gretchen is still figuring out how to carry over her 50 speed to the 100 back so I have a hard time seeing her beat Berkoff who is pretty dialed in and dropped time from ACCs to NCAAs last year.