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
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Women’s 200 Free Relay
- NCAA Record: 1:24.47, Virginia (Douglass, A.Walsh, Cuomo, G.Walsh) – 2022 ACCs
- Meet Record: 1:24.55, Cal (Murphy, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil) – 2019 NCAAs
- American Record: 1:24.47, Virginia (Douglass, A.Walsh, Cuomo, G.Walsh) – 2022 ACCs
- U.S. Open Record: 1:24.47, Virginia (Douglass, A.Walsh, Cuomo, G.Walsh) – 2022 ACCs
- 2021 Champion: Cal, 1:25.78 (Riley, Gantriis, Garcia, Ivey)
The 200 free relay has been dominated by Cal in recent NCAA history, with the Golden Bears having won five of the last six championship titles in the event. The team’s lone loss during that span? A mere .07 defeat at the hands of rival Stanford in 2018 – a year where the Cardinal iced arguably the best team in collegiate history.
The Bears, who have now won the event two seasons in a row, will be hard-pressed to make it a three-peat in 2022. The reason? Likely the best team we’ve seen since that 2018 Stanford team: the 2021-22 Virginia Cavaliers.
UVA pushed Cal all the way to the wall last season, with the Bears winning by a tight margin, 19 one-hundredths, thanks to a trio of 21.2 splits on their final three legs. But the Cavs have exchanged out their slowest leg last season (21.97) with freshman Gretchen Walsh, who has been red-hot this season and is now one of the fastest swimmers in history.
At the ACC Championships last month, Walsh teamed up with the three returning swimmers from last season’s runner-up team at NCAAs, Kate Douglass, Lexi Cuomo and older sister Alex Walsh, and the quartet put up the fastest time in history of 1:24.47.
In that relay, Douglass led off in a sizzling time of 21.10—she would re-lower that PB down to 21.00 in the individual race to rank #2 all-time—and G. Walsh anchored in a blistering 20.58, with A. Walsh (21.38) and Cuomo (21.41) providing elite splits over the middle 100.
UVA 200 Free Relay Record Splits
- Kate Douglass – 21.10
- Alex Walsh – 21.38
- Lexi Cuomo – 21.41
- Gretchen Walsh – 20.58
- Final Time – 1:24.47
With G. Walsh clocking 21.04 to take a close second to Douglass in the individual event, the Cavs have two of the four fastest 50 free swimmers in history, and appear well on their way to a decisive title victory in the event.
Over the last 10 NCAAs, the margin of victory in this race has been 66 one-hundredths or less nine times, with the one outlier being Cal’s 2019 victory when they set what is now the previous U.S. Open Record of 1:24.55 and beat Michigan by 1.70 seconds. Removing that one race, the average margin of victory has been just .33 in the event (.47 including it). But this year, it seems another massive gap between the top two teams is imminent.
Virginia’s all-time record of 1:24.47 ranks them close to two seconds clear of the next-fastest team this season, which is Alabama’s 1:26.38 from the Tennessee Invite. The second-fastest team behind UVA during conference meets was NC State, which raced the Cavs head-to-head and was beaten by over two seconds (1:26.51).
Women’s 200 Free Relay, 2021-22 Season
- Virginia, 1:24.47 (Douglass, A.Walsh, Cuomo, G.Walsh) – ACC Championships
- Alabama, 1:26.38 – (Antoniou, Scott, Winter, Dupre) – Tennessee Invite
- NC State, 1:26.51 (Berkoff, Alons, Hansson, Maccausland) – ACC Championships
- Stanford, 1:26.52 (Huske, Ruck, Tang, Goeders) – Pac-12 Championships
- Michigan, 1:26.74 (Flynn, Kan, Newman, MacNeil) – Big Ten Championships
- Louisville, 1:27.08 (Albiero, Regenauer, Ulett, Openysheva) – ACC Championships
- UNC, 1:27.13 (Countie, Nel, Pattison, Lowe) – ACC Championships
- Ohio State, 1:27.19 (Zenick, Fulmer, Crane, Ivan) – Big Ten Championships
- Tennessee, 1:27.39 (Kutsch, McSharry, Rumley, Pintar) – SEC Championships
- Missouri, 1:27.41 (Keil, Thompson, Feddersen, Smith) – SEC Championships
As you can tell from the seasonal rankings, the race for second is relatively wide open.
For Alabama, Morgan Scott was nearly four-tenths quicker in the individual 50 free at SECs than she was leading off this relay, and despite the fact that they were nearly six-tenths slower in the relay compared to their invite time, they still won the conference title and appear to be a solid bet for the runner-up spot.
Cora Dupre and Kalia Antoniou are reliable 21-mid legs, and Kailyn Winter has proven herself with back-to-back sub-22 splits at both the Tennesee Invite and SECs. (With Gretchen Walsh absent, the Crimson Tide actually beat UVA head-to-head at the Tennesee Invite back in November.)
NC State was right in the battle last season and ultimately took third, and though they lost a 21.4 leg in Sirena Rowe, Heather Maccausland stepped in with a 21.9 split at ACCs. Katharine Berkoff‘s freestyle has noticeably improved this season, and Kylee Alons has always performed on relays. Sophie Hansson is also a consistent 21-mid-to-high swimmer with a takeover, which is a rarity for a high-end breaststroker.
The other two schools sub-1:27 this year, Stanford and Michigan, are constructed similarly, with one bonafide star apiece and some other swimmers capable of big relay swims.
The Cardinal are spearheaded by Torri Huske, who was 21.43 leading off at Pac-12s, and Taylor Ruck was the exact same time with a takeover swimming second. Anya Goeders has been 21.89 flat-start this year, and freshman Amy Tang, who split 21.97 on the relay shored up the lineup last month.
The Wolverines have Maggie MacNeil, a premier title contender in the individual 50 who anchored in 21.01 at Big Tens and has been 21.32 flat-start this year. Freshman Lindsay Flynn is developing into a top-tier sprinter, and Claire Newman split 21.5 at Big Tens. Considering Michigan placed 16th out of 18 teams last year, they appear well-positioned for a top-eight showing here, though Newman and Natalie Kan will need to be at their absolute best to do so.
The remaining teams in the seasonal top-10 are Lousiville, UNC, Tennessee and Mizzou. The Cardinals and Tar Heels both have four solid 21-high swimmers, while the Vols and Tigers are a shade off with one 22+ leg and no clear star to mitigate the deficit that creates.
And then there are the defending champs from Cal, who haven’t shown us their full hand this season, but it is concerning that their fastest swimmer this season comes in at Elise Garcia‘s 22.20. They do have their entire winning roster from last year, which also includes Eloise Riley, Emily Gantriis and Izzy Ivey. Ivey was their fastest split (21.60) en route to a 1:27.84 relay at Pac-12s, and if they hit a good taper, it seems as though they can be somewhere in the 1:26s.
The Bears should be in the battle for second, but that’s the only real battle that will be going on in this race with UVA so far in front.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
Note: SB add-up includes the four fastest flat-start times from the team’s swimmers this season. This may not be indicative of a team’s ability in instances where a swimmer who is used on the relay doesn’t swim the 50 free at a taper meet.
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Darkhorse: USC Trojans – USC put up a blistering early-season time of 1:28.00 in October, and were just off that (1:28.02) at Pac-12s. On that October relay, the only split over 22 second was Anicka Delgado on the lead-off at 22.57, and she was 21.89 at Pac-12s. If the other legs simply matched their October splits, that puts them into the mix for a top-eight finish.