2022 W. NCAA Previews: Izzy Ivey Has the Most Momentum in the 200 Free

2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships

Records:

  • NCAA Record – 1:39.10, 3/20/15 Missy Franklin (California)
  • NCAA Championship Record – 1:39.10, 3/20/15 Missy Franklin (California)
  • American Record – 1:39.10, 3/20/15 Missy Franklin (California)
  • U.S. Open Record – 1:39.10, 3/20/15 Missy Franklin (California)
  • Defending Champion – Paige Madden, Virginia – 1:42.35

Last year was a down year in the 200 free, with UVA senior Paige Madden winning in 1:42.35, a time which would have been 5th at the 2019 NCAAs. It was the first time since 2016 that it didn’t take a 1:40 or faster to win the 200 free. This year’s field is a little faster than last year and it’s deeper.

Penn 5th year Lia Thomas is the top seed in the event, entering with her personal best of 1:41.93, which she swam at mid-season. Thomas is a transgender woman who was previously on the Penn men’s team before beginning hormone treatments. After some waffling on establishing new rules for transgender athletes, the NCAA decided to leave their current guidelines in place for this season. Thomas is well within those guidelines, and therefore, she has been cleared to compete at this meet.

When we get to our picks below, you’ll notice that despite her being the top seed, we didn’t pick Thomas to win. The reasoning behind that is largely due to the fact that Thomas swam her NCAA-leading 1:41.93 in November and hasn’t really been near it since. People have pointed to the way she negative split her 200 at the Ivy League Championships and her 25.04 final 50 split as evidence that she didn’t rest for Ivies and wasn’t trying to swim as fast as she could have, but there’s not really any way to prove that. What I can say with almost 100% certainty is that if she had swum faster on the front half of the race, there’s almost no way she would have closed in 50.98 on the 2nd 100.

We can’t just assume that final 50 splits will stay the same if the rest of the race gets faster. Take, for example, the 200 free at the 2015 NCAAs. As a freshman at Cal, Cierra Runge had the fastest split in the field, but finished 4th and was over 4 seconds behind the winner, who just so happened to by Cal teammate Missy Franklin when she set the 1:39.10 NCAA Record. Thomas, like Runge, has a distance background, and has a tendency to take races out a little more conservatively, and close fast.

If you haven’t scrolled down to look already, you’re probably wondering who we did pick to win this year. We went with Cal senior Izzy Ivey, the #2 seed. Ivey swam a huge personal best of 1:42.29 at Pac-12s a few weeks ago, despite it seeming like Cal hadn’t fully tapered for the meet. Couple that with Ivey’s history of dropping time at NCAAs, and she appears primed for a big swim in Atlanta. Based off the performances this season, just swimming a 1:41 will likely be enough to win this race, giving Ivey an excellent shot at this title.

You may be wondering: What about Taylor Ruck?

Great question! The Stanford junior is proving to be very difficult to project for this meet. So, let’s start with a disclaimer: Ruck could absolutely win this event going away, as her personal best of 1:40.37 is the fastest in the field by a massive margin. The problem is that Ruck swam that 1:40 at the 2019 NCAAs, and hasn’t been near that time in the 3 years since. Now, that’s slightly unfair, because Ruck wasn’t training at Stanford during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, so she took a 2-year break from racing yards, but nonetheless, the point stands.  Ruck swam a very solid 1:42.07 split on Stanford’s 800 free relay at Pac-12s a few weeks ago, but considering that was with a relay start, it still wasn’t that close to her personal best. Now that’s not to say that we don’t expect Ruck to swim well at NCAAs, rather we just simply don’t know if she’ll be back in 2019 form. If she is, she’ll win this race by a wide margin. If she swims a 1:42, well, everyone in the A final might go 1:42 this year.

Next, we have a tightly packed trio of women who either tied their best time or hit a new best time at their conference meets. Texas A&M’s Chloe Stepanek, the 4th place finisher last year, swam a new personal best of 1:42.40 at SECs. Stepanek was a little slower at NCAAs than SECs last year, however, her 1:42.40 is still ultra-competitive within this field. Also at SECs, Kentucky’s Riley Gaines swam a new PB of 1:42.62. Gaines finished 7th in the event at NCAAs last year, and like Stepanek, was slower at NCAAs than SECs.

USC’s Laticia Transom went head-to-head with Izzy Ivey at Pac-12s, swimming a 1:42.49, just off her personal best of 1:42.47. Her personal best was set at the 2020 Pac-12 Champs, but we didn’t get to see her at NCAAs that year, since it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also sat out last year, so Transom is another swimmer who it’s difficult to gauge how her performances this season stack up against previous seasons.

Talia Bates, a Florida junior, was the runner-up in the 200 free last year, but finds herself seeded 21st this year with her season best of 1:44.72. Bates was able to grab second last year with a 1:43.49, a time which likely won’t be good for such a high finish this time around. The positives for Bates include that she’s shown an ability to race at her best in prelims. Her personal best of 1:43.28 was swum in prelims at last year’s NCAAs. Her history of swimming fast at NCAAs last year, particularly in prelims, gives Bates a great shot to make it into the A final this year.

Texas’ Kelly Pash is one of the more versatile swimmers in the NCAA currently, and she’s chosen to race the 200 free again this year. Pash took 3rd last year, swimming a 1:43.50. Her best time of a 1:42.70 comes from Big 12s last year.

Tennessee has a pair of freshmen in the field, Julia Mrozinski and Brooklyn Douthwright, both of whom have swum personal bests of 1:43 this season. Tennessee definitely appeared like they went all out for SECs, so we’ll see how they perform at NCAAs. Big Ten champion Amy Fulmer from Ohio State is the #8 seed after swimming 1:43.46 to win the Big Ten title.

TOP 8 PICKS:
Place Swimmer School Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Izzy Ivey California 1:42.29 1:42.29
2 Lia Thomas Penn 1:41.93 1:41.93
3 Taylor Ruck Stanford 1:44.53 1:40.37
4 Riley Gaines Kentucky 1:42.62 1:42.62
5 Laticia Transom USC 1:42.49 1:42.47
6 Chloe Stepanek Texas A&M 1:42.40 1:42.40
7 Kelly Pash Texas 1:43.83 1:42.70
8 Talia Bates Florida 1:44.72 1:43.28

Darkhorse: Anna Peplowski (Indiana freshman) – Peplowski is the 10th seed in the 200 free and will be racing the event as part of the 200 free/100 back double at NCAAs. She did the same double at Big Tens in February, taking 2nd in the 200 free (1:43.92) and 4th in the 100 back (52.38). Her personal best of 1:43.53 was swum leading off Indiana’s 800 free relay at Big Tens. The 19-year-old has improved massively in the 200 free in her first season with the Hoosiers. Peplowski came to Bloomington with a personal best of 1:47.26, which she brought down to 1:44.34 at mid-season, then went 1:43 twice in February. If she’s able to match or better her personal best in prelims, Peplowski shouldn’t have a problem making it into the A final, at which point anything could happen.

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CraigH
3 months ago

I am honestly OK with Lia competing, but it does seem strange to me that the article shows her Lifetime Best as 1:41.93, when she has been as fast as 1:39.31 before.

Team Regan
Reply to  CraigH
3 months ago

That’s the fastest time she has been since she transitioned. She also was 4:18+ in the 500, but her times start fresh with the hormone blockers, etc

Yozhik
3 months ago

Don’t you think 1:39.10 is a phony?

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Yozhik
3 months ago

You keep attacking Missy Franklin even after she retired.

Ledecky is arguably the greatest ever female swimmer. She doesn’t need her fan to attack other female swimmers.

Melanie
3 months ago

1. Izzy Ivey 1:42.07
2. Lia Thomas 1:42.38
3. Taylor Ruck 1:42.51

Eddie
3 months ago

Taylor Ruck was 1:42.7 at Pac-12s before going 1:40.37 at NCAAs, so I wouldn’t count her out to win. But I agree that it’s Izzy Ivey’s race to lose. I hope she wins!

Honest Observer
3 months ago

Well-written, and by necessity carefully worded article.

Noah
3 months ago

I say Izzy Ivey and Riley Gaines go 1-2, with Lia Thomas getting 3rd or 4th. I just dont think Lia would want to put herself through the backlash if she podiumed.

Mnswim
Reply to  Noah
3 months ago

I just hope no one boos her.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Mnswim
3 months ago

Boo

Admin
Reply to  Mnswim
3 months ago

Nobody did at Ivies. One dad stood up and sarcastically cheered, but that was about it.

Mnswim
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

That’s good to know. The other ladies have worked extremely hard and should not have to put up with that while on the podium.

HOO love
3 months ago

dark horse- reilly tiltmann!

swimfan27
Reply to  HOO love
3 months ago

I agree, I feel like Virginia tends to be able to pull off the double taper pretty successfully, so I think she may be top 8 here.