Welcome to Week 5 of our 2023-24 NCAA weekly recaps! Each week in these recaps, we take a look at some of the highlights from around the NCAA, do some deep dives, discuss any trends we’re seeing, etc. This week, we’re talking about the close meets from the weekend, the backstrokers showing up big time, and in-conference ACC action.
There’s also a lot of collegiate athletes competing at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile but in this recap, we’re focused on things happening in NCAA competition.
Nail-Biter Meets Abound
One of the common themes of this past week was close dual meets.
The men’s meet between Georgia Tech and Florida State came down to the 400 freestyle relay. Heading into the relay, Georgia Tech held a narrow lead over Florida State. The Seminoles had won every freestyle event but the 1000, thanks to Peter Varjasi winning the 50/100 free (19.71/43.37) and Yordan Yanchev claiming the 200/500 free (1:34.61/4:17.52). Despite Florida State’s apparent freestyle dominance, it appeared to be Georgia Tech that won the 400 freestyle relay and therefore the meet. Their ‘A’ relay touched two-tenths ahead of Florida State, but was disqualified for an early take-off, so it was the Seminoles who walked away with the relay win and the meet.
The Georgia Tech women had a narrow win over the Florida State women as well. Both teams had eight event winners, but the Yellow Jacket’s depth won out as they had key 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishes that propelled them to a 20-point win. Two of FSU’s event wins came from Maddy Huggins sweeping the breaststroke events (59.91/2:08.94). Both were big personal bests for the junior; her time in the 100 breast marks her first time under a minute.
The SMU vs. Minnesota men’s dual was also a 20-point win, as the Mustangs edged out the Golden Gophers. Both teams got big performances from their newcomers. For SMU, it was Jack Hoagland, who picked up four event wins. He won the 500 free in 4:17.66, a season-best for Hoagland and new school and ASUN conference records. Hoagland also swam a new PB in the 200 breast (1:58.69), a positive sign for his 400 IM.
For Minnesota, Italian freshman Davide Harabagiu continued to make an impact. Harabagiu picked up two event wins in season-best times, clocking 46.11 in the 100 fly and 43.96 in the 100 free.
This trend of close meets actually kicked off on Thursday, October 19th, where for the second year in a row, the meet between the Fordham and Marist men came down to the final relay. The Fordham Rams carried a one-point lead into the final relay, thanks to sweeping the backstroke and breaststroke events. They also won the 50/100 freestyle and 100 fly. Meanwhile, Marist won the diving events, the 500/1000 freestyle, and the 200 fly which kept them close.
Despite not having a head coach for seven weeks to start the season, Fordham is undefeated this season a streak they continued by defeating Monmouth University two days after Marist.
Other close meets this weekend include the Villanova women’s win eight-point win over UCONN and the Georgetown men’s one-point win over NJIT.
(More) ACC Action
The NC State Wolfpack went to the desert to take on Pac-12’s Arizona State, but there was plenty of in-conference ACC action that turned heads this weekend. In addition to the Florida St vs. Georgia Tech meet, ACC schools Notre Dame and Pitt took on Penn State in a tri-meet.
The tri-meet was scored as separate dual meets and the Notre Dame men and women won their four duals. The Notre Dame/Pitt men’s meet kept in our overall theme of close meets this weekend, as the Fighting Irish won by two points, 177.5-175.5. Many Notre Dame swimmers had big meets including Chris Guiliano, who hit 19.35/41.63/1:33.75 in the 50/100/200 free for the 3rd, 1st, and 2nd fastest times in the NCAA respectively. Then in the relays, he tacked on a 41.00 100 free split and an 18.58 50 free split.
Teammates like Marcus Gentry, Tommy Janton, Tanner Filion, Maggie Graves, and Madelyn Christman had big swims as well. We’ll touch on all the backstrokers separately so let’s jump to Graves, who posted a 500 freestyle personal best of 4:47.79. That time would’ve landed her in the ACC ‘B’ final along with teammate Mary Cate Pruitt. Filion continued to show strong early returns in his transition to D1, logging a 100 free PB (44.01).
Outside of the Notre Dame swimmers, Sophie Yendell, Max Matteazzi, and Marcin Goraj shone for Pitt. Yendell swam a season-best 52.96 100 fly, which is just .34 seconds from her lifetime best. Mateazzi–a freshman from Rome, Italy–swam three yards personal bests with 54.31/1:56.41/1:45.64 in the 100 breast/200 breast/200 IM. Meanwhile, Goraj swam a 1:34.76 200 free, 3.39 seconds faster than he was at this meet last year.
Backstrokers Log On
This was the weekend of the backstrokers. Out in the desert, the Wolfpack backstrokers went to work. Both Katharine Berkoff and Kacper Stokowski won the 100 backstroke, logging the #2 and #1 times in the NCAA, respectively. Berkoff went 23.54/50.83 in the 50/100, which stands as the #2 times in those events. Meanwhile, Kacper Stokowski ripped a 44.48 to win the 100 back in the first sub-45 time of the season.
The men’s 200 back saw Stokowski and his teammate JT Ewing face off against 200-meter back world champion Hubert Kos. Kos passed Ewing and Stokowski on the final 25, swimming a 1:40.11. Ewing touched 2nd in 1:40.21, with Stokowski 3rd in 1:40.67.
Those times stand as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-fastest times in the NCAA this season. Actually, seven of the top 10 NCAA times in the 200 back this season were swum this weekend. Goraj is nine-hundredths back of Stokowski (1:40.76). Notre Dame’s Janton and Filion are 7th (1:41.29) and 10th (1:42.82) with season-bests swum this weekend.
Their teammate Gentry sits 11th (1:42.98) and swam a personal best 46.05 in the 100 back. Janton also made his mark in the 100 backstroke by winning the event in 45.86. That’s 2.39 seconds faster than he was at this meet last year; while Guiliano made more headlines courtesy of making the Worlds team, Janton had a breakout year of his own last year in his first season at Notre Dame.
On the women’s side, Phoebe Bacon did her thing at Wisconsin’s meet against Arizona and Michigan, swimming a season-best 1:54.44. Bacon doesn’t typically show her cards until the big meet, so it’s interesting to see her be three seconds faster than she was this time last year. The time puts her #3 in the NCAA this season, ahead of Pitt’s Claire Jansen and Notre Dame’s Christman. Racing head-to-head, Jansen narrowly defeated Christman, 1:54.82 to 1:54.98. It’s a new personal best for Jansen and her first time under 1:55 and would’ve moved her from the ‘C’ to ‘B’ final at ACCs.