2024 NCAA Swammy Awards: Women’s NCAA Swimming & Diving

2024 WOMEN’S NCAA SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Virginia sent out a senior class undefeated at the 2024 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, winning their fourth-straight title. While a deep Texas Longhorns team kept the margin under 100 points for the first time in the run, the meet was still a runaway from the start for Virginia.

It’s time to give out some awards, and no-surprise, it’s littered with Cavaliers.

FINAL TEAM SCORES

1. Virginia 527.5
2. Texas 441
3. Florida 364
4. Tennessee 277
5. Stanford 250
6. Louisville 212
7. Indiana 206
8. Southern California 200
9. Ohio St 162
9. NC State 162
11. California 153
12. Michigan 147.5
13. Georgia 116
14. Texas A&M 104
15. Wisconsin 95
16. Duke 80
17. UNC 77
18. Purdue 57
19. Auburn 54
20. Minnesota 47
21. LSU 44
22. UCLA 36
23. Alabama 25
24. Arizona St 23
25. Utah 22
26. Virginia Tech 18
27. Northwestern 17
28. SIU 16
29. Penn 15
30. Nebraska 11
31. South Carolina 9
32. Notre Dame 6
32. Kansas 6
32. Miami (Ohio) 6
32. Rutgers 6
36. Akron 5
36. Arkansas 5
38. Florida St 4
38. Cincinnati 4
40. Houston 3
40. Washington St. 3
40. Miami (Fl) 3

Swimmer of the Year: Gretchen Walsh, Virginia

Quite simply: one of the best NCAA Championship performances in history. Like last year’s winner Kate Douglass, Walsh won three individual events, all in new NCAA, American, and US Open Records.

She won all three of her individual events (50 free, 100 fly, 100 free), all in mind-bending times that are the fastest ever in those races.

She scored the maximum 60 points at the meet, tied with her sister Alex Walsh (200 IM, 400 IM, 200 breast).

Gretchen Walsh also swam legs on all four of Virginia’s winning relays: the 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 200 medley relay, and 400 medley relay.

Gretchen Walsh‘s Swims:

  • 200 Medley Relay – 22.10 backstroke split (1:31.58 overall relay)
  • 50 free – 20.37 (all the records)
  • 200 free relay – 20.23 (1:24.05 overall relay)
  • 100 fly – 47.42 (all the records)
  • 400 Medley Relay – 48.26 backstroke split (3:21.01 overall relay)
  • 100 free – 44.83 (all the records)
  • 400 Free Relay – 45.17 rolling start split (3:05.89 overall relay)

Is this the greatest single NCAA performance in history? I’ll need to think really hard and do some deep analysis with Barry and Andrew’s help to say that with certainty, but if anyone declares it the best performance in history, I can’t say they are wrong on any objective level.

Outside of NCAAs, Walsh also set an NCAA, American, and US Open Record in the 100 backstroke (48.10) at ACCs

Honorable Mentions:

  • Alex Walsh, Virginia – Her younger sister stole the show, but Alex finished the season with three NCAA Championships. It feels odd to say – but that’s a ‘bounceback’ performance for her from last year, where she won one title (the 400 IM) and was 2nd in the 200 fly and 3rd in the 200 IM. She has now eight individual NCAA titles if she chooses not to come back for her 5th year of eligibility.
  • Katharine Berkoff, NC State – A third career NCAA title in the 100 back and the 4th-fastest performance (and 2nd-faster performer) in history was a great way to cap Berkoff’s college career and launch her into her long course goals this summer.

Coach of the Year: Greg Meehan, Stanford

This year’s Stanford team could, on paper, have Claire Curzan, Torri Huske, Taylor Ruck, and Regan Smith on the roster. That’s a quartet that could give Virginia a run for its money.

This year’s Stanford team did not have any of those four swimmers. Curzan is redshirting and transferring to Virginia, Ruck skipped her 5th year of eligibility, Smith went pro (or did she?), and Huske is redshirting and training at Stanford.

And with all of those losses, the Cardinal still had a top 5 finish at NCAAs. Amy Tang had a breakout season, freshman Caroline Bricker had a dream season, and Aurora Roghair had a breakout season.

It’s easy to give the winning coach Coach of the Year honors every season, and I’d say the winning coach deserves it most years. But this season, what Meehan did with what he had was worth trumping that.

Stanford was one of two teams that improved from their seed time in all five relays at the NCAA Championships, along with Duke (more on that later).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Todd DeSorbo, Virginia – It wasn’t a perfect championship for Virginia, but their work throughout the season put them in a position where it didn’t have to be. The stars Alex Walsh, Gretchen Walsh, and Ella Nelson you know about. But Jasmine Nocentini, swimming’s new favorite cult hero, entered the season with a best time of 58.47, and she swam 56.09 to win the NCAA title. Tess Howley hadn’t been a best time in the 200 fly since 2021, and she dropped almost eight-tenths and finished 8th. Good luck recruiting against Virginia.
  • Matt Kredich, Tennessee – This might be the season that puts the specters of 2022 to rest for Matt Kredich and the Tennessee Volunteers. They finished basically flat versus seed and led the team to its best NCAA Championship finish since they were 3rd in 2013. The only thing missing for Tennessee was a national title as Jasmine Nocentini from Virginia road a huge wave to the 100 breast title, upending their best shot in Mona McSharry. It’s hard to win an NCAA title when you have to flight through Virginia.

New-Hires Coach of the Year: Brian Barnes, Duke

Brian Barnes walked into a tough situation at Duke, a program whose head coach Dan Colella died mid-season last year. But Barnes is a coach who understands the grieving process: his wife Alyssa Barnes died in 2012.

Duke is a program that has talent, and Barnes maximized that talent in his first year at the helm after moving over from NC State.

The Blue Devils finished 5th at ACCs, the third-straight season where they finished 5th. Along with Stanford, Duke was one of only two programs that swam a season-best time in every relay at the NCAA Championships as part of a 16th-place team effort. That is the team’s highest finish at NCAAs ever, surpassing their 19th-place finish in 2011.

It wasn’t a straight-forward path either. Sarah Foley, for example, was converted from a breaststroker to a freestyler, which was huge for those Duke relays. She ultimately scored her 4 individual points via a 14th-place finish in the 200 IM, but also anchored a 7th-place 400 medley relay in 47.79.

Catherine Belyakov only made the meet after being called in off the alternates list, but then showed up in prelims of the 200 IM and won her heat, dropping half-a-second to finish 24th. That doesn’t score any points, but she stayed ready.

Ali Pfaff broke both backstroke records, Kaelyn Gridley broke both breaststroke records, and in combination the Blue Devils broke four of the five school records in relays.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Matt Bowe, Michigan – As we talked about a few weeks back on the SwimSwam Breakdown, Bowe didn’t have a first year ‘wow’ moment, either in the pool or in recruiting, before the NCAA Championships, but the Wolverines sort of tip-toed around the NCAA Championship with a number of highlights and eye-catching results. Their 400 free relay finished 4th, with three 47-point legs and a 46-point anchor from Lindsay Flynn. Only Virginia could boast the same depth in that relay (they had two 47-lows, a 46-mid, and a 45-low). They were also 5th in the 200 free relay. The only senior on either of those relays was Claire Newman. This is a young Michigan team, and while they have some work to do to rebuild the roster, they have a strong core of sprint freestylers, which is a good start. Getting Levenia Sim back next season would be another big boost to that effort. We’re going to look up next season and Michigan is going to be back in the top 10 already.

Breakout Swimmer of the Year: Jasmine Nocentini, Virginia

Virginia’s redshirt senior Jasmine Nocentini was a breakout in every way.

The obvious is in the pool.

Nocentini swam two years at Florida International before transferring to Northwestern for the 2022-23 season. She ended her senior season at Northwestern early with a shoulder injury at a point when she was the top-ranked swimmer in the Big Ten in the 50 free and 100 breast. Her best 100 breast time coming into the 2023-24 season was 58.23; she won the 100 breast in Athens with 56.06, the 2nd-fastest performance in history.

Nocentini’s Times/Drops, 2023-2024 NCAA Season:

  • 50 free – 21.76 ➡️21.10
  • 100 free – 47.76 ➡️46.75
  • 100 breast – 58.31 ➡️ 56.09

But she also broke out as a personality. Nocentini’s interviews earned her a lot of fans, her willingness to laugh along with SwimSwam commenters earned her even more.

From a competitive perspective, I understand why some are miffed at the fact that she has a 6th year of eligibility to use next season. But from a narrative perspective I love this springboard for her to roll into one more NCAA season. Her long course best times aren’t even close to cracking the lineup for Italy, and so she has some work to do there. But she’s a personality who is good for swimming, so that extra year gives her the opportunity to find a path to stay in swimming.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Anna Peplowski, Indiana – After a summer that saw her qualify for Team USA at the World Championships, Indiana junior Anna Peplowski evolved into a force at the collegiate level this year. Last season, she earned her first NCAA A-Final with a 6th-place finish in the 200 free. This year, she was 2nd in the 200 free, 3rd in the 500 free, and 7th in the 100 free, rounding into a true three-event contributor. She now goes into her senior season on the hunt for NCAA titles.
  • Aurora Roghair, Stanford – Roghair entered this season with a best time of 16:01.55 in the 1650 free, and that was two seasons ago. She finished at 15:41.11 and placed 2nd at the NCAA Championships. That’s something we’ll see from a freshman or even a sophomore, but as a junior distance swimmer, that’s a rare evolution and recovery. Her place on this list is representative of a bunch of Stanford swimmers who could be here – including Lucy Bell and Caroline Bricker.
  • Kacey McKenna, Indiana – McKenna ends the NCAA season as the 5th-best collegiate swimmer in the 100 back after a 50.23 in prelims of that event this weekend in Athens. She was 52.82 in the 100 back last season and didn’t qualify for NCAAs. In her post-race interview, she said probably the most important thing that was said at this year’s NCAA Championship meet: “It’s really hard to be a happy swimmer and a fast swimmer when you’re not happy and well outside of swimming.” Sometimes when times aren’t going well, we look for changes in the pool, but so often the answers lie outside of the water.

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Bob
2 months ago

How is Bella Sims not in this article?

George
2 months ago

No love for Bella Sims? 2 titles as a freshman and a 3rd place finish plus her key relay performances including another national championship. I understand she didn’t swim best times and the meet didn’t match up to what we have come to expect from her, but she still is deserving of freshman of the year or AT LEAST an honorable mention.

aquajosh
Reply to  George
2 months ago

She has gone several best times this year. She destroyed her PB in the 200 IM at SECs, got under 22 seconds in the 50 free, swam a 47.01 100 free leading off the 400 free relay, and a 50.02 100 back. Her 200 back and 200 free were each like two tenths off her PB.

Danjohnrob
2 months ago

I think the proof of who was the best NCAA Women’s Swim Coach this year depends on how DeSorbo is able to prep the Walsh sisters for Trials and the Olympics! If he is able to win this title AND prep his ladies for international success, then he definitely did the best job, because clearly Torri, Claire and Taylor doubted his ability to lead them to both NCAA and Olympic success in the same year, and the Walsh sisters did not doubt their coach. Maybe the Stanford athletes were wrong to doubt Meehan, but we’ll have to wait and see how the season ends for Virginia’s stars!

Go Bucky
2 months ago

I never thought I’d see Stanford and Meehan the “underdogs” but they absolutely were. They surpassed expectations for sure and I’m glad to see their season end on a high note. In addition to the development of the above mentioned swimmers, Torri Huske is swimming awesome lately.

Last edited 2 months ago by Go Bucky
iLikePsych
2 months ago

Torri Huske after 2023 vs 2024 NCAAs
comment image

Last edited 2 months ago by iLikePsych
Head Timer
2 months ago

If these were the Swammy awards, are you going to have the divey awards, too? No divers in the story above that I could see… and Aranza V was fantastic, once again.

Gthcgth
Reply to  Head Timer
2 months ago

…you’re on a site called swimswam…

23/51/1:52
2 months ago

I just hope all of the big names show up to SC Worlds.

oxyswim
2 months ago

Coach of the year should really be a staff of the year award. I think Greg is unquestionably a good coach, but it doesn’t feel like an accident that this fantastic year came with 2 new coaches on staff. Or at a minimum, list the whole staff when a head coach is recognized.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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