2024 W. NCAA Previews: Florida’s Sims and Ivey Aiming For 1-2 Finish In The 200 Freestyle


Women’s 200 Freestyle

  • U.S. Open Record: 1:39.10 — Missy Franklin, Cal (2015)
  • American Record: 1:39.10 — Missy Franklin, Cal (2015)
  • NCAA Record: 1:39.10 — Missy Franklin, Cal (2015)
  • 2023 NCAA Champion: 1:42.36 — Taylor Ruck, Stanford

Florida’s 1-2 Punch

At SECs, Bella Sims and Isabel Ivey met in the 200 IM. But other than that meeting, the Gators took on different individual events. Ivey raced the 100 backstroke, then Sims led off the 400 medley relay. It was the same for the 200 freestyle; Sims led off the 800 freestyle relay on Day 1, then left the individual event to Ivey, who won.

But now, they’ll go head-to-head in the 200 freestyle in Athens.

Leading off Florida’s SEC record-setting 800 freestyle relay, Sims set an SEC record of her own. She got the Gators started with a 1:40.90, coming within .12 seconds off her personal best. With Gretchen Walsh and her 1:40.23 skipping this event in favor of the 100 fly, that time also earns Sims the top seed.

Isabel Ivey (courtesy: AU Athletics)

She’s the only one in the field who’s broken 1:41 before, which gives her a serious advantage over the rest of the field. And that fact that she’s already been so close to her best time while she was (presumably) not fully rested is a great sign for Sims as she approaches her first NCAA championships.

It’s clear that training in Gainesville is working for Sims, so we’re picking her to claim her second individual title of the meet here in the 200 freestyle. There’s been a lot of talk about who will be next to break the 1:40 barrier–she’d have to drop a lot, but there’s a chance that Sims could join that rarified air in Athens.

Ivey holds down the #3 seed with the 1:41.85 she claimed the SEC title with. She’s been as fast as 1:41.35 before, which she went leading off the 800 free relay at 2022 NCAAs. That time would put her 2nd, just three-hundredths ahead of Minna Abraham.

It’s been two years since we’ve seen Ivey race at NCAAs, but remember that she was the runner-up in this event in 2022. Ivey’s swum personal bests across multiple events since joining the Gators–maybe more rest will make her 200 free click at the right moment.

Who Can Stop A Gator 1-2 Finish?

Barring a disaster, the Florida Gators are going to put up big points in this event. But there are several swimmers who could keep them from putting together a 1-2 finish.

Abraham is the only other swimmer in the field who’s been under 1:42 this season. A freshman from Hungary, Abraham turned heads with a 1:43.53 at the SMU Classic–her first time racing this event in yards. She continued to improve through the early goings of the season, culminating in a 1:41.38 at the Texas Invitational.

She didn’t match that time at PAC-12s, clocking 1:42.42 to win the conference title. The USC women have historically been hit or miss in the postseason, so we’ll have to wait to see whether that was a strategy decision or a harbinger of her performance in Athens. But at her best, Abraham is more than capable of breaking up the Gator party at the head of the race.

Something else to keep in mind with Abraham is that she’s opted to only enter two individual events, presumably so she can swim all five relays. That means that she’ll only swim the 200 freestyle relay on Day 2 of NCAAs, which could play in her favor.

Two swimmers who’ve made big improvements this season are Camille Spink and Anna Peplowski. Yes, Peplowski was an ‘A’ finalist last year (6th) but both she and Spink have moved themselves into the “main contender” conversation over the course of the season.

Peplowski broke through at 2023 U.S. Nationals in the 200-meter freestyle, earning a spot on the 4×200 freestyle relay at 2023 Worlds. Now in her junior season at Indiana, she’s continued to improve across the freestyle events. She’s entered in the 100/200/500 freestyle in Athens and the 200 free seems to be her sweet spot. It’s the event she’s seeded the highest in (4th) after posting a 1:42.04 personal best at Big Tens.

As a freshman at Tennessee, Spink has been improving throughout the season. The 200 freestyle is at the top of her range–she won the 50/100 free at SECs–but she still seems set to factor into the ‘A’ final. In Auburn she finished 2nd behind Ivey, clocking a personal best 1:42.37. That’s just a hundredth off what it took to win last season and though this year’s winning time will almost certainly be faster, it’s a solid sign that Spink should be right in the mix.

Tennessee could match Florida and make it two women in the ‘A’ final with both Spink and Brooklyn Douthwright. Douthwright is the 2023 SEC champion in the event and finished 2nd last year at NCAAs. Her best time is the 1:42.41 she swam for that runner-up title, and she’s been within two-tenths of that time with a 1:42.61 season-best. Look for her to move up from her 8th place seed.

Also lurking further down the psych sheet is Virginia’s Aimee Canny. Canny arrived in Charlottesville in the middle of last season and made a big impact at 2023 NCAAs, most memorably holding her own on the 800 freestyle lead-off to help the Cavaliers win that title. Her 1:42.34 lead-off swim still stands as her personal best.

Now at the tail end of her first full season in Charlottesville, Canny extended her talents to the 500 freestyle, where she swam a 4:36 the first time she swam the event at the Tennessee Invitational. Comparably, she’s been quieter in the 200 free this season, holding a season-best of 1:42.93 that ranks her 11th. Don’t be fooled by that ranking though, Canny was 3rd last year and should make a return to the ‘A’ final.

Names to Watch

Chloe Stepanek, Kayla Wilsonand Maxine Parker also return to the field this year after ‘A’ final appearances in 2023.

Stepanek finished 7th in 2023, and she’s the highest seeded of this trio at 6th with a 1:42.21. That time is just a hundredth off her personal best, which she’s been chasing since 2022.

The Texas A&M women seem determined to send off their head coach Steve Bultman (who’s retiring after 25 years as the Aggies head coach at the end of the season) on a high note. Stepanek has been the centerpiece for the Aggies for a couple seasons now, and will look to help the Aggies make this a memorable NCAAs by matching or improving on her 4th place finish from 2021.

It was Wilson, then a freshman at Stanford, who took 4th in 2023. She swam a personal best 1:42.90 to earn that spot on the podium. She arrives in Athens as the 10th seed in a season-best 1:42.91, which means she’s right at her best but will have to leapfrog a couple swimmers to get back to the ‘A’ final–a testament to how deep the top end of this event is this year.

Wilson and her teammate Aurora Roghair, who went 2-3 at PAC-12s together, make an interesting duo for the Cardinal in this event. Roghair has had a great season, swimming multiple personal bests.

Roghair exploded in this event at Stanford’s dual with USC, dropping 2.33 seconds with a 1:42.77 swim. She didn’t break 1:43 at PAC-12s, but that’s an intriguing in-season swim for her in an event that’s at the shorter end of her range. If she gets back down to that range, she could land herself in the ‘A’ final.

Fellow PAC-12 swimmer Mia Motekaitis has also made a big leap in the 200 free this season. Her drop isn’t as dramatic as Roghair’s, but she’s still taken a second off her personal best in a year. At Cal vs. Stanford, she dipped under 1:43 for the first time in her career with a 1:42.89. Dave Durden has a track record of getting the Cal men to drop from PAC-12s to NCAAs; Motekaitis was 1:44.46 there, but matching or improving her in-season PB should give her the opportunity to better her 2023 16th place finish.

In her first yards season, Stephanie Balduccini turned heads at the Georgia Fall Invite. Her best event is the 100 freestyle, but if she hits her taper, she could jump up from 13th seed here in the 200 free. Her best sits at 1:43.30, well under the time that it took to make it back for the ‘A’ final last season. That time projects to be faster this season though, so Balduccini will need to be at her best in the morning.

Balduccini is seeded just behind Erin Gemmell. Gemmell is also set to make her first NCAA appearance. She’s been quietly having a solid first season at Texas; at the Texas Invitational, she swam a personal best of 1:43.09. That should give her a second swim, it’s just a question of whether that will be enough to earn an ‘A’ final lane. Either way, she seems on track to crack 1:43 for the first time in Athens.

Rank Swimmer School Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Bella Sims Florida 1:40.90 1:40.78
2 Isabel Ivey Florida 1:41.85 1:41.35
3 Anna Peplowski Indiana 1:42.04 1:42.04
4 Camille Spink Tennessee 1:42.37 1:42.37
5 Aimee Canny Virginia 1:42.93 1:42.34
6 Minna Abraham USC 1:41.38 1:41.38
7 Chloe Stepanek Texas A&M 1:42.41 1:42.40
8 Brooklyn Douthwright Tennessee 1:42.61 1:42.41

Dark Horse: Amy Riordan, Sophomore (South Carolina) — Amy Riordanlike many of the swimmers already mentioned in this preview, has taken big strides in the 200 freestyle this season. She came into the 2023-24 season with a personal best of 1:46.02. She cut 1.71 seconds off that mark at an in-season dual, swimming a South Carolina program record of 1:44.31. Then, Riordan bettered that time at SECs with a 1:44.08 for 6th. She’s seeded 23rd right now, but if she’s got another big drop in store she could make finals and help keep South Carolina on the NCAA scoresheet after graduating their star diver Brooke Schultz last season. 

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

I want Ivey to win one individual title so badly! Definition of a team player

3 months ago

When’s the swimswam breakdown going to come out?

3 months ago

Balducini had some good splits this year, and the Conference was just coming from Doha, she barely had time to adjust, so I expect her to be quite faster now

3 months ago

Did I miss it? I cant find the scored Womens NCAA.
I saw you just posted the Mens visualization one. Is there a women’s equivalent and Im just blind? haha

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

Read More »