2024 Women’s Division 1 NCAA Championships: Day 1 Relay Analysis

2024 WOMEN’S NCAA SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

WOMEN’S 200 MEDLEY RELAY

  • NCAA Record: 1:31.51 – Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, L. Cuomo, K. Douglass), 2023
  • Meet Record: 1:31.51 — Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, L. Cuomo, K. Douglass), 2023
  • American Record: 1:31.51 – Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, L. Cuomo, K. Douglass), 2023
  • U.S. Open Record: 1:31.51 – Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, L. Cuomo, K. Douglass), 2023
  • 2023 NCAA Champion: 1:31.51 – Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, L. Cuomo, K. Douglass)

Top 8:

  1. Virginia (G. Walsh, Nocentini, Novelline, Parker) — 1:31.58
  2. Ohio State (Funderburke, Bach, Zenick, Ivan) — 1:33.09
  3. Florida (Runnels, Mayne, Peoples, Cronk) — 1:34.30
  4. Cal — 1:34.55
  5. Tennessee — 1:34.64
  6. Texas — 1:34.74
  7. USC — 1:34.81
  8. Stanford — 1:35.10

Welp! Gretchen Walsh did it again, breaking another record and leading her Virginia Cavaliers to another relay victory. You can read more about that swim here. As you peruse these splits, you’ll note the absence of NC State and Princeton, as both teams were disqualified. You can read about that here.

Before we get into the leg-by-leg analysis a couple of notes:

  • Virginia smashed the pool record of 1:34.18, which was set by Florida back in November. Virginia cleared that margin by over 2.5 seconds.
  • As far as I can tell This was the first time in the last 20 years across both Men’s and Women’s 200 Medley Relays where the winning time had a faster backstroke split than butterfly. This takes nothing away from Carly Novelline‘s split of 22.38 (she was 3rd fastest) but rather just highlights the impressive performance by Walsh.
  • The 200 Medley often sees swimmers jump into holes where the team needs, with coaches hoping that their swimmers can muscle through a 50 of their secondary or tertiary stroke.
    • Michigan’s Natalie Kan swam fly last year on their relay but took over the breaststroke duties for red-shirting Letitia Sim.
    • Throughout the course of much of the season, NC State has had to giggle their line-up around. Katharine Berkoff took on the freestyle duties this year as opposed to her normal backstroke role, and Abby Arens shifted from free to breast.

Backstroke Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT 
Gretchen Walsh Virginia 22.10
Nyah Funderburke OSU 23.44
Isabelle Stadden Cal 23.58
Kacey McKenna Indiana 23.58
Eboni McCarty Georgia 23.71
Josephine Fuller Tennessee 23.74
Caroline Famous USC 23.75
Greer Pattison UNC 23.80
Aris Runnels Florida 23.82
Emma Kern Texas 24.00
Miranda Grana Texas A&M 24.11
Alexis Greenhawt Michigan 24.17
Meghan Lee Auburn 24.18
Mackenzie McConagha Wisconsin 24.25
Ali Pfaff Duke 24.26
Gaby Van Brunt Alabama 24.29
Karoline Barrett Louisville 24.58
Sarah Evans FSU 24.74
Natalie Mannion Stanford 24.83

Enough has been said and written about G. Walsh’s swim, but the difference between her split and the next fastest is almost equal to that of the second fastest to the last. After finishing 3rd at Big-10s, Indiana’s Kacey McKenna clipped .22 from her time to tie for the 3rd fastest split, with Cal’s Isabelle Stadden, who also dropped time from her conference swim of 23.64.

Perhaps moving her team up the most was Wisconsin’s Mackenzie McConagha who was just 24.62 at Big-Tens but managed to swim 24.25 here, just .01 off her PB from the 2022 NCAA.

Breastroke Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT  
Hannah Bach OSU 25.68
Mona McSharry Tennessee 25.68
Jasmine Nocentini Virginia 25.72
Jade Neser Cal 26.33
Skyler Smith UNC 26.34
Lucy Thomas Stanford 26.41
Kaitlyn Dobler USC 26.45
Anna Elendt Texas 26.53
Molly Mayne Florida 26.71
Stasya Makarova Auburn 26.76
Kaelyn Gridley Duke 26.77
Avery Wiseman Alabama 26.78
Ella Welch Louisville 26.90
Maddy Huggins FSU 26.99
Hazal Ozkan Wisconsin 27.09
Zoie Hartman Georgia 27.10
Gloria Muzito Texas A&M 27.31
Brearna Crawford Indiana 27.36
Natalie Kan Michigan 27.60

Hannah Bach had an impressive 50 breast, tying for the fastest split of the night at 25.68.  Bach was 25.92 at Big-Tens and 26.22 last year at NCAAs, showing an impressive drop. Bach has been as fast as 25.51, a time that made her the 2nd fastest performer ever, after Lily King.

Sharing top honors with Bach was Mona McSharry. Like Bach, McSharry dropped time from both her conference split (25.80) and her time from last year (26.01) and now ranks among the top performers.

Two of the fastest breaststrokers in the meet seemed to have middling results. Kaitlyn Dobler and Anna Elendt ranked just 7th and 8th, respectively, with splits of 26.45 and 26.53.

Butterfly Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT  
Kit Kat Zenick OSU 22.33
Jenny Halden FSU 22.35
Carly Novelline Virginia 22.38
Olivia Peoples Florida 22.42
Brady Kendall Michigan 22.42
Emma Sticklen Texas 22.57
Gigi Johnson Stanford 22.63
Hailey Tierney Wisconsin 22.66
Aleyna Ozkan Duke 22.77
Anicka Delgado USC 22.81
Christiana Regenauer Louisville 22.81
Mia Kragh Cal 23.12
Kailyn Winter Alabama 23.16
Sara Stotler Tennessee 23.20
Ellie Vannote UNC 23.23
Olivia Theall Texas A&M 23.26
Chiok Sze Yeo Indiana 23.51
Lawson Ficken Auburn 23.51
Emma Norton Georgia 23.68

While G. Walsh certainly made up for a lot of the difference between Virginia’s seed time of 1:33.84  and the winning time of 1:31.58, Carly Novelline made an impact too. The sophomore stepped up and threw down a 22.38 (3rd fastest among the field) and .42 faster than her split from ACCs. At ACCs, FSU’s Jenny Halden swam 22.92, but tonight crushed the 3rd leg of the relay, swimming 22.35, just .02 behind Kit Kat Zennick, who herself improved upon her split from Big-10s.

Stanford’s Gigi Johnson‘s 22.63 ranks 7th on the list, but is a marked improvement upon the 22.91, that Lucy Bell swam on their DQed relay from Pac-12s.

Freestyle Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT  
Gabi Albiero Louisville 21.16
Amy Tang Stanford 21.23
Micayla Cronk Florida 21.35
Tatum Wall Duke 21.36
Maxine Parker Virginia 21.38
Kristina Paegle Indiana 21.39
Lindsay Flynn Michigan 21.43
Stephanie Akakabota Cal 21.52
Alexis Mulvihill Auburn 21.52
Chloe Stepanek Texas A&M 21.63
Teresa Ivan OSU 21.64
Grace Cooper Texas 21.64
Helena Jones Georgia 21.70
Minna Abraham USC 21.80
Delaney Carlton UNC 21.82
Abby Wanezek Wisconsin 21.85
Cadence Vincent Alabama 21.95
Amber Myers Tennessee 22.02
Gloria Muzito FSU 22.18

Despite throwing down the fastest legal split in the field, Louisville’s Gabi Albiero‘s 21.16 wasn’t enough to move her team back into the top eight. Last year, Albiero closed in 20.88 to finish in 4th, but her team had to settle for 11th.  Stanford Amy Tang popped off, surging her team into a podium position. Last year, Tang was 21.94 on Stanford’s 9th place relay, and last month was 21.65 at PAC-12s but casually dropped a 21.23 split to rank second.

NC State’s Katharine Berkoff split 20.35 on the relay and would easily have topped the field but nabbed with a -.17 reaction time, causing the relay to be disqualified. Duke’s Tatum Wall posted the 4th fastest split of the field at 21.36 and appears to have gotten away with a reaction time of -.03.

WOMEN’S 800 FREESTYLE RELAY

  • NCAA Record: 6:45.91 — Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky), 2017
  • Meet Record: 6:45.91 — Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky), 2017
  • American Record: 6:45.91 — Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky), 2017
  • U.S. Open Record: 6:45.91 – Stanford (S. Manuel, L. Neal, E. Eastin, K. Ledecky), 2017
  • 2023 NCAA Champion: 6:49.82 – Virginia (A. Canny, A. Walsh, R. Tiltmnn, E. Nelson)
  1. Florida (Sims, Ivey, Weyant, Cronk) — 6:48.59
  2. Tennessee (Douthwright, Spink, Mrozinski, Fuller) — 6:50.82
  3. Stanford (Roghair, Nordmann, Mannion, Wilson) — 6:51.17
  4. Virginia — 6:51.41
  5. Indiana — 6:54.03
  6. Georgia — 6:54.67
  7. Texas — 6:54.68
  8. Michigan — 6:54.70

With the knowledge that Gretchen Walsh would not be swimming this relay, the confidence in Virginia winning this relay slid from almost certain to a toss-up if not leaning towards Virginia. Florida winning certainly wouldn’t be considered an upset, based on their prowess across mid-distance free, but two other teams passing Virginia to finish ahead of the defending champions on the podium was a little shocking.

Florida’s winning time of 6:48.59, marks not only a new school record but also a new pool record, overtaking the previous time of 6:53.04. This is the first time since 1989 that the Gators have won this relay.

LEADOFF LEGS  

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT 
Bella Sims Florida 1:41.03
Anna Peplowski Indiana 1:41.16
Chloe Stepanek Texas A&M 1:42.44
Brooklyn Douthright Tennessee 1:42.45
Aurora Roghair Stanford 1:42.82
Aimee Canny Virginia 1:42.83
Kelly Pash Texas 1:42.89
Minna Abraham USC 1:42.98
Amy Fulmer OSU 1:43.41
Abby Carlson Wisconsin 1:43.43
Katelyn Crom Michigan 1:43.55
Paige Hetrick Louisville 1:43.68
Shea Furse Georgia 1:43.81
Sarah Foley Duke 1:43.92
Mia Motekaitis California 1:44.16
Polina Nevmovenko Auburn 1:44.19
Ieva Maluka ASU 1:44.39
Georgia Nel UNC 1:45.06
Emma Atkinson Virginia Tech 1:45.34
Katarina Milutinovich LSU 1:45.64
Heidi Smithwick Princeton 1:46.64
Ellery Ottem South Carolina 1:47.38

Bella Sims started out fast but was slowly reeled back in by Indiana’s Anna Peplowski. Sims, who was 1:40.90 at SECs was a tad slower, but still fast enough to give Florida the lead at the first exchange. On the other hand, Peplowski blew by her conference’s swim and personal best of 1:42.04 to nearly break 1:41. Her 1:41.16 would move her from the 4th seed in the 200 to the 2nd and, just based on how close she was to Sims, could be in contention for the title.

Moving in the opposite direction is USC freshman Minna Abraham. Abraham, a native of Hungry, is entered in the individual 200 as the #2 seed with an entry time of 1:41.38 but barely managed to break 1:43, leading off in 1:42.98.

Michigan’s Katie Crom split of 1:43.55 may not jump off the page but stands as a marked difference, improving nearly a full second over her lead-off of 1:44.38 from last month.

Second Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT  
Isabel Ivey Florida 1:41.64
Alex Walsh Virginia 1:41.88
Camille Spink Tennessee 1:42.08
Lillie Nordman Stanford 1:42.32
Phoebe Bacon Wisconsin 1:42.99
Claire Tuggle USC 1:43.05
Sloane Reinstein Georgia 1:43.07
Erin Gemmell Texas 1:43.17
Lindsay Looney ASU 1:43.32
Megan Barnes LSU 1:43.69
Rachel Klinker California 1:44.03
Kit Kat Zenick OSU 1:44.16
Caroline Bentz Virginia Tech 1:44.34
Meghan Lee Auburn 1:44.50
Amy Riordan South Carolina 1:44.70
Malia Amuan Michigan 1:44.77
Ella Ristic Indiana 1:44.84
Summer Cardwell Louisville 1:45.14
Elizabeth Sowards UNC 1:45.38
Jordan Buechler Texas A&M 1:46.14
Sabrina Johnston Princeton 1:46.72
Yixuan Chang Duke 1:47.46

Sims handed off to teammate Isabel Ivey, who only extended the Gator lead, posting the fastest 2nd leg and fastest flying split of the field (1:41.64). Ivey is the #3 seed in the 200 and will look to go 1-2 with Sims but will have some ground to make up on the aforementioned Peplowski. Freshman Camille Spink did well to bring Tennessee up into 2nd place, but was a little slower than her SEC split of 1:41.56.

Primarily known as a backstroker, Wisconsin senior Phoebe Bacon put in a strong leg for the Badgers, splitting 1:42.99. Last year, the 2021 Olympian was just 1:44.00, and was 1:43.21 last month at Big-Tens.

Third Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT  
Ella Nelson Virginia 1:42.37
Stephanie Balduccini Michigan 1:42.38
Emma Weyant Florida 1:42.90
Natalie Mannion Stanford 1:43.75
Carmen Weiler Sastre Virginia Tech 1:43.79
Julia Mrozinski Tennessee 1:43.81
Dune Coetzee Georgia 1:43.84
Fernanda Celidonio Louisville 1:44.01
Erin Milligan ASU 1:44.17
Ava Chavez California 1:44.50
Ching Hwee Gan Indiana 1:44.56
Erica Sullivan Texas 1:44.56
Lily Gardner Wisconsin 1:44.58
Reagan Osborne LSU 1:45.32
Madeline Smith UNC 1:45.88
Katie Walker Texas A&M 1:45.90
Vasilissa Buinaia USC 1:46.03
Hannah Ownbey Auburn 1:46.17
Paige Hall OSU 1:46.44
Jordan Agliano South Carolina 1:46.61
Tatum Wall Duke 1:46.63
Eleanor Sun Princeton 1:47.70

The third leg saw the firm establishment of the top four. Ella Nelson gained some ground on Florida, but she only cut half a second off Florida’s lead of over two seconds. Nelson, who anchored last year’s relay, was faster tonight by about .6 of a second. Brazilian Olympian and Michigan Wolverine Stephanie Balduccini gave her team the lead in the penultimate heat and did enough to help ultimately move Michigan onto the podium.

Cal and USC, both seeded among the top eight, fell off on the third leg, with both swimmers recording the slowest splits of their entire squad.

Fourth Leg

SWIMMER TEAM SPLIT  
Kayla Wilson Stanford 1:42.28
Josephine Fuller Tennessee 1:42.48
Lea Polonsky California 1:42.49
Micayla Cronk Florida 1:43.02
Kristina Paegle Indiana 1:43.47
Zoie Hartman Georgia 1:43.95
Christey Liang Michigan 1:44.00
Olivia Bray Texas 1:44.06
Macky Hodges USC 1:44.28
Reilly Tiltmann Virginia 1:44.33
Blair Stoneburg Wisconsin 1:44.71
Ellie Vannote UNC 1:44.78
Tristen Ulett Louisville 1:44.82
Charli Brown ASU 1:45.18
Meaghan Harnish South Carolina 1:45.52
Abby Grottle Texas A&M 1:45.54
Emily Claesson Virginia Tech 1:45.94
Chloe Cheng LSU 1:46.04
Averee Preble Auburn 1:46.06
Krista Marlin OSU 1:46.32
Catherine Purnell Duke 1:46.49
Dakota Tucker Princeton 1:48.81

Josephine Fuller, a new addition to the relay from last year, brought her Tennessee Lady Vols home in a fast 1:42.08, a massive improvement from her SEC anchor of 1:43.67. Tennessee, who had been sitting in 3rd behind Virginia, would go on to take 2nd as a result. Like Tennessee, jumping up one spot Stanford’s Kayla Wilson threw down a fast split to also pass Virginia in the closing yards. Wilson, who touched in 1:42.28, was faster than her split from PAC-12s and just off her split from last year (1:42.22).

Georgia’s Zoie Hartman was slower than her split from last year (1:42.50), but still managed to anchor her team to a 6th place overall finish, finishing nearly 5 seconds faster than last year and two spots higher. Michigan, like Georgia, jumped onto the podium despite being seeded outside of the top 8. Sophomore Christey Liang‘s 1:44.00 was .60 faster her time from Big-10s and was enough of an improvement to hold off Lea Polonsky‘s 1:42.49 for Cal, who ultimately finished 9th.

Virginia’s Reilly Tiltmann recorded the 1oth fastest split on the last leg, recording a time of 1:44.33, nearly a full second slower than her time from last year’s winning relay (1:43.38). That being said, Virginia’s disappointing finish should not be placed squarely on her shoulders alone, as only Ella Nelson was faster this year than at NCAAs last year

 

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Maria C
1 month ago

Why are relays being swum as timed finals only this year?

Admin
Reply to  Maria C
1 month ago

It was a change made during COVID and everyone liked it so they kept it. That’s how they’re leaving it going forward.

I miss the ISL (Go dawgs)
1 month ago

What in the world happened to Minna Abraham and especially Vasilissa Buinaia??

NC Fan
1 month ago

Nice swim for Kennedy Noble with the equal third backstroke split. Showing strong range coming down from her 200 focus

NoFastTwitch
1 month ago

The Cal splits are missing from the leg-by-leg analysis for the 800 free relay

NoFastTwitch
Reply to  NoFastTwitch
1 month ago

Thanks for adding them in

The General
1 month ago

Peplowski…..

Phil Espinosa
1 month ago

You can only use one “throw down”/ “threw down” per article….USA Swimming Rule book 5280.98.A:1-3

Fast and Furious
Reply to  Phil Espinosa
1 month ago

How about “blasted”, “stacked”, “just off”, “obliterated”, etc?
Also seems like every writer has their special set of words

MIchael Andrew Wilson
1 month ago

A 20.63 flyer would be the #4 choice on a championship team to swim that leg nowadays

VFL
1 month ago

Big drop from Fuller to dip under 24 for the first time. Scary what that might mean for her other backstrokes!