Sitting in third place after one night of relays and diving, the heavily-favored Louisville Cardinal men kicked it into gear on the first morning of individual racing at the AAC Championships. They hold the top seed in every event and qualified exactly 4 men for each A final tonight.
The Louisville women are also sitting pretty in their meet, holding two top seeds and 10 A-Finalists.
At the moment, the 500 free looks perhaps misleadingly close. Cincinnati freshman Jackie Keire holds the top seed at 4:47.29, just two tenths ahead of SMU senior Nina Rangelova. However, it’s likely Keire will go much, much faster tonight – she was 6 seconds off her season-best from way back in November, and her splits would suggest she has plenty left in the tank. Keire went out in a smooth 55.1, split 58s on the next three 100s and came home in 55.7. That sure looks like a cruise swim through the middle. It’s not out of the question that she could break 4:40 tonight, as her season-best is 4:41.33.
Also worth watching is Louisville’s Abby Houck, herself a freshman. She was several seconds off her season-best and sits third. She’s also one of four Cardinals in the championship final tonight.
The men’s 500 free is also led by a freshman: Louisville’s Trevor Carroll. After a strong leadoff split on the 800 free relay last night, Carroll put up a lifetime-best 4:22.60 this morning to grab the top seed. He’s having a huge freshman season, already three and a half seconds faster in this event than he was in high school. UConn’s Christopher Girg is second with a 4:24.45 and Louisville’s Bryan Draganosky third.
No surprise in the women’s 200 IM. Perhaps the best swimmer in the conference, Louisville junior Tanja Kylliainen rolled to a 1:57.90 for the #1 seed. She’ll have to beat three more girls who got under two minutes in prelims: Morgan Pfaff of Rutgers and Kylliainen’s teammates Erica Belcher and Andee Cottrell.
Another young Cardinal man having an outstanding season is sophomore Nolan Tesone. He was 1:47.0 last season in the 200 IM and is already 1.5 seconds faster in 2014, and holds the conference’s top seed by a longshot at 1:45.65. Though they trail SMU and UConn after last night’s action, Louisville is clearly starting to press its dominance – the top 3 seeds in this race are Cardinals. Freshman Josh Quallen is second in 1:47.54 and junior Addison Bray third with a 1:48.24.
Kelsi Worrell put up the 50 free time to beat early in preliminaries for Louisville, but UConn’s Chinyere Pigot came back in a later heat to make things interesting, tying Worrell for the top seed. Both women were 22.81 in a race where the prelims seeds are incredibly close. A pair of SMU Mustangs are 3 and 4, Isabella Arcila and Marne Erasmus at 22.84 and 22.88 respectively. Louisville senior Krissie Brandenburg is also under 23, going 22.97 for fifth. Besides those first two SMU women, the Mustangs snuck to others into the A final in 7th and 8th.
The men’s 50 free looks all Louisville at the moment. Senior Joao de Lucca went 19.61 for an easy 1-seed, and teammate Thomas Dahlia joined him as the only other man sub-20, going 19.87. You can probably expect to see some more 19s on the board tonight – SMU’s Ziga Cerkovnik was 20.01 for third and his teammate Ransom Melo 20.04 for fourth. Also worth noting is that Louisville’s Carlyle Blondell went just 20.26 to sneak in the A final in 6th. He split 18.8 on the medley last night, so you know he’s got plenty more to show tonight.
Some brief ups/downs for the day (with “ups” referring to A Finalists and “downs” referring to B Finalists): Louisville is clearly in the best shape on both sides. You can probably expect their men to take over the lead tonight after qualifying 4 swimmers for each of the A finals.
Finals start tonight at 6 PM Eastern Time. Women’s 1-meter diving prelims will take place this afternoon, with the A final and the 200 free relays being added to the docket tonight.