Tbe 2014 NCAA swimming & diving competitive season began on Friday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as Division II power Delta State made the return trip to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama rolled through the meet, winning the men’s side by a score of 199-98, and the women’s by 216-79.
Men’s Meet Recap
Both teams performed very well for a season opener, and the Alabama Crimson Tide got some big questions answered early in this meet.
Pavel Romanov, who will be holding down the Crimson Tide breaststroke group until All-American Anton McKee returns from an injury, won the men’s 100 breaststroke in 56.61. He got his finger tips on the wall first in a great battle with Delta State sophomore Matteo Fraschi, who led most of this race and finished in 56.67 – only giving up the lead in the last 25 yards.
Romanov would later win the 200 breaststroke with a 2:03.00 – again showing good closing speed to fight back, this time over his teammate Szymmy Day.
The biggest swim of the day came from 21-year old Alabama sophomore Kristian Gkolomeev. He’s the defending NCAA Champion in the 50 free, and started his year off right – swimming a 19.50 to win the 50 free. He was followed by Brett Walsh, who placed 2nd in 19.93.
How good is it to have two guys under 20 seconds in September? Last year, only four swimmers in the whole country were under 20 through the end of October, and none were better than 19.87. Walsh and Gkolomeev are the half of the Alabama 200 free relay that returned from last season, and both are still underclassmen this year. That relay was DQ’ed at NCAA’s, but on the touch, they were top-5 caliber.
Walsh also took 2nd the 100 fly in 49.66, and Gkolomeev would later split 44.9 on Alabama’s winning 400 free relay (which swam a 3:03.95). Abbas Qali was the first finisher in the 100 fly in 49.41 – a result that would be exhibitioned by Alabama.
The standout swim on the men’s side for the Statesmen was Andreas Wiesner, a huge 6’6″ German that won the men’s 200 backstroke in 1:50.16, and was 2nd in the 100 back in 50.12. Delta State has had a lot of success with their backstrokers on both the men’s and the women’s side in the last few years, and continue to attract a lot of depth and talent in those areas.
Wiesner is part of a 15-swimmer strong freshman class at DSU that has fans and alumni very excited about the program’s future. He’s also one of four Germans on the team – including sophomore Fabrice Wendel, who preceded Wiesner’s win with one of his own, going 45.22 in the men’s 100 free. That’s already an NCAA “B” qualifying time, and closing in on the 44.65 that was his best last season.
Alabama is also excited about their freshmen, and specifically Will Freeman, the top-rated recruit in state who they were able to sign in a huge indicator of the program’s meteoric rise in reputation. He won the men’s 200 free in 1:40.76.
Another good young swimmer from Alabama is Taylor Charles, who won the 200 fly in 1:48.74: pulling away from the field early to win by over five seconds. Last season, Charles swam only this meet, but then doesn’t have another result for the rest of the season. The Nashville native will hope to have a longer, and more successful, 2014-2015 season – having begun within two seconds of his lifetime best.
This meet was very early in the season, and so there would be little risk to either team taking a little bit of rest to get some confidence-building times early on in the year, while most of the country has another two weeks before even beginning their intrasquad meet.
Still, both at the Division I and Division II levels, respectively, there will be notice taken among the results, especially that of Gkolomeev, who is keen to prove that his title last year was not a fluke.
Women’s Meet Recap
The women’s meet didn’t see as much back-and-forth as the men’s did, with the Alabama women touching first or scoring highest in all 16 events on the day.
That included two wins from Australian-born sophomore Bonnie MacDonald, who won the women’s 1000 free in 10:11.15, and followed that with a 500 free win in 4:58.08.
She was one of five double winners for Alabama on Friday – a list that included U.S. National Teamer and senior Kaylin Burchell. Her wins came in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.62) and later in the 200 breaststroke (2:16.11), which piled on top of a third victory from the meet-opening 400 medley relay.
To put some perspective on how far she’s progressed in the last year, when Alabama opened on the road at Delta State in 2013, she was 1:02.90/2:17.31 in the 100 and 200 yard breaststrokes, respectively. That’s just over a second improvement year-over-year in both distances.
Taking 2nd in both of those races was her teammate Bridget Blood, who swam 1:04.49/2:19.87.
The other double winners for the Alabama women were:
- Leah Bird (55.68 – 100 fly, 2:01.99 – 200 fly)
- Emma Saunders (55.14 – 100 back, 1:59.82 – 200 back)
- Dakota Toner (241.28 – 1-meter springboard; 254.48 – 3-meter springboard)
For the Delta State women, Anastasia Klyarovskaya took 2nd in the 100 back in 55.54 behind Saunders, but didn’t look quite as good in the 200 back. In the longer race, she was just 5th in 2:05.89. That’s significant given that mid-season in 2013, she swam a 1:56.44 to clear the old NCAA Division II Record in this event.