As dual meet season comes to a close and prep for conferences begins to ramp up, we thought it would be a good time to do a check-in on the swimmers from top 25 programs that still remain undefeated in individual events for the 2022-23 season.
The last time we wrote about this subject, the number of undefeated swimmers went down from 17 before midseason invites to 5 afterward. From November to now though, only one previously undefeated swimmer broke their streak—Kacper Stokowski, who finished eighth in the 200 free and third in the 100 fly at the NC State vs. Duke dual meet earlier this month. So that means there are only four unbeaten swimmers left—Maggie MacNeil, Leon Marchand, Gretchen Walsh, and Jasmine Nocentini.
Out of the four undefeated swimmers, MacNeil leads the way with 19 total individual wins, while Marchand is close behind with 18. Walsh, who has raced considerably fewer dual meets than the other swimmers, has 12 wins. Nocentini only has six, given that she missed the last three competitions for Northwestern. If she returns, there’s a good chance that she could remain undefeated throughout the Big Ten Championships, but if she misses championship season, her undefeated status obviously doesn’t hold as much merit as the other swimmers on this list.
Marchand and Walsh have displayed the most versatility with their wins—they’ve both won races this year in six different events, while MacNeil isn’t far off with wins in five different events.
So, what’s next for these undefeated swimmers? Let’s break down what’s coming up next.
Let’s start off with Marchand. The dual against Cal was supposed to a major threat to his unbeaten streak, but ASU being suited and Cal not being suited threw any prospect of that meet being competitive out the window, and he dominated all of his events. He still has one dual meet left against Arizona, where he should be able to keep his streak easily as long as Bob Bowman doesn’t make the abrupt move to put him in a 1000 free or something of that sort, and then it’s onto Pac-12s and NCAAs.
Considering that Marchand leads the NCAA in five different events by a significant margin, he should be favored to sweep all of his events at both conferences at NCAAs. He’s already the fastest-ever in both IM races and is likely to get even faster at NCAAs, so I don’t see anyone beating him that discipline (unless Carson Foster, who we haven’t seen swim a rested IM this year, drops some sort of miracle swim). In the 200 breast, he’s a bit more vulnerable—Matt Fallon’s upward trajectory shouldn’t be ignored, and Max McHugh is still within 0.56 seconds of Marchand and has the advantage of a home crowd at NCAAs. That being said, I’m still confident enough to call Marchand the favorite in this event without any hesitation.
The Women’s Sprinters
The narrative on the women’s side is where things get a bit interesting. MacNeil and Walsh are both done with dual meets, which means that they both completed perfect pre-championship seasons. But the thing is, both swimmers will likely opt for the 50 and 100 free at NCAAs, meaning that ultimately one of them will break the other’s unbeaten streak.
With the presence of her teammate Kate Douglass, the fastest woman ever in the 50-yard free, it seems that Walsh’s win record is constantly under threat. But impressively enough, Walsh is actually 6-0 against Douglass this year head-to-head, with four of those wins being in the 50 free. It’s not like Douglass is having a bad year though—she produced some of the fastest 50 free and 100 free splits ever at short course worlds, but Walsh has just gotten the best of her every single time. With Douglass still swimming extremely well this year, she should never be overlooked, and Walsh is going to need to be on 100% form to beat her at ACCs and NCAAs. In addition, Walsh will also have to deal with Katharine Berkoff at both ACCs and NCAAs if she opts to swim the 100 back, as Berkoff beat her at both meets last year and is the NCAA record holder in the event.
MacNeil, on the other hand, has an easy path to victory at SECs. With Alabama sprint stars Morgan Scott and Cora Dupre being out for the rest of the season and defending 100 fly SEC champ Ellen Walshe’s status still to be determined, MacNeil has relatively little intra-conference competition. In fact, there is not a single swimmer in the SEC who has been within half a second of MacNeil’s best times in the 50 free, 100 free, or 100 fly this year, so for her to sweep her events would be a walk in the park.
And what about Nocentini? Assuming she gets back by Big Tens in the same shape that she was in during invites, she has a good shot at taking the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 breast, although she’ll have competition in the form of swimmers like Amy Fulmer, Lindsay Flynn, Kristina Paegle, and Hannah Bach.
If all three sprinters manage to make it out of conferences unbeaten, it will like come down to the 50 and 100 free races at NCAAs to see which swimmer will make it out on top (and of course, taking into the consideration that there are other formidable non-undefeated swimmers like Douglass, Claire Curzan, and Torri Huske that could take them down.)
Down below, we have listed the four undefeated swimmers and the events they won throughout the year.
Maggie MacNeil, LSU (19 wins)
- LSU vs. Tulane vs. Vanderbilt: 100 free (47.43), 100 back (51.10)
- LSU vs. South Carolina: 50 free (21.90), 100 back (53.51), 100 fly (50.84)
- LSU vs. Denver vs. Air Force: 200 back (1:56.26)
- LSU vs. Auburn: 50 free (22.36), 100 back (52.65), 200 back (1:56.23)
- LSU vs. Alabama: 50 free (22.28), 100 free (48.81), 100 back (51.41)
- Art Adamson Invitational: 50 free (21.03), 100 back (50.70), 100 fly (49.40)
- LSU vs. Florida State: 50 free (22.17), 100 fly (52.01)
- LSU vs. Texas A&M: 50 free (22.36), 100 fly (51.91)
Leon Marchand, Arizona State (18 wins)
- ASU vs. Georgia vs. Missouri: 200 breast (1:57.67), 200 fly (1:43.21), 2o0 IM (1:44.32)
- ASU vs. Wisconsin: 200 back (1:42.82), 100 breast (53.16), 400 IM (3:41.59)
- ASU vs. USC: 100 breast (52.75), 200 breast (1:53.34), 200 IM (1:42.55)
- NC State Invitational: 200 fly (1:39.57), 200 IM (1:39.28), 400 IM (3:33.65)
- ASU vs. Stanford: 100 breast (51.15), 200 IM (1:38.89), 200 breast (1:49.16)
- ASU vs. Cal: 100 breast (51.01), 200 breast (1:48.82), 400 IM (3:31.84)
Gretchen Walsh, Virginia (12 wins)
- Virginia vs. Florida: 50 free (21.40), 100 fly (50.53)
- Virginia vs. Texas: 50 free (21.16), 100 IM (52.09), 100 free (47.11)
- Tennessee Invitational: 50 free (20.94), 100 back (50.13), 100 free (46.89)
- Virginia vs. Virginia Tech: 50 free (21.26), 200 back (1:51.42)
- Virginia vs. UNC vs. NC State: 50 free (21.43), 100 fly (50.76)
Jasmine Nocentini, Northwestern (6 wins)
- Northwestern vs. UIC vs. Illinois: 100 free (49.32), 100 breast (1:00.34)
- Northwestern vs. Michigan: 100 free (49.28), 100 breast (1:00.06)
- Purdue Invitational: 50 free (21.59), 100 breast (58.47)