Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
One day, you’re the upstart, rising from relative obscurity to beat Simone Manuel and tie Katie Ledecky. The next, you’re Ledecky, and everyone is looking for their signature upset over you.
It ain’t easy at the top.
The NCAA circle of life continued over the weekend, as last year’s upset specialist Mallory Comerford got her first taste of swimming with a target on her back – and upstart Notre Dame sophomore Abbie Dolan became the next young hotshot to make a name for herself.
Heading into a dual with Louisville, Notre Dame’s women had never beaten a top-10 opponent in the regular season. The Cardinals entered with Comerford, this summer’s breakout star, plus a strong, young roster that has been hailed as one of the NCAA’s most exciting.
But Notre Dame countered Comerford with sophomore Dolan, one of the team’s top performers a year ago in her rookie season. Dolan swam three individual races, winning all three and beating Comerford twice to take the wind out of the sails of the visiting Cards.
The most key win, and our Swim of the Week, was the 200 free. Notre Dame nabbed the first two events, winning a stellar medley relay race and going 1-2 in the 1000 free. But Louisville had not yet used Comerford, and there was potential for a massive momentum swing in the 200, where Comerford stared down a 16-point Irish lead.
Dolan went out fast, keeping Comerford off balance. Leading by three tenths at the 100 mark, Dolan gutted out a tough win, holding off a late-charging Comerford to win by a single hundredth of a second, 1:46.12 to 1:46.13. Those two times are currently ranked #2 and #3 nationwide for the season.
That win was a 10-point swing in the dual meet score, and turned what could have been a relatively narrow 15-point margin into a 25-point cushion. Notre Dame would go on to win the meet by 53, getting a runaway Dolan win in the 50 free (22.98) and another touchout of Comerford in the 100 free (48.94 to 48.99). Dolan also led off the winning 400 free relay to ice the meet for the Irish.
Dolan had a solid freshman season, going as fast as 1:44.65 at ACCs to make the NCAA Championships. But while Comerford was tying Ledecky for the win in that event, Dolan was on the outside of scoring in 22nd. The former Minnesota high schooler (one of three Minnesota high school standouts on the Irish roster in what’s becoming a productive recruiting pipeline) went lifetime-bests in the 50 and 100 last year, and was within .01 of that time in the 50 this weekend (22.98 to 22.97) and within three tenths in the 100 (48.94 to 48.70).
For Comerford, the loss is hardly a devastating one. It’s part of her rise in profile – once targeting the likes of icons like Manuel and Ledecky, Comerford is now among the pantheon of elite American swimmers. For Dolan, last weekend’s big upsets are a step forward on the path to following in Comerford’s footsteps.
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