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.
NCAA Championship season is unarguably one of the busiest times of year in competitive swimming. With that in mind, we at SwimSwam are bringing you a special bonus blueseventy Swim of the Week to track the top swim of the women’s NCAA Championships.
Though the meet was jam-packed with historic swims, one stands out for its massive improvement on the fastest time in recorded history.
On day 1, the Stanford women crushed a 6:45.91 in the 800 free relay. It’s hard to put in perspective just how fast that swim is. One way is to note that prior to this season, no team in history had been under 6:46. Nor had they been under 6:47. Nor 6:48. In fact, prior to this season, no relay team had even broken 6:50 in the relay. And as recently as 2013 – just four years ago – the American record stood at 6:52.64 from a legendary Georgia team that featured Olympic champ Allison Schmitt.
We noted (with awe) after the Pac-12 Championships that the composite time of Stanford’s top four individual 200 freestylers was 6:48.27. That was the week after the Card went 6:49.42 to break the American record for the first time. At the time, that composite projection seemed like a ceiling-type time. In hindsight, it turned out to be 2.3 seconds too slow.
The 800 free relay might be one of the toughest relays to match projected times. A 200 is an eternity compared to 50-yard sprints from a shorter relay. In a 200 free, there’s no hiding. All four swimmers have to be at their best, because one poor leg (or one mis-paced opening 100) can add huge chunks of time to the overall relay finish.
Interestingly, Stanford’s foursome weren’t even all at their best. But their “off” swims were still very close to bests and their “on” swims were true breakout performances. Simone Manuel was 1:41.41 leading off – about a second off her individual time from Pac-12s, and seven tenths off the time she’d put up two days later in the individual 200. But the swim still staked Stanford to a big lead, getting clean water for the two legs that made this relay for Stanford.
Lia Neal popped a 1:42.15, crushing her previous bests. That’s 1.5 seconds faster than she went at Pac-12s and a full second faster than she’d swim a few days later individually. Meanwhile Ella Eastin was 1:41.89, a half-second faster than she was on the record-setting relay at Pac-12s.
Katie Ledecky anchored in 1:40.46, which was still one of the fastest splits in history despite being two tenths off her Pac-12 split and only a tick faster than she went from a flat start at Pac-12s. Ledecky would swim about a tenth faster a few days later in tying for the individual 200 title.
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