The meet was originally recapped live as the events happened, and then finalized after all races are complete. For a more thorough commentary, follow @braden_keith on Twitter.
Night 2 of the 2012 NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships began with Georgia’s chance to make up big ground on Cal in the team standings, but as the Golden Bears asserted their team dominance, the story quickly turned to records.
In the first five events of the meet, we saw four races where the U.S. Open (aka all-time yards best) records were broken, three NCAA Records, and three American Records. One (the 400 IM) was broken by even two.
This puts in perspective the broo-ha-ha after almost all of the NCAA Records were broken in 2009 in College Station, but as it turns out even those times weren’t all that fast.
Women’s 200 Medley Relay
For the second-straight finals race (on a wrap-around from day 1), Cal has broken an NCAA Record in a medley relay. This one was the 200, which they beat equally-as-soundly with a 1:34.24, to improve off of their NCAA Record from last season, that had the same quartet of Cindy Tran, Caitlin Leverenz, Colleen Fotsch, and Liv Jensen. (read all about that record here).
What really jumps out about Cal, that is so obvious on this relay, is the strength of their underwaters. But we knew they were good there (they’ve always been good there) – visually speaking, Cal swimmers go way deeper than competitors. They almost disappear underwater, while their opponents stay closer to the surface. There’s something to be learned there for young swimmers.
The Arizona relay that took 2nd was really a sum-of-its parts group, with no swimmer putting up a mind-blowing split; that is until Margo Geer hit the water. She pulled the Wildcats from fourth to 2nd with a 20.98 split that makes her only the second swimmer in history (behind Auburn’s Anna Vanderpool-Wallace at SEC”s) to break the 21-second barrier (relay or flat-start).
Arizona replaced A&M in that 2nd spot, as the Aggies were again not quite as fast in finals as in prelims, just like the 400 medley from Thursday. Breeja Larson is chomping at the bit though with a very fast 26.36 breaststroke split – four tenths faster than anyone else in the field – but that was largely the result of them changing this relay. They dropped backstroker Tess Simpson, moved Paige Miller to that leg from fly, and put Caroline McElhaney on the butterfly leg. That’s a bit of an odd decision, given how successful the relay had been with the other combination. There doesn’t seem to be a qualifiers reason for the switch, so there may be something else going on there under-the-surface.
In 3rd was Tennessee with a 1:35.91 which is slower than prelims, but still the 2nd-fastest mark in school history. Auburn was 4th in 1:36.15. This time, Vanderpool-Wallace split a 21.15, unable to go under 21 again.
Meanwhile, in the B-Final, Georgia’s anchor freshman Maddie Locus nearly had her statement breakout with a 21.71 anchor to very-nearly chase-down Texas, but the Longhorns held them off with a 1:37.70. Georgia was 10th in 1:37.73. That could be a costly .03, as it cost them four points.
Women’s 400 IM
Two races down on the day, and two all-time bests go down. This time, it was Katinka Hosszu who absolutely destroyed the record, blowing all the way through to a 3:56.54. That broke the old record held by Stanford’s Julia Smit in 3:58.23.
As sort of a role-reversal from the 200 IM, Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz was the runner-up in 3:57.89, which is also under the old record. This had to be a satisfying win for the USC Trojan, as she admitted after the race that she was a bit jealous that Leverenz ended up with the 200 IM record.
As Hosszu is Hungarian, that does give Leverenz the new American Record in the race. Her breaststroke leg was even better than it’s ever been, splitting a shocking 1:04. Even last year, she was only a 1:06 on the breaststroke split.
Florida’s Elizabeth Beisel, the top seed after prelims and coming into the meet, finished 3rd in 3:59.37. That’s slower than she was to win the SEC Championship, but is one of the top-10 marks in history. Stanford’s Maya DiRado also shocking went sub-4 minutes in 3:59.88, which is a new 17-18 National Age Group Record. Coming into this race, there had never been a race where more than one woman went under 4 minutes in the 400 IM, but in this race an unbelievable four did it. Only two women ever had broken that mark in history before this year! It’s been done 7 times this season alone! And this isn’t a senior-heavy field either. Out of the four who did the deed, only Hosszu is graduating.
Allysa Vavra, a senior from Indiana, finished 5th in 4:01.73. That’s the 2nd-fastest time in school history, behind only her swim from Big Ten’s.
Georgia’s Jana Mangimelli was unable to hold off a hard-finishing Cammile Adams from Texas A&M, with Adams finishing 7th in 4:05.41. Mangimelli did improve, but was only 8th in 4:05.76. Even with teammate Melanie Margalis taking 10th in the B-Final in 4:05.89, it was too little, too-late for the Bulldogs, after Shelly Harper of Cal moved up to 11th. It would become painfully clear that Cal was destined to champion this meet in the next race.
Women’s 100 Fly
After the B-Final of this 100 fly, it was already clear that Cal had taken strong control, and nearly locked-up, this team title. That’s because Cindy Tran roared to a B-Final win in 51.62, which made her the 3rd-fastest in school history behind only college legends Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer. Tran could end up being very Coughlin-esque by the time she’s a senior, and gun for NCAA Records in both this and the 100 back records in the same meet by the time she graduates.
Tran’s swim would have been 3rd in the A-Final, but she was stuck at only 9 (very huge points). That swim was a surprise, but an even bigger surprise came in the A, where her teammate Sara Isakovic somehow snuck her fingertips into the wall for the event title in 51.49. That knocked Tran down the list, and put Isakovic as #3 in Cal history. This is the first NCAA title in a career that seemed to be destined for many when Isakovic came to Cal. One might have guessed a few years ago the 200 free would be her title, but on a difficult double here, that wasn’t going to happen. Look out for Isakovic in the 200 fly on Saturday.
Auburn’s Olivia Scott was slower than her prelims swim, but was still good enough to take 2nd in 51.61. That just out-touched Tennessee’s Kelsey Floyd, who went a 51.67. It was a bit of a surprise that it was Floyd who took 3rd, and not her teammate Jenny Connolly (4th – 51.73), but that’s a positive outcome for the Volunteers as they fight to hang in the meet’s top 6.
Yale’s Alex Forrester (51.93 – 6th) and Virginia Tech’s Heather Savage (52.16 – 7th) were both surprise finalists, and both rebroke school records in this final.
Georgia had no scorers, as they fell further behind Cal. By this point, the Bulldogs’ focus had to shift to salvaging a top-2 finish.
Women’s 200 Freestyle
If you had Megan Romano as the “Georgia Bulldog who would break Dana Vollmer’s record in the 200 free,” raise your hand. Megan Romano looked good in her few finals swims on day 1 of this meet, but this 200 record was still a big surprise. She swam a 1:41.21 to break Vollmer’s NCAA, U.S. Open, and American Records in this 200 free. Not that Romano isn’t a great swimmer, but this record-breaking swim was two seconds faster than she’s ever been in her career.
Texas’ Karlee Bispo took this swim out hard and was the only one who was able to even hang on Romano’s hip for most of this race, She took 2nd in 1:42.78, That breaks her own school record from last year’s meet by .03, and improves her 7th-best of all-time ranking in the race.
Bispo is graduating, but this race is going to be spectacular next year. Romano is only a junior, and her teammate Allison Schmitt is expected to return from an Olympic redshirt next season, as well as Virginia’s Lauren Perdue from an injury. This record could go down many-times-over next season.
Liv Jensen of Cal completed her overhaul in the 200 free by taking 3rd in 1:43.45. She was a good 200 freestyler earlier in her career, but that tailed off as she matured and focused more-and-more on the sprints. She has to be the favorite now to win the 100 free on Saturday for her 2nd title of the meet.
Missouri’s Shara Stafford had a great swim out of the B-Final with a 1:43.62, which is a new School Record.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
The records kept rolling in this meet, with Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson swimming the fastest time in history in this 100 breaststroke. This record was squarely in her sights, as she broke the NCAA Record in Big 12 prelims, unshaved and unrested. But she was even better in this final, with a 57.71 to just sneak under Tara Kirk’s 100 breaststroke American and U.S. Open (swum as a post-grad) records of 57.77 from 2006. Larson is the first swimmer in the history of A&M to (officially) break an NCAA, American or U.S. Open Record. (Read all about that record here).
The quote of the meet thus far went to Larson in her post-race interview. When asked about if she thought she’d break the record after the race, Larson said between breaths “there’s two kinds of crowds: the one right before you finish a race, and the one right before you break a record.” That’s competitive gold that could go down in the annals of swimming lore.
The runner-up was George Mason’s Ashley Danner in 59.02. This swim matches her runner-up performance from 2010, where she was also 2nd, and notches-off her 2011 finish in 3rd. Arizona State’s Rebecca Ejdervik avoided a swoon while focused on qualifying for the Swedish Olympic Team with a 3rd-place finish of 59.18, followed by Texas’ Laura Sogar in 4th in 59.34.
This meet served as the “mid-major special”, as there were two in the A-Final, along with Toledo’s Laura Lindsay winning the B-Final in 59.61. That crushes her personal best and school record. On a near-perfect finish, she out-race USC’s Kasey Carlson, who has struggled in this meet. Carlson was 10th in 59.79.
Cal gave up some ground to the field without a single score in this race, but no team had more than one swimmer, so they weren’t too upset over that.
Cal’s Cindy Tran broke the record-breaking streak in the 100 back, as she posted only the second-fastest swim in the history of yards swimming with a 50.31 win. The only swim ever faster was another Cal swimmer, Natalie Coughlin’s, 49.97 from back in 2002, so this is the fastest swim we’ve seen in a decade.
Larson’s post-race interview was pretty good, but she had time to catch her breath and think a bit. ESPN caught Tran right out of the water, and they got a different kind of awesome quote. When she was asked how she does so well under water, Tran responded “I hold my breath.” When the microphone didn’t move from her face, she elaborated, tacking on “I hold my breath…a lot.”
Megan Romano had a slightly tougher double that did Tran (the 200 free came closer before-hand than the 100 fly), but she still did very well in 51.37 for 2nd-place and a new Georgia Record. That makes her the 7th-fastest swimmer in college history.
Tennessee’s Jenny Connolly handled this 100 fly/100 back double much better than she did last year, and placed 3rd in 51.58 (last year she was 6th in a 52.2). This was a very fast final – it took 51.6 to place in the top 6 (Arizona’s Sarah Denninghoff in 51.62 and Stanford’s Betsy Webb in 51.69).
When Jay Lerew took over the Texas A&M diving program mid-season in 2011, he made a very difficult decision. He left Team Orlando Diving, one of the best diving programs in the world. He joined a program where there was constant tension between the head swim coach and head diving coach, and his predecessor was inauspiciously dismissed mid-season despite good performances by his divers. But Lerew did come in with a load of talent, has already made a huge impact on this program. He led Aussie Jaele Patrick to the first NCAA diving title in school history in this 3-meter with a score of 410.15.
Those points pushed A&M into 5th place, and actually kept them in the race for a top-3 finish with many swimming points to come on the final day of the meet.
The runner-up was Bianca Alverez from Ohio State in 386.30 to improve on her 4th-place finish from last year. Arizona’s Sam Pickens picked up huge points for the Wildcats with a 3rd-place finish of 379.75. That’s now 31 points for her in this meet, which is a massively pleasant surprise for Arizona.
Women’s 800 Free Relay
At the end of a long session, where many swimmers have two or even three individual swims, it’s hard to see any really spectacular times at NCAA’s in this 800 free relay, so no records went down this time.
For the 3rd-straight season, Georgia ran away with this 800 free relay when the quartet of Shannon Vreeland, Jordan Mattern, Amber McDermott, and Megan Romano touched in 6:55.96. As we often see on this Georgia relay, there was no dominant split (Romano was nowhere near her individual time, with a 1:42.38 anchor), but all four swimmers were 1:44 or better, and the combined team effort gave them an easy win. This is a very young Georgia relay, and when they add another 1:41 200 freestyler (Allison Schmitt) to it next year, they should again challenge their American Record in the race.
Cal scored huge points by placing 2nd in 6:57.50. That’s a hair faster than they were at Pac 12’s. Arizona hung with those top two relays (despite only having one scoring 200 freestyler in Alyssa Anderson, as compared to 7 for the top two teams). They placed 3rd in 6:58.36, but actually held a commanding lead at the halfway mark.
Cal declared themselves champions on day 2 of the Women’s NCAA Meet. Georgia should have a good final day (maybe their best), but it won’t be nearly enough to make up the 64 point deficit. With that win in the 800 free relay however, they did put themselves in very good position to take 2nd.
After that, the meet becomes very tight between Arizona and USC for 3rd (they’re tied), and then again between Tennessee, A&M, and Auburn for 5th. A&M was hurt by scratching their 800 free relay, though it was unlikely to score anyways.
After Auburn, there’s a big drop to Texas in 9th, and then Arizona State in 10th.
1. Cal Berkeley 311
2. Georgia 247
3. Southern Cali 226
3. Arizona 226
5. Stanford 222
6. Tennessee 186
7. Texas A&M 185
8. Auburn 184
9. Texas 146
10. Arizona St 99
Full, Live Meet Results available here.