Four Canadians Claim Top-3 Finishes At Women’s NCAA Championships

Just as was recapped last month during the Conference Championship season, there is a strong contingent of Canadian women swimming in the NCAA this year.

That was evident at the National Championships this past weekend in Austin, Texas, as four Canadians finished with at least one individual top-3 finish and three of them finished top-9 in points.

Texas A&M senior Sydney Pickrem and Stanford freshman Taylor Ruck were the top performers with 50 points apiece, tying for fifth behind only Beata Nelson (60), Mallory Comerford (56), Louise Hansson (55), and Ella Eastin (54).


Pickrem fell short of her bid to win a title in her fourth and final season, but it wasn’t due to being off form as she hit personal best times in the 400 IM (3:58.23) and 200 breast (2:03.62), finishing as the runner-up in both, and was only two-tenths off her PB in the 200 IM of 1:51.66 in 1:51.84 to take third.

The 21-year-old closes her collegiate career ranked fourth all-time in the 200 breast, fifth in the 200 IM, and tied for sixth in the 400 IM.


As for Ruck, she performed incredibly in her NCAA debut, jamming 13 swims into seven sessions as she helped the Cardinal win their third consecutive team title. Among her highlights:

  • Split 1:39.83 on the winning 800 free relay, joining Comerford and Katie Ledecky as the only swimmers to have ever split under 1:40 on a relay leg.
  • Finished runner-up in the 200 free, tying Simone Manuel for fourth fastest all-time in 1:40.37. Comerford, who won for a third straight time, edged her out by just 11-one-hundredths.
  • Moved to #12 all-time with a third place finish in the 100 back in a time of 50.34.
  • Placed second in the 200 back in 1:47.59, putting her fourth on the all-time list.
  • Had three sub-46 second 100 freestyle relay splits, including a 45.65 anchor on the 400 free relay which makes her the second fastest woman ever behind only Manuel (45.45).


Michigan freshman Maggie MacNeil also had a very strong showing after a record-setting year with the Wolverines. Her 45 points were the ninth highest at the entire meet and the most among Michigan swimmers as they placed third overall. She actually swam even more than Ruck, hitting the pool 14 times over just six sessions.

MacNeil took second in the 100 fly, just off her 49.59 from B1Gs in 49.66, and also was fourth in the 50 free (21.50, 21.49 in prelims) and sixth in the 100 back (50.98, 50.63 in prelims). She was also a mainstay on the Wolverine relays, helping them to three top-3 finishes in the 200 free, 400 free, and 400 medley. She capped the meet with a lead-off leg of 47.04 in the 400 free relay, crushing her previous best time and posting a time that would’ve been sixth in the individual final.


The other standout performer and the biggest surprise was Mackenzie Padington.

The Minnesota sophomore came in seeded ninth in the 500 and 22nd in the 1650 free, but came through with a pair of third place finishes (with the mile swim obviously coming in one of the early heats).

Her 500 time of 4:35.21 was a best by almost two seconds, and her third place finish was an incredible improvement after finishing 41st as a freshman. As for the 1650, it was just the fourth one of her career (not swimming it at all last season), and she chopped 16 seconds off her best and cracked 16 minutes for the first time in 15:47.16. Her 32 points was tops among Minnesota swimmers, only trailing diver Sarah Bacon (34).


  • Bailey Andison: The Indiana senior was the other Canuck to put up a significant number of points, as she had a pair of A-final appearances in the 200 and 400 IM. She finished slightly off her best times to place eighth in the 200 (1:54.17) and sixth in the 400 (4:03.87) for 24 points.
  • Tess Cieplucha: The Tennessee junior had a pair of top-16 finishes in the 400 IM (9th, 4:04.88) and 200 IM (13th, 1:56.33) for a total of 13 points.
  • Sarah Watson: The Akron freshman hit personal best times in both the prelims and consolation final of the 100 fly to finish 11th overall in 51.73, scoring all six points for the Zips.
  • Sofia Carnevale: The UGA junior got on the board with a 16th place finish in the 100 breast (59.83, 59.55 in prelims). She was also 37th in the 200 (2:11.12).
  • The others – Emma Ball and Mabel Zavaros of Florida, Sadie Fazekas of Akron and Nina Kucheran of FSU – were off their season-best times and didn’t score. However, for Zavaros and Kucheran, this was their first NCAA Championship experience and will serve as them in their collegiate careers going forward.

With the college season now wrapped up, these swimmers will now shift their focus to long course, as the Canadian World Trials kick off in just over a week in Toronto.

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2 years ago

James…great article recognizing the Canadian student-athletes excelling in the NCAA. I’m not sure if you’re aware that Sarah Watson from the University of Akron finished 11th in the 100 Butterfly to earn Honourable All-American status. Sarah is from Winnipeg. #proudparent

Reply to  James Sutherland
2 years ago

Thank you, James! It’s great to see someone who not only covers swimming (not enough coverage) but focuses on Canadians. It is appreciated.

samuel huntington
2 years ago

Ruck had a truly amazing week – 1:39.83 free split, 21.70 free flat start, 46.44 free split, 21.73 free flat start, 45.80 free split, 1:41.83 free flat start, 50.79 back, 1:40.37 free flat start, 50.34 back, 1:48.84 back, 45.99 free split, 1:47.59 back, 45.65 free split

JP input is too short
Reply to  samuel huntington
2 years ago

And the best context there is she got faster whenever points were on the line!

Reply to  samuel huntington
2 years ago

She was great and was a very important contributor to the team overall win. But if you go 1-3 weeks back and read Swsw articles and comments from Swsw best commentators (including Canadian ones) then you will find that expectations were greater especially at her best events (200 free and back).

Wolves Eating Sheep
2 years ago

Ruck does not feel pressure. The kid stepped up to the plate – ice water in her veins. It was really impressive to watch, so much poise for a teen to be competing at the highest stages. Was the same way at the Olympics. Incredibly done.

Reply to  Wolves Eating Sheep
2 years ago

She used to seem to struggle with the pressure at trials meets but really seems to have conquered that now. Very exciting swimmer.

Gen D
Reply to  Wolves Eating Sheep
2 years ago

I would also add the Commonwealth Games (where she won 8 medals) and Pan Pacs (where she beat K Ledecky for the win in the 200). I am personally not surprised but also pleased that she performed like this at NCAAs. It’s a continuation of the great year she had in 2018. Let’s hope she can keep it going at Canadian Trials so we can get her strut her stuff in Korea this summer!

Reply to  Gen D
2 years ago

It is hard to say now if swimming for Stanford under coaching of Greg Meehan improved the performance of Taylor Ruck. Her results are not much different from ones shown more than two years ago in Windsor. I would rather consider them as a continuation of great 2018 season. Approximately the same as was with Ledecky in 2016-2017 college season. I’m not even sure that upcoming trials will answer the question about her progress: she can easily quality for WC and there would be no need to swim to the limit of her abilities. So let’s wait for the meet in Korea.

Canadian Swimmer
Reply to  Yozhik
2 years ago

Yozhik: Have to take issue with your statement that Ruck can easily qualify for the World’s team and that there’s no reason for her to swim to the limit of her abilities.

Trials isn’t going to be a walk in the park for anyone. Have you looked at the psych sheets? There’s some close competition in just about every event. It only looks like 2 or 3 disciplines where the established 1 & 2 seeds need have no concerns about qualifying, and none of those are events in which Taylor is likely to swim.

Of course, a lot of the swimmers coming to Trials have just competed at NCAA’s. How much have they got left? LCM and SCY are… Read more »

Jim C
Reply to  Yozhik
2 years ago

I get the feeling that world class swimmers at Stanford are not asked to become SCY swimmers, but that Stanford is content with having world class LCM swimmers that just swim SCY.

2 years ago

Great article and great performance by the Canadians! How many Canadian men are swimming this week in Austin?

2 years ago

So what is Ruck going to do in the year before the Olympics? Is she going to go back to HPC in Toronto with Ben Titley? She has really previously benefited from her training at HPC so would think that would help her the most if she wants the best results in Tokyo.

2 years ago

MacNeil swam 14 events in 6 sessions, compared to Ruck’s 13 swims in 7 sessions.

2 years ago

Canadians seem to be taking full advantage of the training and racing opportunities in the US. Between NCAA and Pro Series (heavily attended by Canadians), they get the best of both worlds. They get to be Canadian citizens and part of the USA swimming juggernaut.

Tom S
2 years ago

Eloise Belanger is a diver from Montreal. 5th on 1M, 4th on 3M (2pts from second), 9th on platform. 38 meet points. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. There must be something in the water up north!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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