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.