The morning on day 1 at the 2011 Texas Invitational, swum in a 25-yard course, was incredibly fast. If the times in the finals session were even a touch slower, nobody would have been disappointed. The swimmers, however, put up even more sparkling times in the finals session, almost to a mind-blowing level. This day 1 session was a crazy-fast display from the Pac-12 teams. This includes the highlight race of the session, the women’s 200 IM, in a mirror of what we saw at USA Swimming’s National Championship meet.
Women’s 200 IM
Shortly after Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz was off blowing up some long course racing at Winter Nationals, USC’s Katinka Hosszu responded with a reminder that it’s her who is the defending NCAA Champion in the 200 IM. She posted a 1:52.71 that is the 2nd-best time done in yards ever, at any level, at any meet. Incidentally, it breaks her own USC School Record, and is much faster than she was at NCAA’s last year.
This sets up a very interesting NCAA Final. Both Hosszu and Leverenz are swimming better than they ever have before. If Elizabeth Beisel swaps the 500 free for this 200 IM (which seems to make the most sense at this point), things could get even better. At this point, Hosszu seems to have the advantage in March given that she’s already qualified for the Hungarian Olympic Team, but it should be one heck of a battle.
Maya DiRado touched 2nd in 1:54.66 that in any other year would’ve blown people away, and tied her time that placed her 2nd at NCAA’s last year. In any other year, that time in December would have blown people away. As it is, that sits second in the country this season and is an NCAA automatic qualifying time, but doesn’t seem to even leave her in the conversation for this race at Nationals.
USC’s Meghan Hawthorne touched 4th in 1:57.96, which shows the realization of her potential that she came to USC with. That’s a career-best time for her and two-second better than she was at NCAA’s last season.
Women’s 200 Free Relay
Stanford set a tone for the session by leading off the meet with a 1:28.20 win in the 200 free relay. That makes them the first team in the country this season to automatically qualify a relay for the NCAA Championships. That takes a ton of pressure off of the second semester, as those four swimmers are already into the big meet in March without having to stress a spring rest for the Pac-12 Championships. There was no one drop-dead leg, but a 21.87 anchor from freshman Maddy Schaeffer shows how important she will be for the Cardinal this year after graduating their relay anchor Kate Dwelley.
The Wildcats just missed the automatic qualifying mark with a 1:22.66 for 2nd. Texas took 3rd in 1:29.15, and sophomore Ellen Lobb had a strong anchor swim of 22.05. She had a great split on this relay in NCAA Finals last year (after being subbed in post-prelims), and is really establishing herself as a strong relay swimmer for the Longhorns.
Men’s 200 Free Relay
Both the USC men and the Arizona men posted NCAA automatic qualifying times in the 200 free relay. In fact, the race came down to a .01 second margin. Arizona took a lead after three legs, but USC’s Jeff Daniels (younger brother of former Cal All-American Josh) is really coming into his own with a 19.06 anchor to the Trojans to a victory in 1:17.58. Like his brother, he is beginning to prove that he is an awesome relay swimmer.
Arizona touched in 1:17.59. Their best leg was a 19.21 on a rolling start from Mitchell Friedemann. They will make this a great battle at Pac 12’s when they add senior Adam Small, their best sprinter, back into this relay. The Longhorns were not too shabby either in 1:17.74 to just miss an NCAA automatic qualifying mark. Jimmy Feigen and Dax Hill were joined by sophomore Clay Youngquist and Dax’s little brother Kerrington. He doesn’t have nearly his brother’s size (he’s only 6’2 to Dax’s 6’8) but like his brother is really becoming a great swimmer as a sophomore.
Women’s 500 Free
In the women’s 500 free, Arizona’s Alyssa Anderson posted a great 4:36.78 that is the 2nd-best time in the country this year. More significantly, this is more than a second better than she swam at this same meet last season. The women’s 500 free at NCAA’s is shaping up to be a very strong battle. Her sister Haley took 2nd in 4:38.73, which is the 3rd-fastest in the country.
Texas’ Kaitlin Pawlowicz continued her outstanding freshman season with a 4:41.28, which give her by three seconds the best freshman time in the country this year. She’s already cut six seconds off of her career-best time in her short time in Austin.
Men’s 500 Free
Arizona’s Matt Barber didn’t beat his 500 free time from prelims, but he did nearly match it with a 4:16.61 in the finals to take an easy win over a strong field. He’s now got the #2 and #3 times in the country this season, and stands 7th on the Arizona all-time list. Arizona, in general, hasn’t been strong as of late in the 500 free (Jean Basson being the exception), but their history in the race is huge (Ryk Neethling, Chad Carvin), so placing 7th mid-season as a sophomore is not a feat to be underestimated.
USC’s Chad Brobsky took 2nd in 4:18.65, just a tenth ahead of Texas’ Jackson Wilcox in 4:18.75.
Women’s 100 Fly
After swift times in the prelims that were the top two times in the country, Stanford senior Sam Woodward and UNLV freshman Katelyne Herrington were each able to shave a touch more off in the finals. Woodward posted a 52.06 for another career-best. This is going to make a strong day 2 event for her at NCAA’s, and will also give Stanford another option in the medley relay, as they’re pretty thin in the 100 fly (teammate Felicia Lee took 3rd in this race in 52.76).
Herrington took runner-up position in 52.43, which is again a UNLV school record (breaking her own mark from the morning session).
Arizona’s Lauren Smart, competing in her first season as a Wildcat after transferring from Virginia, demonstrated how valuable she is going to be for her new team in this race when she took 4th in 52.67. That’s 8 spots, and 1.3 seconds, higher than her next-highest finishing teammate Aubrey Peacock.
Men’s 100 Fly
Giles Smith continued a strong transfer season at Arizona with a 46.13 to win the men’s 100 fly. That’s a career-best time for him and the 2nd-fastest in the country this year. The only swimmer who’s been faster is UNLV’s Cody Roberts, who went 46.06 in prelims before mysteriously scratching the final.
Men’s 200 IM
I speculated after this morning’s prelims that Arizona’s Cory Chitwood might not have been giving his prelims swim full-effort when he took the 3rd seed. That was quite an understatement, as he bosted a huge 1:41.92 in the 200 IM, which is the best time of his career. That’s a significant achievement for a swimmer who placed 2nd at NCAA’s last year. That swim was only two-tenths away from Adam Ritter’s school record, set in 2007. His teammate Austen Thompson also posted an NCAA automatic qualifying time in 1:43.42.
Those swims mark the two-best times in the country this season. USC’s Dimitri Colupaev stands 3rd thanks to a 1:44.10, and USC’s Alex Lendrum is 4th in 1:44.50. Lendrum had by far the strongest closing leg of the race, but couldn’t recover from a tough breaststroke leg.
Women’s 50 Free
This was an outstanding final, with swimmers nearly across-the-board dropping big chunks of time from their morning session. One of the few exceptions was Arizona’s Margo Geer, who added a tenth to touch in 22.02, but that was still good enough to take the victory.
USC’s Kasey Carlson touched 2nd in 22.10, which is the number-two time in the country this year, and Sam Woodward had a second great swim to take 3rd in 22.13. Texas’ Karlee Bispo was 4th in 22.23, the third-best swim of her career. That’s a strong swim for her in an event that is slightly outside of her core freestyle distances (100 and 200).
Men’s 50 Free
USC’s Vlad Morozov barely snuck into the A-Final as the 8th seed in prelims. For finals, he really kicked his speed into high-gear with a 19.35 to take a dominant win and mark the best time in the country this year. That swim is an NCAA automatic qualifying time. That’s the best mark in the country this year – and more importantly that puts him right in the thick of the National Championship hunt. Last year, he rested heavily for Pac-10’s and was unable to replicate his speed at NCAA’s. Now that he’s automatically qualified, he should be able to flip the script in March.
Texas’ Jimmy Feigen was slower than his morning swim with a 19.55 for 2nd, with the surprise Kelley Wyman of Arizona taking 3rd in 19.57 (also a small add). Wyman peaked at this meet last season, and he’s already surpassed those times twice. He’ll be looking to really pour on the work between now and Pac-12’s to try and improve the end of his season.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay
Two more Automatica NCAA qualifying relay times went down in the 400 medley. Arizona took the win in 3:31.65, including a leadoff of 52.05 by Sarah Denninghoff, a 59.29 on the breaststroke leg by Ellyn Baumgardner, and a 47.04 anchor from Margo Geer. If/when Smart is eligible to be added to that squad as the butterflier (though Aubrey Peacock was solid with a 53.27) they could give any team in the country, including Cal, a run for their money.
USC graduated two legs off of last year’s awesome medley relay, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt them too much as they placed 2nd in 3:31.92. That includes an unbelievable 57.84 breaststroke from sophomore Kasey Carlson. That’s a huge time, even seven-tenths faster than A&M’s Breeja Larson did at the Tennessee Invitational. She could theoretically come close to challenging the NCAA Record in the individual, if she has a good swim.
Men’s 400 Medley Relay
Arizona posted another NCAA automatic time in the 400 medley when they swam a 3:06.98. That’s already much, much faster than they were in the NCAA Finals last year and would have placed them in the top 5. Arizona has always had a strong breaststroke group, but freshman Kevin Cordes may have taken things to a whole new level with a split of 51.98. Come year’s end, only Cal with Nolan Koon will be able to challenge that split at NCAA’s, which is a huge feather in the Wildcats’ cap. Wyman continued a great meet as well with a 42.76 anchor.
Arizona’s B Relay also was very good to take 3rd in 3:08.58, which is also almost as fast as the A was at NCAA’s. The Wildcats usually swim fast at this meet, but I don’t think anyone knew they’d be this good.
USC has been looking for a breaststroker too, and for now it looks like German sophomore Dimitri Colupaev is going to be that swimmer (though his primary is freestyle). He split a strong 52.98, and combined with Morozov’s 41.98 freestyle leg, their tandem is about as good as Arizona’s.
The hosts Texas touched 4th in 3:11.53, including only a 43.0 split from Feigen. The race was out of contention by the time he stepped on the blocks, and that probably contributed (along with not much of a rest from the team) with the slow split. This relay is going to be somewhat of a tough point for the Longhorns to get through at NCAA’s, as their medleys aren’t quite as good as their free relays.