Kaitlyn Dobler Hits NCAA “A” Cut as USC Cruises to Sweep at Art Adamson Invite

2021 ART ADAMSON INVITATIONAL

The USC Trojans completed a sweep the team titles on the final day of the 2021 Art Adamson Invitational, followed closely by the Texas A&M Aggies.

Team Scores

Men:

  1. USC – 1121
  2. Texas A&M – 881
  3. TCU – 565
  4. LSU – 410
  5. Air Force – 312
  6. Incarnate Word – 270

Women:

  1. USC – 1090.5
  2. Texas A&M – 965.5
  3. LSU – 564
  4. TCU – 459
  5. Nevada – 327
  6. Incarnate Word – 133

On the final day of competition, the USC Trojans won all but two individual events. More specifically, 6 of their 8 wins came from underclassmen – including several by swimmers in their first year of college swimming.

2021 NCAA CUT LINES

MEN EVENT (SCY) WOMEN
19.46 50 free 22.32
42.88 100 free 48.76
1:34.04 200 free 1:46.25
4:16.75 500 free 4:44.77
15:01.33 1650 free 16:25.47
46.29 100 fly 52.7
1:43.47 200 fly 1:57.42
46.37 100 back 53.01
1:41.81 200 back 1:55.05
52.4 100 breast 1:00.12
1:54.28 200 breast 2:10.37
1:44.15 200 IM 1:57.62
3:45.67 400 IM 4:13.19

Women’s 1650 Free – Timed Final

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 15:52.41
  • 2021 NCAA Invite time – 16:25.47
  1. Abby Grottle, So., Texas A&M – 16:27.65
  2. Marlene Kahler, Fr., USC – 16:31.08
  3. Caitlyn McHugh, Sr., Nevada – 16:33.10

USC freshman Marlene Kahler, a native of Austria, led most of the first 1300 yards, and in the middle of the race, looked like she might start to pull away from Texas A&M sophomore Abby Grottle.

But as the race moved into its waning lengths, Kahler began to fall off the consistent pace she had set for most of the event, and Frottle didn’t. By the last 50, Grottle had opened up a three-and-a-half second margin, and while Kahler came back a little on the final 50, Grottle had plenty of clearance to hold on for the win.

For Grottle, who had swam at Pitt last season, that’s a new lifetime best, undercutting her swim from the 2021 ACC Championships by about a second.

Kahler’s 16:22.30 from the mid-October Trojan Invite, where the entire USC squad swam very fast, remains her season and career-best and is under the 2021 NCAA Invite time.

McHugh swam a best time for 3rd place in the race. The defending Mountain West Conference runner-up, she hadn’t been a best time in the mile since 2018, her freshman season.

LSU’s Jolee Liles (16:35.51) and Allison Tomsude (16:42.27) finished 4th and 5th. For Liles, she now ranks 4th all-time in program history. Liles was a good distance swimmer in high school, but in her first two years at LSU, focused more on IM and middle-distance races.

Men’s 1650 Free – Timed Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 14:26.62
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 15:01.33
  1. Victor Johansson, Sr., USC – 14:55.21
  2. Trey Dickey, Fr., Texas A&M – 15:09.07
  3. Daniel Matheson, Fr., USC – 15:11.78

USC senior Victor Johansson repeated* as champion of the 1650 free on the final day of the Art Adamson Invitational.

Adamson swam 14:55.21, which was a season best by about nine seconds. He won the last edition at which USC competed, in 2019, though he posted a 14:47 at that meet.

Texas A&M freshman Trey Dickey placed well back in 2nd place in 15:09.07. That’s a full second drop from his previous best time at NCSAs in the spring.

Freshman Daniel Matheson placed 3rd in 15:11.78, which was a two second time drop for him as well.

Women’s 200 Back – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 1:50.50
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 1:55.05
  1. Aela Janvier, Jr., USC – 1:53.98
  2. Jade Hannah, Fr., USC – 1:53.99
  3. Aviv Barzelay, Fr., Texas A&M – 1:55.93

USC junior Aela Janvier dipped just a few hundredths under her lifetime best in the 200 backstroke, swimming 1:53.98 for the win. That’s her 3rd win four 200 yard backstroke races, with the exception coming in the team’s last dual meet against Arizona State two weeks ago. She was almost six seconds better on Friday.

That win at the Arizona State meet was taken by USC rookie Jade Hannah, who here finished in 2nd place: .01 seconds, the narrowest measured margin, behind Janvier. Hannah won the 100 back on Thursday.

Texas A&M freshman Aviv Barzelay placed 3rd in 1:55.93. She and fellow freshman Kaitlyn Owens (runner-up in the 100 back) are the new top of the backstroke group for the Aggies after the graduation of NCAA qualifier Kara Eisenmann following last season.

Men’s 200 Back – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 1:39.13
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 1:41.81
  1. Evangelos Makry, So., USC – 1:41.82
  2. Anze Erzen, Jr., Texas A&M – 1:42.26
  3. Tyler Hulet, Fr., Texas A&M – 1:43.83

USC freshman Evangelos Makrygiannis gave the Trojan men another win, topping the 200 backstroke in 1:41.82. That’s just shy of what it took to qualify for NCAAs last season, and he’ll likely need to find some more drop at the Pac-12 Championships – given expectations of a faster season nationwide – to move on to nationals.

He did, however, jump into 6th place on the Trojans’ all-time rankings, bumping former Trojan Brad Bridgewater, who won the 200 backstroke at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Texas A&M’s Anze Erzen and Tyler Hulet also moved into their school’s top 10: Erzen now ranks 5th all-time in Aggie history, while Hulet now ranks 8th all-time. Erzen’s best time is a 1:41 from the first half of his college career, which was spent at Iowa before that team cut its program.

LSU freshman Griffin Curtis placed 4th in 1:44.46.

USC’s Harry Homans, who often does the 200 back/200 fly double, was the second-fastest swimmer in prelims of this 200 back, but scratched the final in favor of the 200 fly.

Women’s 100 free – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 47.18
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 48.76
  1. Laticia Transom, Sr., USC – 47.76
  2. Katarina Milutinovic, Jr., LSU – 48.71
  3. Chloe Stepanek, So., Texas A&M – 49.15

USC senior Laticia Transom won the women’s 100 free in 47.76. That shaved .07 seconds off her previous best time, which was a 48.83 that she swam to win the 100 free at the 2019 Art Adamson Invitational. That makes her the first woman to go under 48 seconds in the 100 free in a collegiate meet this season.

LSU junior Katarina Milutinovic, who was 20th in the 100 free at last year’s SEC Championships, swam a lifetime best of 48.71 for 2nd place. A&M’s Chloe Stepanek, winner of the 200 free earlier in the meet, placed 3rd. She wasn’t close to her best times in any of her three individual races at this meet, but her swims in the 200 and 500 should be enough to secure places at the NCAA Championships and take the pressure off the rest of her season.

Men’s 100 Free – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 41.71
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 42.88
  1. Brooks Curry, Jr., LSU – 42.30
  2. Nikola Miljenic, Redshirt Sr., USC – 42.60
  3. Max Saunder, So., USC – 43.33

Tokyo 2020 U.S. Olympian, and Olympic gold medalist, Brooks Curry won the men’s 100 free in 42.30. For the 2020 SEC Champion and 2021 SEC runner-up in the event, there was a bit of incongruity in that he swam two tenths slower in this race than he did last season, in spite of two-tenths faster in the 50 free. That sort of echos the social media posts that have shown Curry doing a lot of work on his 50 this season under new head coach Rick Bishop.

Curry was faster, 42.10, on a relay leadoff later in the session.

Arizona junior Wen Zhang swam 43.60 for 4th place, as he paced the Falcons all week long. That time is better than the 43.72 that scored him second-place points at last year’s WAC Championship.

Zhang won the 200 free on Thursday (in the absence of USC’s Alexei Sancov, an All-American in that event last season)

Women’s 200 Breast – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 2:06.58
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 2:10.37
  1. Kaitlyn Dobler, So., USC – 2:06.56
  2. Isabelle Odgers, Jr., USC – 2:07.61
  3. Calypso Sheridan, Sr., USC – 2:08.78

The top 3 finishers, all USC Trojans, cruised under the expected qualifying time for the 2022 NCAA Championship meet, led by an NCAA “A” standard from sophomore Kaitlyn Dobler.

For Dobler, who won the 100 breast on Thursday in 58.72, that swim is just .03 seconds shy of the lifetime best that she posted to win the Pac-12 title in the 200 breast last season.

Given that she was about a second shy of her best time in the 100 breast earlier in the meet, being right-on her best time in this 200 breast sets up anticipation for a possible breakthrough at the end of the season on a full shave-and-taper.

Nicole Pavlopoulou placed 4th in 2:11.86, completing a massive 70-point event for the Trojans that really cemented the team title for them with a few races to go.

Men’s 200 Breast – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Standard – 1:52.28
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 1:54.28
  1. Ben Dillard, So., USC – 1:52.44
  2. Andres Puente, Jr., Texas A&M – 1:54.09
  3. Janis Silins, So., TCU – 1:54.11

After sitting out his true-freshman season last year, USC’s Ben Dillard had his collegiate coming out party on Saturday in the 200 breaststroke. He swam 1:52.44 to crush his previous best time of 1:54.7, from 2019, just missing the NCAA “A” cut in the process.

He entered the weekend as the #2-ranked swimmer in the event nationally, and emerges as a clear #1 (though the two top NCAA contenders, Max McHugh of Minnesota and Reece Whitley of Cal both have their invites yet to come).

He beat out 2021 NCAA qualifier Andres Puente of Texas A&M and TCU sophomore Janis Silins. Silins’ 1:54.05 in prelims breaks his own TCU Record that was set at the 2021 Big 12 Championships, as did his 52.11 in the 100 breast earlier in the meet. He was disqualified in the 200 IM: a race in which he’s also the school record holder.

Women’s 200 Fly – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Standard – 1:53.20
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 1:57.42
  1. Makenna Turner, Sr., USC – 1:57.32
  2. Hallie Kinsey, Sr., USC – 1:58.05
  3. Olivia Tehall, So., Texas A&M – 1:58.23

USC senior Makenna Turner posted a 1:57.32 to win the 200 fly. That’s a new best time for her by .06 seconds – her first best time since she was a freshman in December 2018.

The swim is also 1.2 seconds better than the time she swam to place 6th at last year’s Pac-12 Championship meet.

Hallie Kinsey finished 2nd in 1:58.05, while A&M’s Olivia Theall was 3rd in 1:58.23. Theall had the best time in prelims of 1:57.81, but added about four-tenths in the final. She was 2nd in the 100 fly earlier in the meet.

LSU freshman Jenna Bridges placed 4th in 1:58.45. That jumps her into 8th place in the school’s all-time record books in her first collegiate rest meet.

Men’s 200 Fly – Finals

  • NCAA “A” Cut – 1:40.44
  • 2021 NCAA Invite Time – 1:43.47
  1. Alexei Sancov, Sr., USC – 1:41.81
  2. Harry Homans, Jr., USC – 1:43.93
  3. Matt Hardy, Fr., Incarnate Word – 1:45.66

There was just one likely NCAA qualifying time to come out of the men’s 200 fly final, and that was a 1:41.81. USC’s Alexei Sancov placed 11th at the 2021 NCAA Championships in this event in a time of 1:41.90 – nine-hundredths of a second slower.

Sancov won the 100 fly on Thursday in 45.97. He’s often done the 200 free as his middle-day event at big meets, including at last year’s NCAA Championship meet where he placed 7th in that event – but this may indicate a lineup and focus shift for him.

Harry Homans placed 2nd after scratching the 200 back final (where he was the #2 qualifier out of prelims).

Incarnate Word freshman Matt Hardy swam a 1:46.76 in prelims and a 1:45.66 in finals, which progressively broke and re-broke the Incarnate Word school records in the event. The old school record of 1:47.16 in the event was set by Evandro Silva in 2013.

He had a best time of 1:48.82 coming out of high school.

Women’s 400 Free Relay – Timed Finals

  • NCAA Automatic Qualifying Standard – 3:14.05
  • NCAA Provisional Qualifying Standard – 3:16.35
  1. USC – 3:16.03
  2. Texas A&M – 3:17.45
  3. LSU – 3:18.14

The USC women capped their meet with another relay “B” standard, touching in 3:16.03. After her electric 800 free relay leadoff on Thursday, Laticia Transom was big again for USC, leading off the 400 free relay of 48.03. That was the fastest split of the field, on a rolling or flat start, though it was a quarter-second slower than the time with which she won the individual 100 free.

Thanks to “A” standards in the 200 free and 200 medley relays, USC is now already eligible to swim four of the five possible relays at the NCAA Championships. The lone exception is the 800 free relay, where they’ll need to drop another two seconds at season’s end to earn a spot at NCAAs.

The A&M women were 2nd (49.21 Stepanek leadoff, 48.65 Kaitlyn Owens anchor) and LSU was 3rd (49.27 Milutinovich leadoff).

A bit of a revelation way down in the rankings, on the Texas A&M “C” relay, was a 49.51 anchor split from Aggie sophomore Jordan Buechler. Buechler’s best flat start time is 50.33, and she swam the 200 backstroke on Saturday individually, but that split would have improved A&M’s “A” relay by about half-a-second.

Men’s 400 Free Relay – Timed Finals

  • NCAA Automatic Qualifying Standard – 2:50.99
  • NCAA Provisional Qualifying Standard – 2:52.46
  1. USC – 2:51.33
  2. TCU – 2:52.39
  3. LSU – 2:53.54

The USC Trojans, led by a trio of rolling-start 42-second splits, won the men’s 400 free relay to put a cherry on the top of a successful weekend for the team. The best split by them, or anyone, was a 42.48 from sophomore Max Saunders on the team’s third leg.

The Trojans also received a 42.98 anchor from Trent Pellini, who transferred from Purdue this season to use his bonus COVID-year of eligibility. Pellini came as a known quantity in the breaststrokes, setting the fastest time in the nation in the 100 breast on Thursday, but his sprinting abilities are an added bonus. He split 42.77 on a leg of Purdue’s 400 free relay at Big Tens last year, so this isn’t a surprise, per se, but it does show that he has more relay value than the average collegiate breaststroker. His best flat-start time is 45.2.

TCU finished 2nd in a school record of 2:52.39, including a 42.61 split from Jadon Wuilliez, and LSU was 3rd, following a 42.10 Brooks Curry split that was two-tenths faster than his winning time in the 100 free.

The Texas A&M “A” relay was just 8th, showing the Aggies’ depth problems this season after star Shaine Casas forewent his senior season to turn pro. A&M was a little short on this ending 400 free relay last season, but that problem is exacerbated this year without Casas. They finished 2nd in the other four relays at this meet.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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