Kate Douglass Will Focus on Sprint Frees at NCAA Championships

University of Virginia sophomore Kate Douglass, one of the most versatile women’s collegiate swimmers in a generation, will swim the 50 free, 100 fly, and 100 free individually at the NCAA Championship meet.

This means, among other races, she’s skipping out on the 200 IM and the 200 breaststroke.

Douglass ended the regular season as the NCAA’s top-ranked swimmer in 4 races: the 50 free, 100 free, 200 IM, and 200 breaststroke. She is the #2 ranked swimmer in the 100 fly, though in that race she was behind the fastest to ever swim the event Maggie MacNeil.

By opting for the sprint freestyles, she does give the Cavaliers extra swims in races where they are otherwise thin. Their next-best swimmer in the 50 and 100 free is Lexi Cuomo, who is seeded 15th in the 50 free and 22nd in 48.52.

That’s as compared to the 200 IM, where without Douglass, freshman Alex Walsh is the top seed, and the 200 breaststroke where without Douglass, Ella Nelson is the #5 seed in 2:05.91.

In fact, in each of those races, Virginia has multiple swimmers still seeded to score. In the 200 breaststroke, Walsh is seeded 8th in 2:06.72, while Anna Keating is seeded 14th in 2:07.26. Alexis Wenger, best known as a sprinter, is seeded 19th in 2:07.79, just outside of the 16 projected scorers.

In the 200 IM, without Douglass, Ella Nelson is seeded 7th in 1:54.72 and Abby Harter is seeded 16th in 1:56.22.

On paper, Virginia’s only real challenge is to “swim well,” because if they do, and avoid disqualifications, they’ll win the meet. That being said, with swimmers like Izzy Ivey and Maggie MacNeil lurking, the 100 free looks a little murkier than the 200 breast, where even a mid-season time would have Douglass as the top seed by almost a second.

This makes for a very-different entry set than what Douglass was set to swim at last year’s NCAA Championships before they were canceled. There she was entered in the 200 IM, 100 fly, and 200 breast individually, with only the 200 IM as a top seed. At the ACC Championships in February of this year, she swam the 200 IM, 100 fly, and 100 free, winning each aside from the 200 IM, where Walsh beat her.

As for Walsh, another versatile swimmer, her 3rd entry in the meet is a bit of a surprise: the 200 free.

That’s as compared to the 100 breaststroke that she swam instead on the third day of the ACC Championships.

The 200 IM was a given for her as the top seed, but Walsh has also made a swap for her day 4 event: she swam the 200 back at the ACC Championships, but the 200 backstroke will be her NCAA Championship event.

She would have been the 8th seed in the 100 breaststroke but instead opted for the 200 free, where her season-best of 1:45.79 makes her the 29th seed.

We know Walsh’s potential is better than that, though. She split 1:43.19 on a rolling-start on an 800 free relay at ACCs. That puts her somewhere around a top-8 or top-9 spot in that event if we extrapolate for the difference in starts.

Like Douglass, Walsh had a lot of options. Afterall, she’s a member of the USA Swimming National Team in the 200 backstroke, even though she’s focusing on the 200 breast at NCAAs.

Virginia has the top seed in the 200 free Paige Madden and the #12 seed Kyla Valls. That race is not one with a field as good as it’s been in the past. For example, in 2019 there were three swimmers seeded with 1:41s, but Madden, the top seed, is 1:42.39 this season.

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Hswimmer
6 months ago

Interesting strategy. They are really going for the win

Honest Observer
6 months ago

A little disappointing we’re not going to see what she could have done in the 200IM, but understandable. She can always set that record at a midseason meet, but NCAAs roll around just once a year, and the team comes first. That 200 breast record also seems within her grasp; but we’ll have to wait for that one, too. Of the three events she’s swimming, the 100 fly record seems the most attainable, but she’s not even the favorite there, MacNeil has to be considered that.

Hswimmer
Reply to  Honest Observer
6 months ago

We will see if Kate can hang on at the end. MacNeils turns are just insane. Would love to see Maggie and Kate battle in ISL in the future

tea rex
6 months ago

Understandable, but oh so frustrating.
UVA’s highest-ever finish at NCAAs is 5th (the Courtney Bartholomew / Leah Smith teams of 2015-16). The chance at an NCAA title is something as a team you don’t mess around with.
But for fans, we’d get to see Douglass swim the relays anyways, and she’s not close to NCAA records compared to her 200 IM / BR. If she were being selfish, I think 2 IM and both breaststrokes would be easiest route to 3 titles (dodge MacNeil and you know she’s got a good 100 br). But really, just going 1:49 in the IM would be HUGE. This is the curse of being on a team with ludicrously good breaststrokers!

ALEXANDER POP-OFF
6 months ago

I really wanted to see her blast the record in the 200 IM! But I understand. She could potentially leave the meet with no wins. Maggie is no joke!

Willswim
Reply to  ALEXANDER POP-OFF
6 months ago

*No individual event wins. I’ll eat my goggles if she’s not on a winning relay. 😁

ALEXANDER POP-OFF
Reply to  Willswim
6 months ago

You know what I meant 🙂

swimfan210_
Reply to  Willswim
5 months ago

That was no joke!

Seli Lover
6 months ago

She is really good. But I’m a Cal fan , so Go Bears!

Hswimmer
6 months ago

I really hope she time trials 200 IM or breast or something

ALEXANDER POP-OFF
Reply to  Hswimmer
6 months ago

Yes!

PVSFree
Reply to  Hswimmer
6 months ago

She’s gonna have like 14 swims or something insane, I don’t think she’s going to want to add another swim to that

Hswimmer
Reply to  PVSFree
6 months ago

Arent relays times finals now? Or prelim final?

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  PVSFree
6 months ago

I believe she has 10 swims max. Relays are timed finals.

Joel Lin
6 months ago

Looks like the Hoos will have 2 women on Olympic team relays. Douglas is a clear favorite to grab one of the 6 spots in the 4×100, I’d project Walsh will be in the top 6 for a 4×200 relay spot.

Thats the floor. The roof is both Douglas and Walsh could grab multiple individual spots if they are really on at Trials.

Take nothing as given; they don’t call it the Meet of Tears for no reason. But Douglas & Walsh are hitting top form at the perfect time.

iLikePsych
Reply to  Joel Lin
6 months ago

I don’t know if I’d call Douglas a clear favorite just because we haven’t seen her 100 free fully converted to LC yet, but I think it’s fair to say that there’s a good chance either Douglas or Gretchen Walsh make the relay

swimgeek
Reply to  Joel Lin
6 months ago

Wait, what? I’m a huge Douglass fan, but her PR (from November – when she was also throwing down a 1:50IM swim) was 55.2. She is, at best, a long shot to go the 53-mid needed to make that relay.

tea rex
Reply to  Joel Lin
6 months ago

I like Alex Walsh, but a 1:43 low relay split projects to maybe top 6 in the NCAA. Maybe. Unlikely she even swims that as it’s on the same day as 200 IM.

ALEXANDER POP-OFF
Reply to  tea rex
6 months ago

Nope. Walsh won’t swim it. BUT Margalis will swim that tough double– 200 Free and 200 IM. Was very impressive that Margalis beat Leverenz and made the team in the 200 IM after making the relay in the 200 free. However, I don’t think she is beating Walsh (or Baker?) this go-round. She has to be fresh to do that. Notice how Margalis is working her 400 IM. Smart to go for the 200 free though and that strong gold medal and WR chance in Tokyo.

WahooSwimFan
Reply to  Joel Lin
6 months ago

Don’t forget Paige Madden – her LC 200 free is already among the crowd of contenders (5 spots after Ledecky), and with her improving 500 times, she could challenge former UVA swimmer Leah Smith (again assuming Ledecky has spot 1 locked up).

Irvine
6 months ago

Douglass vs MacNeil vs Ivey in the 100 free (and also 100 fly) will be epic!

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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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