The 2014 Women’s NCAA Championships first finals session is about to begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and while day 1 won’t see anybody make-or-break their championship meet, there are records and national titles on the line.
The meet began with a fog and lights show in the diving well, and the Minnesota mascot Goldy the Golden Gopher going off of the 10-meter, and expectations are that the racing is going to live up to the pre-meet hype. There’s Olympians and tons of National Teamers, both American and international, and finals in the 200 free relay, the 500 free, the 200 IM, the 50 free, and the 400 medley relay.
Women’s 200 free relay – prelims
The women’s 200 free relay was a very tight race going into the halfway point, but then Felicia Lee, and specifically Felicia Lee’s underwater off of her turn, took over and pulled Stanford away. Going into the final, leg, the Cardinal had an insurmountable lead. That was big, because Katie Olsen, who is their weakest leg, was on the anchor leg, though even she came through spectacularly with a 21.75 anchor.
The Stanford winning splits:
- Maddy Schaefer (21.91)
- Lia Neal (21.37)
- Felicia Lee (21.20)
- Katie Olsen (21.75)
The winning time was a 1:26.23, which was just .01 seconds away from the NCAA and U.S. Open Records, and only Lee graduates from that relay.
Cal came back strong in finals with a 1:26.67 for 2nd in this relay, including the addition of Missy Franklin (21.50) who wasn’t on the prelims relay. That means that she’s probably off of the 200 medley relay later in the meet. Freshman Farida Osman anchored in 21.44 for Cal.
Georgia was 3rd in 1:27.19, so that’s a ‘move up’ for Cal and ‘move down’ for Georgia.
The A&M women took 5th in 1:27.39, with a 21.70 from Breeja Larson on their 3rd leg. Tennessee was 5th in 1:27.69 and Wisconsin took 6th in 1:27.97. Ivy Martin led off for the Badgers in 21.96, and Chase Kinney was a 21.67 on their 2nd leg.
Arizona took 7th in 1:28.11, with the top seed in the individual 50 free Margo Geer leading off in 22.04 – half-a-second slower than her individual swim in prelims. USC finished 8th in the A-final in 1:29.41.
In the B-Final, the Florida women ran away with the heat in a great finals swim of 1:27.54 that included a 21.0 from sophomore Natalie Hinds.
Women’s 500 free – prelims
This women’s 500 free was a race for the ages. Missy Franklin of Cal, the Olympian, the all-world swimmer, took like she had taken control of the race at the 400 yard mark. She sort of started to inch away from the field. But Georgia’s Brittany MacLean had other ideas, and with a monster of a 25.81 anchor, the 7th-fastest swim in history, and a new NCAA and NCAA Championship Record, she won the race in 4:32.53. Franklin took 2nd in 4:32.66.
Both swimmers, in fact, were under Allison Schmitt’s 2011 NCAA Record of 4:32.71. MacLean closer her race in 52.98 – a second-and-a-half faster than Katie Ledecky closed her race when she swam a U.S. Open Record almost four seconds faster. That’s legendary closing speed for MacLean. Meanwhile, Franklin may have given away the race by breathing the entire way into the finish. That can be a tenth.
Georgia’s Amber McDermott took 3rd in 4:33.97; she was in this battle until about the last 150 yards.
Indiana’s Lindsay Vrooman pushed hard early, but fell off the pace in the back half of this race, finishing 4th in 4:36.06. Arizona’s Bonnie Brandon ledd big with a 1:47.8 split on her first 200 yards, but wound up 5th in 4:36.91.
Georgia’s Shannon Vreeland was 6th in 4:37.30.
Kiera Janzen represented the home team in 7th in 4:37.61, and Texas A&M’s Sarah Henry was 8th.
Meanwhile, in the B-Final, Virginia freshman Leah Smith put on an electric performance of her own. Swimming nearly five seconds away from Texas A&M’s Olympian Cammile Adams (4:38.38), Smith swam a lifetime best of 4:33.75. That’s a great sign for Virginia that she just misjudged her prelims swim, because overall UVA has swum very well at this meet. She was the top seed coming into the meet, and that time would have put her 3rd in the A-final.
Cal’s Melanie Klaren moved up to 11th with a 4:39.25 – a full second improvement from prelims. That helps Cal’s chances of coming back on Georgia, and overall, even with the MacLean win, this was a positive for Cal as compared to expectations.
Women’s 200 IM – FINALS
Stanford’s Maya DiRado, a senior and one of the youngest seniors in the class, had a huge swimmer and earned a spot on the American World Championship team. This season in the NCAA, she’s followed suit by breaking through her “outside looking in” position with a 1:52.50 to win the women’s 200 IM: her first career NCAA title. That is the 6th-fastest 200 yard IM by anyone at any level, and ranks her as the 4th-fastest swimmer in history in the event.
This was another come-from-behind win, as she trailed Georgia’s Melanie Margalis by half-a-second coming out of the breaststroke leg, where Margalis is so good (she split 32.2 – fastest split in the field), even faster than Emma Reaney.
Margalis would end up taking 2nd in 1:52.64, with Cal’s Celina Li, who led after the backstroke leg, taking 3rd in 1:53.85.
Cal’s Liz Pelton took 4th in 1:54.80, as she really fell off of the pace on her breaststroke leg.
USC’s Stina Gardell moved way up from 8th in prelims to 5th in finals in 1:55.11. Stanford’s Felicia Lee took 7th in 1:56.15, and Michigan’s Marni Oldershaw took 8th in 1:56.88.
USC’s Jasmine Tosky won the B final in 1:56.37, and Virginia freshman Kaitlyn Jones took 10th in 1:56.49.
Women’s 50 Free – FINALS
The Georgia women got their second individual win of the three on the night with a 21.59 from the freshman Olivia Smoliga. That’s just a hair behind what she swam at SEC’s, but was good enough for the title.
Smoliga did one very, very interesting thing differently than anybody else in this A-final: she kicked out well past 5 meters. She was at least to 8 meters before popping up, and rode that to the win and her first NCAA Championship.
The issue of going long underwater on sprints is perhaps the next big swimming battlefield, with what swimmers like Smoliga and Felicia Lee have done so far this week; it’s not a new argument, but USA Swimming chimed in to encourage it within the last few weeks, and there’s still many who on the sprints don’t believe in it even in short course. Of course, Arizona’s Lara Jackson used to do it and dominate the NCAA, and that didn’t create a huge shift either.
USC’s Kasey Carlson, after a slow start in prelims, had no such trouble in finals. She was the first to the turn, and took 2nd overall in 21.72. That put her just ahead of Arizona’s Margo Geer, the defending NCAA Champion, who was a 21.73.
Ivy Martin from Wisconsin took 4th in 21.79, and Georgia’s second A-finalist Maddie Locus improved her time, and matched her place, from prelims with a 21.87 for 5th.
Stanford’s Maddy Schaefer, who was also fast at the start, took 6th in 21.91. San Diego State’s Anika Apostalon, who had to win a swim-off to get into the final, moved up a spot to 7th in 22.00, and Tennessee’s Faith Johnson was 8th in 22.01.
Florida’s Natalie Hinds won the B-Final in a fantastic 21.66, following her great relay swim earlier. She’s having a very good finals session, and seems to have woken up in between sessions. Her 100 fly and 100 free will be races to watch.
Stanford’s Lia Neal was 10th overall (2nd in the B-Final) in 21.98.
Women’s 1-Meter Diving
The Georgia women got a huge surge toward their second-straight NCAA Championship in the second-to-last event of Thursday’s finals session. Laura Ryan, who didn’t even score on the 1-meter at NCAA’s last year, won by a solid 5 points with a score of 338.60 over Texas’ Maren Taylor.
That’s Georgia’s first-ever women’s diving NCAA Champion, though they have won a men’s title.
That pulled Georgia 59 points ahead of Cal going into the last relay, and while the meet is still far from over (a lot can change on day 2 at this meet), the Bulldogs did just about everything they needed to do to maintain command of the title.
Virginia Tech’s Kaylea Arnett took 3rd in 55.45. which scored her team’s first points of the day, and Minnesota’s Maggie Keefer, who was the highest-returning finisher from last year’s meet, wound up 4th with a 328.20.
Michaela Butler from UMass, who continued to excel with a difficult event lineup, was 5th in 326.25.
USC’s Haley Ishimatsu, Miami’s Kara McCormack, and Miami’s Thea Vock rounded out the A-final.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay – FINALS
The Stanford women and the A&M women went toe-to-toe in this 400 medley relay. A&M had a great front-half, with Paige Miller leading off in a 50.70 and Breeja Larson splitting a 57.43 on the breaststroke leg, both of whom were the fastest split of the field on their respective legs.
But then Stanford came back. And they came back big. More of Felicia Lee’s underwaters led her to a 50.82 split – the fastest in the A-Final by a full second, and then freshman Lia Neal split a 47.00, and Stanford came back with a new NCAA, American, and U.S. Open Record of 3:27.51. (Read more about that record here).
A&M just missed going under those records themselves, with a 3:28.13 for 2nd.
The Georgia women took 3rd in 3:29.43, which is an improvement in placing for them from prelims and another move-up for the Bulldogs.
Florida took 4th in 3:30.27, including another marvelous evening swim from Natalie Hinds who anchored them in 3:30.27.
Cal took 5th in 3:30.70; while that’s not as high as they expected coming in, it could have been worse: from an elevated view, it looked like leadoff Cindy Tran went past 15 meters on her start, but the official right beside her in lane 1 didn’t call it. Rachel Bootsma was subbed in on their fly leg in 51.59.
Tennessee was 6th in 3:32.28, and USC was 7th in 3:34.21. Virginia’s relay was DQ’ed for an early start by anchor Emily Lloyd after touching the wall 4th.
Of noteworthy splits in the B final, SMU’s Marne Erasmus, a freshman who joined the team mid-season, split a 50.52 on their fly leg as they finished 11th in 3:31.66.
Top 5 after day 1 (a full scoring update yet to come).
1. Georgia 189
2. Stanford 136
3. Cal 126
4. USC 103
5. Texas A&M 56.5