The North Carolina State men provided what is probably the biggest upset of this young season on Saturday, knocking off the Georgia Bulldogs by just 12 points in one of the closest all-around meets you’ll ever see. The Wolfpack broke multiple pool records and even a school record en route to their 155-142 victory.
The defending NCAA Champion Georgia women were dominant, though, winning 183.5-114.5. NC State was without 9 of its top female swimmers, who are in Texas competing at the SMU Classic this weekend.
NC State was a very good team last year and is coming off a true breakout season, so it’s not exactly a “David & Goliath” upset. But Georgia was 5th in the NCAA last year, has one of the nation’s top overall swimmers in Chase Kalisz and brought in a number of blue-chip prospects last recruiting season. NC State, meanwhile, was 13th at the NCAA Championships and brought in the #9 recruiting class, compared to Georgia’s #7.
That makes it more than a bit surprising that the Wolfpack topped Georgia this weekend. It was a meet that could have easily gone either way, as nearly every single event ended in a photo finish. NC State picked up the majority of the touchouts, though, which led to their narrow victory.
The opening even was decided by just over four tenths of a second, with NC State putting up the nation’s 3rd-fastest 200 medley relay time to win 1:28.05. Things were very tight over the first 100 yards, but butterflyer Soeren Dahl and freestyler David Williams locked down the back half for NC State, as Georgia came in at 1:28.50. NC State’s time smashed the pool record, the first of several records to go down on the day.
Then in the 1000 free, NC State freshman Anton Ipsen crushed the field, breaking a school record and winning a battle of first-years. Ipsen’s 9:01.83 jumped to 1st in the NCAA this year, and easily topped Georgia freshman Kevin Litherland, who had the nation’s second-fastest time coming into the meet.
Then the touchouts started piling up for NC State. Simonas Bilis nipped Mathias Koski for the 200 free title in 1:37.02, his first of three wins on the day. Koski was 1:37.56. Then Andreas Schiellerup picked up a 100 back win by a few tenths over Tynan Stewart, 48.60 to 48.98.
Georgia’s Nic Fink, a U.S. National Teamer, got the Dawgs on the board with a fast 53.99 win in the 100 breast, the nation’s fastest time. But NC State sophomore Derek Hren wasn’t far behind, going 54.50 for second, and beating Georgia’s star freshman Gunnar Bentz by over a second and a half.
Then, in perhaps the most important swim of the meet, NC State’s Christian McCurdy upset Georgia’s NCAA champ and international star Chase Kalisz for the 200 fly win with a new pool record. McCurdy went out fast and built a lead that was just a tiny bit too big for Kalisz to overcome. McCurdy was 1:44.77, while Kalisz went 1:44.83.
NC State gouged Georgia in the sprints, taking advantage of the Bulldogs’ biggest weakness to go 1-2 in both the 50 and 100 frees. It was Simonas Bilis and Ryan Held who did the honors in both. Bilis went 19.96 and 43.74 for his second and third wins, while the freshman Held was 20.59 and 44.86.
Wolfpack freshman Hennessy Stuart won another tight race in the 200 back, going 1:46.26 to beat Tynan Stewart by about three tenths and denying Georgia a chance to catch back up. But the 200 breast was a giant boost for the Bulldogs, as Nic Fink (1:59.12), Chase Kalisz and Gunnar Bentz went 1-2-3 over NC State’s Derek Hren.
But the freshman Ipsen came back to deal another punishing blow to Georgia. Ipsen went 4:22.03 to blow away the 500 free field and take the top spot in the nation in that event as well.
But momentum shifted back just as quickly. Georgia finally came out on the winning side of a close race in the 100 fly when Pace Clark‘s 48.00 beat Christian McCurdy. Then after a short break, Kalisz and Bentz went 1-2 over the top of McCurdy in the 200 IM, sweeping the top two spots in the NCAA rankings in the process. Kalisz was 1:46.71 and Bentz 1:47.35. McCurdy was 1:47.79, which now sits 4th in the nation.
NC State clung to a thin, 3-point lead heading into the last relay, with a win giving either team the meet. But Georgia’s lack of pure sprint freestylers came back to bite it, unfortunately coinciding with NC State’s strong sprinting corps and general relay prowess. The Wolfpack won in 2:56.12, yet another nation-leading time, getting a 43.2 split from Bilis on the anchor leg and smashing a pool record. Georgia, using breastsroker Nic Fink and distance man Mathias Koski on its top relay, went 2:57.52 for second place. Impressively, that’s also the second-fastest time in the nation so far this year.
Georgia took both diving events with Ian Forlini, but it wasn’t enough as the meet went to a high-flying NC State squad, 155-143.
The women’s meet was far less dramatic, though it did offer the two-time defending national champs an opportunity to show off some of their talented new freshmen. Georgia won the meet on depth and distance, losing both relays but still pushing ahead to a comfortable 183.5-114.5 victory.
The Bulldogs were led by a slew of double winners, including two notable freshmen. Hershey, Pennsylvania pickup Meaghan Raab left her traditional freestyle events to sweep the breaststrokes, going 1:05.20 in the 100 and 2:19.87 in the 200. That’s probably more of a one-time, off-event thing for Raab than a future event focus, but it’s still impressive she was able pick up wins in both.
Her freshman classmate Kylie Stewart also mixed up the lineup a bit. Best known as a backstroker, the Georgian won the 200 fly (1:59.31) and 200 IM (2:02.12), crushing the field in the former and just nipping teammate Emily Cameron (2:02.22) in the latter.
Other double winners for Georgia: sophomore Rachel Zilinskas (1000 free in 10:03.50 and 500 free in 4:53.09) and Hali Flickinger (100 fly in 54.76 and 200 free in 1:48.91).
NC State, despite competing without several of their top swimmers, managed to steal five wins from the reigning national champs. Hannah Freyman swept the backstroke races, going 56.10 in the 100 and 2:02.11 in the 200. Meanwhile Riki Bonnema put up an impressive sprint free win, going 22.72, with teammate Krista Duffield taking second and giving NC State a 1-2 sweep over defending NCAA champ Olivia Smoliga (23.82).
The Wolfpack also managed to win both relays. The 200 medley team of Freyman, Payton Schrum, Bonnema and Lotta Nevalainen went 1:42.82 to beat Georgia by over a second. Then NC State closed the meet with a 400 free relay win, getting a 3:22.60 from Nevalainen, Bonnema, Duffield and Freyman in a new pool record, the only women’s pool record to go down.
Georgia once again swept diving, with Olivia Ball winning on both boards.