NCAA Fall Season Marked By Notable Absences

The NCAA season this fall has been almost as focused on who’s not swimming as on who is. That’s because a number of key contributors have been absent, some mysteriously, for the bulk of their team’s fall dual meets.

Here’s a look at the bigger names we’ve been asking around about, along with any updates we’ve received from their programs on potential return dates:

Simone Manuel, Stanford

  • Absence: injury
  • Return date: unclear

Coming off a world title in the 100 free, Manuel hasn’t yet competed for the Cardinal. She was slated to compete for the Pac-12 all-star team at the US College Challenge, but withdrew due to a “mild injury”, according to Stanford. We were told in mid-October that Manuel was still training at Stanford and was “excited to get back to competition soon.” The team’s next meet is the Art Adamson Invite at Texas A&M on Nov 16-18.

Cierra Runge, Wisconsin

  • Absence: unknown
  • Return date: unclear

U.S. Olympian and World Champs team member Runge hasn’t competed for the Badgers yet this year, and the school hasn’t given any info on her absence. Runge swam a prelims leg of the 4×200 free relay for Team USA at the World Championships, but has not competed since. She turned down a spot on the World University Games team, which would have taken place in late August.

Gunnar Bentz, Georgia

  • Absence: injury
  • Return date: unclear

Yet another U.S. Olympian, Bentz broke his collarbone and is out of competition for the time being. When we originally reported on his injury, Bentz said that he could be back in the water kicking by mid-October, and expected to be back to training “within a month to a month and a half.” That would put him back to full training sometime this month, though he may not be back to competing until the second semseter.

G Ryan, Michigan

  • Absence: injury
  • Return date: Dec 1-3

An All-American distance freestyler, Ryan hasn’t officially competed since June. We reached out to the school on their absence, and were told that Ryan is returning from an injury and should return within the month. The school said Ryan’s likely return meet is the Georgia Invite from December 1-3. A returning Ryan give a reloaded Michigan squad outside potential for a top-5 finish at NCAAs.

Carsten Vissering, USC

  • Absence: study abroad
  • Return date: January

Considered a contender for the NCAA 100 breast title, Vissering hasn’t yet competed for USC this season and in fact hasn’t raced since last year’s NCAA meet in March of 2017. The school told us that Vissering is studying abroad in Australia this semester but is expected to rejoin competition in the spring. After not competing over the summer, though, Vissering will be returning from more than 9 months off of racing.

Megan Moroney, Virginia

  • Absence: injury
  • Return date: unclear

A five-time All-American and ACC relay champ in 2016, Moroney sat out nearly all of last year with an injury. She returned to swim just one race – a very solid 52.86 100 backstroke – at the Georgia Invite last December and then did not compete again in the spring or summer. She hasn’t raced yet with Virginia this season, and a school rep told us they had no information on if or when Moroney could return this year.

Liz Li, Ohio State

  • Absence: Chinese national team obligations
  • Return date: January

Big Ten champ and All-American sprinter Li has actually already graduated from Ohio State, though she still has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining. Li is currently back home in China “fulfilling training obligations with her national team,” per an Ohio State press release. Li is expected to return to Ohio State and begin grad school in January, rejoining the team for one more NCAA postseason at that time.

Megan Byrnes, Stanford

  • Absence: injury
  • Return date: unclear

An NCAA All-American and 3rd-placer in the mile as a freshman, Byrnes hasn’t yet competed this fall. A Stanford rep tells us Byrnes is currently dealing with an injury but is hopeful to be back to competition in the spring.

Brandonn Almeida, South Carolina

  • Absence: unknown
  • Return date: unclear

Brazil’s former world junior record-holder could be an NCAA finals contender in the mile and the 400 IM, among other things. He hasn’t yet competed this fall and a school rep had no information on his current status.

Courtney Caldwell, NC State

  • Absence: unknown
  • Return date: unclear

A relay All-American and individual point-scorer for NC State as a sophomore, Caldwell has been absent from the team’s meet results. An e-mail to the program’s media relations rep hasn’t yet been returned.

Maddy Banic, Tennessee

The Vols best sprinter a year ago, Banic had a scare on day 3 of NCAAs, getting taken from the pool deck on a stretcher and ushered into an ambulance. She didn’t compete further at NCAAs but did return to swim three meets over the summer, including U.S. Nationals. She hasn’t competed this fall, though, and is not listed on Tennessee’s roster. The school hasn’t yet returned our request for comment.

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Ha ha those quotation marks for Li Zhesi

A non-e mouse

I mean that is a quote, so quotation marks make sense


Does anyone know anything about Maddy Banic? She’s hasn’t competed yet this year.


Isn’t even enrolled in school I believe….

I can’t speak to whether or not she is enrolled but it does appear that she’s missing from the roster.

Blake Atmore

What about Gunnar Bentz and Josh Kenway? neither of them have swam in a meet for UGA and both are potential NCAA scorers

Patrick Frith

bentz has a broken collarbone

Hi Blake. We did a report on Bentz here:

He is expected to return but they didn’t give an exact timeline.

Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger

> Josh Kenway
> potential NCAA scorer
> lifetime bests 21.5 and 47.2 freestyle

Oh, honey…

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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