NCAA Women’s 100 Free Preview: Manuel the Favorite, Silver Unclear



Due to the Rio Olympics, two of the greatest sprinters in the land were absent from the 2016 NCAA Championships. Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil were gearing up for Rio, with Manuel redshirting a year and Weitzeil deferring. That’s not to say that the 100 free final wasn’t fast last season– Olivia Smoliga of Georgia showed that her sprint free isn’t limited to the 50, pushing past Olympian Lia Neal to take the national title at 46.70 over Neal’s 47.00.

As fast as that was last season, it’s 2017, and swimming continues to get faster and deeper. Four women have already busted the 47-second barrier, Weitzeil not included. Leading the charge, as expected, is the woman who tied for gold in one of the most thrilling races in Rio this summer: Simone Manuel. She won the Pac-12 title last month with a 46.36, less than three tenths off of her own NCAA, American, and U.S. Open record. Manuel is the clear favorite, and we could be treated to the first flat-start forty-five from a female freestyler in history.

The field behind Manuel is intriguing. There’s the defending NCAA champ, Smoliga, who will want to go out on top her senior year. There’s Neal, the dependable, consistent performer who often overshadowed by the new wave of American sprinting led by Manuel. There’s Weitzeil, who was somewhat inconsistent in Rio but is capable of busting out a huge swim nonetheless, although illness plagued her Pac-12s this year.

And then there’s Mallory Comerford. Coming into college having never broken 50 seconds in this race, the Louisville program has developed her into someone on the verge of breaking out on the international scene. She’s been 46.75 this season, destroying her previous best to win ACCs. Comerford demands our attention, and her 53.91 to win the Indianapolis Pro Swim Series title earlier this month affirms her talent. None of her competitors in this event have had quite the upward trajectory the last two years, and the sophomore with the least amount of international experience is someone you’d be a fool not to pay close attention to in Indianapolis.

Swedish freshman Louise Hansson, who has been to plenty of big-time international meets representing Sweden, has been 47.03 this season. Always producing quality sprinters, USC’s Hansson may well be another sub-47 performer at NCAAs. The Pac-12 will also cast Farida Osman into the field, a Cal senior, along with USC senior Anika Apostalon, while the Big Ten has weapons in Ohio State’s Liz Li and Michigan’s Siobhan Haughey, two international talents who rank 8th and 9th, respectively, in the NCAA this season.

Top 8 Predictions:

1 Simone Manuel 46.36 46.09
2 Abbey Weitzeil 47.22 46.29
3 Mallory Comerford 46.75 46.75
4 Olivia Smoliga 46.95 46.70
5 Lia Neal 46.97 46.84
6 Louise Hansson 47.03 47.03
7 Chantal van Landeghem 47.74 47.48
8 Anika Apostalon 47.78 47.65

Dark horse: Rebecca Millard of Texas. She’s seeded 13th this year with a 47.84, a best time that she went at the Texas Invite in December. Millard won the B final last year, and will look to crack the A final this time around.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
bobo gigi
3 years ago

I think that Olivia Smoliga, like most of her Georgia teammates, was not much rested at her conference meet and will drop her times at NCAAs.
But Simone remains the favorite. The big favorite. 45.80?
Will Abbey be back to her best?

3 years ago

I’m so pumped for the NCAAs. So many showdowns. Can’t wait!

Reply to  AvidSwimFan
3 years ago

me too

3 years ago

In a week we will get the first hint how American 4×100 freestyle relay may look like. Just a year ago Abbey Weitzeil was the main American hope in sprint and Simone Manuel was considered of being in stagnation after 2014 PP. And now we are reading quite an opposite estimates about them.
With her two consecutive 52 splits Katie Ledecky looked firmly putting herself among top American sprinters. And yet we haven’t seen anything special from her in college at 100 distance. Even her place in Stanford’s relay is questionable. It looks like American team has a great chance this year to win World title. Who can be those magnificent four?

Reply to  Prickle
3 years ago

LC it will be Simone, Mallory, Lia, Ledecky, maybe Worrell too.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

Read More »