In the morning session of the 2nd day’s prelims, it’s becoming clear that the Arizona Wildcats are hitting their taper perfectly, and have moved themselves into serious contention for a top 4 spot.
This one went pretty much as expected at the top. Arizona and Tennessee, who were the top two seeds coming in, qualified for finals first and second. Florida, with bookend stars Gemma Spofforth and Sarah Bateman, qualified third, and Virginia, also with bookends in Mei Christensen and Lauren Perdue, qualified fourth.
In finals, Arizona looks like they’re going to be too good to beat, especially after their heroic performance in the 400 yesterday. Those next three squads will all be looking to drop time in the evening session, and it should be a dogfight for those next couple of spots.
In the team race, the top 3 squads all made A-finals, with Stanford, Georgia, and Cal qualifying 8th, 6th, and 5th. The Auburn Tigers and Texas Longhorns were again disappointed, with both relays slotted for the B-final.
The 400 IM is Julia Smit’s money event, and despite adding 6 seconds to her Pac-10 NCAA record swim, she is still the overwhelming top seed headed into finals. Florida’s Teresa Crippen, Princeton’s Ali Aemisegger and USC’s Katinka Hosszu will be the pack that will chase Smit, likely in futility.
Georgia’s Jan Mangimelli qualified fith, and Stanford’s Liz Smith made the B-final with a 12th-place finish. Cal will have 1 swimmer in each final, with Heather White dropping time to make the A-final, and freshman Caitlin Leverentz posting a disappointing 4:10.19 to qualify 10th.
The 100 butterfly was a very tight prelim, and a few swimmers may have been bitten by cruising through it. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Kathleen Hersey, who qualified 12th for the B-final in an event that she had hopes of pulling a win in. Ana Agy of Arizona was also slipped up a little bit in qualifying 10th.
Lyndsay Depaul is making a big difference in her first season at USC after transferring from UC-Irvine, and qualified as the top seed in the 100 fly. Elaine Breeden of Stanford was second, and Cal’s Amanda Sims was 3rd, giving the A-final a California feeling. Cal’s Hannah Wilson also finaled in seventh, and Arizona’s Erin Campbell qualified eighth.
Stanford has 2 swimmers in the B-final, Stefanie Sutton and Kelley Hug, and Georgia only has 1 up and 1 down in Anne-Marie Botek (5th) and Anne Broome (12th). A funny little anomolie happened, when three swimmers, Hersey Broome and Alex Forrester of Yale, all tied for 12th at 52.69.
The NCAA should consider renaming the 200 freestyle event the “Bulldog freestyle,” as Georgia is absolutely dominant in the event. They showed this by grabbing the first, second, fifth, and 12th qualifying spots, in the form of 5oo free champ Allison Schmitt, Morgan Scroggy, Megan Romano, and Chelsea Nautu. Good luck knocking these girls off in tomorrow’s 800 free relay.
Another Arizona Wildcat, Leone Vorster, made a big move up into the 3rd slot by dropping almost 2 seconds. Texas A&M’s Julia Wilkinson, who’s been having an outstanding meet so far and finished second in the 200 IM, is fourth. Stanford’s lone hope in either final is Kate Dwelley, who finished seventh. It will be up to her to score as many points as possible to hold off the Georgia charge, or her team could be fighting an uphill battle going into the final day.
Don’t sleep on Cal’s Sara Isakovic, who was the 2008 Olympipc silver medalist in this event, but barely snuck in as the 8th finalist.
The unknown one, Ashley Danner of George Mason, who came into the event as the top overall seed, proved that she was a legitimate contender in the breaststroke events by swimming a 59.23 to qualify second.
Annie Chandler of Arizona, who was lurking back as the 8th seed in this event, exploded into a 58.97, making her the only woman to go under 59 this season. Her teammate, Ellyn Baumgardner, also had a great swim. She was seeded 20th coming into the event, but moved all the way up to qualify sixth.
A&M’s Alia Atkinson, a 2008 Olympian for Jamaica, qualified third, just ahead of Jillian Tyler of Minnesota. Kelsey Vehr of Miami (OH) was another surprise name in the final, qualifying sixth. This is going to be a wide-open race where any of the 8 finalists could win.
None of the top 3 teams headed into day 2 had a strong showing in this event, with Georgia having the only finalist in Michelle McKeehan who finaled 15th.
The 100 backstroke will be an exciting showdown between Spofforth of Florida and Kateryna Fesenok of Indiana, who were the top 2 qualifiers. Both women’s specialty is actually the 200 backstroke, but both are still very good in the 100 event. Fesenko was much faster in the prelims, but she had to move up to make the A-final, and the final should be a lot closer.
Tennessee’s Jennifer Connolly qualified third, followed by Presley Bard of USC. Ana Agy of Arizona finished fifth in her second individual event of the day, Margaret Meyer of WIsconsin was sixth, and two Virginia Caveliers, Mei Christensen and Lauren Smart, rounded out the A-final. Stanford’s top finisher was Betsy Webb in 11th, and Georgia and Cal both didn’t have any finalists.
Don’t be shocked if the Arizona Wildcats are in the lead at the end of the second day. Both Stanford (400 IM) and Georgia (200 freestyle) have events where they dominate the country in, but Arizona had the most consistent performance across all events in the prelims. If the Wildcats can win the relay, and hold their great morning performances, they will insert themselves firmly back into the National Championship conversation.