In 2009, when a full 12 NCAA Records were broken, it was the end of swimming as we knew it. So perturbed were collegiate officials that not only did they follow FINA’s lead and ban the suits, they actually decided to list both the actual records, and the pre-2009 records, in the heat sheets at the 2010 Championships
But the attitude pulled a complete 180 this year. There were a total of 7 NCAA Records broken, 6, U.S. Open Records, and 5 American Records broken in the meet, which is a huge haul. Naturally, with such a chaos of records, there must be some sort of order and reason brought to it all. What better way than to rank them from top-to-bottom (bottom being strictly a relative term, because there’s no such thing as a “bottom” National Record).
As a reminder, “American” records are those broken by any American in any meet anywhere. “NCAA” records are those broken by a collegiate swimmer in a recognized NCAA competition. “U.S. Open” records are the fastest times ever swum in the event on American soil by a swimmer of any Nationality. As the United States is the only country that still has serious competition in yard pools (like the NCAA Championships are), these are effectively World Records for yards swimming.
1. Katinka Hosszu, Sr., USC, 400 IM
3:56.54 – NCAA/U.S. Open
NCAA/U.S. Open – Julia Smit, Stanford, 3:58.23, 2010 Pac 12 Championships
Hosszu absolutely obliterated this record, previously held by Stanford’s Smit in a way that just isn’t seen anymore. Even with Leverenz’s swim (see number 6), Hosszu is still the fastest swimmer ever in this event by more than a second. She didn’t do it alone, though – she was spurred on by what was easily the fastest 400 IM race in history. She was actually pretty far behind record pace through 150 yards, but then closed in a 53.5. That’s two seconds faster than Smit ever dreamed of closing this race, and that’s what destroyed the record.
2. Breeja Larson, So., Texas A&M, 100 Breast
57.71 – NCAA/American/U.S. Open
American/U.S. Open – Tara Kirk, 51.77, 2006 American SC Champs
NCAA – Breeja Larson, Texas A&M, 57.92, 2012 Big 12 Championships (prelims)
Earlier this year, Breeja became the first collegiate swimmer to break the 58-second barrier. Next up, she took down Tara Kirk’s American and U.S. Open Records. Larson is becoming stuff of legend, and probably already being used by coaches around the country to inspire there swimmers (much like basketball coaches do with the whole Michael Jordan cut from his high school team story). First, Larson didn’t really take swimming seriously until her senior year of high school. She then started telling people she wanted to swim a 57.75. She had it written on her mirror all year. She was told there was no way it would happen; that she couldn’t possibly swim the fastest time ever this early in her career. But she did, and she’s got so much further to go.
3. Cal, 400 Medley Relay – Cindy Tran, Caitlin Leverenz, Sara Isakovic, Katherine Raatz
3:28.10 – NCAA/U.S. Open
NCAA/U.S. Open – Cal, 3:28.26, 2012 Pac-12 Championships
This relay still flabbergasts me. Not because of how fast it was – Cal had a swimmer in the top-5 of the 100 back, 100 fly, and 100 free, and Leverenz would have been there in the 100 breast if there was room for it in her schedule. Rather it was because of who wasn’t on this relay. Teri McKeever, in her infinite genius, kept their top freestyler Liv Jensen on the bench for this one, even though she was on it when they previously set the record at Pac-12’s. But at a minimum, this early in the meet, she would’ve been expecting at least a 47.0 anchor. Instead, they went with the senior Katherine Raatz on the last leg. And Raatz had no problem bringing them home on the anchor – even against names like Vanderpool-Wallace and Geer reading on caps as she looked down the pool.
4. Caitlin Leverenz, Jr., Cal, 200 IM
1:51.77 – NCAA/American/U.S. Open
NCAA/American/U.S. Open – Julia Smit, Stanford, 1:52.31, 2010 Pac-12 Championships
This is yet another race where multiple swimmers cleared the records. With only 50 yards to close after Leverenz’s big breaststroke, however, Katinka Hosszu just ran out of room. By about one stroke at that, as she was .03 behind. Leverenz broke this record by better than half-a-second.
5. Stephanie Peacock, So., North Carolina, 1650 Free
15:38.79 – NCAA
American – Janet Evans, Stanford, 15:39.14, 1990 NCAA Championships
Most NCAA records have gone down several times in the last 22-years. Most NCAA Records from 1990 have been bested 30 or 40 times since then. But not this one. Showing how far ahead of her time she once was, Evans’ record lasted for a long time, until Peacock broke it this year. Other reasons why this record is so impressive – this was only about the 6th time in her life that she had swum this race. She didn’t even try this race as a freshman. In the 5th swim of her life, she surpassed the NCAA “A” standard. On number 6, she broke the NCAA Record and beat a three-time champion in Wendy Trott. Her inexperience showed in this race – her pacing was a bit unusual for a time this fast, but she forced Trott to go with her. Again, Trott was also under this record. (In fairness, Katie Hoff and Kate Ziegler probably would have lowered this mark a few times since then, had both not surpassed college).
6. Megan Romano, Jr., Georgia, 200 Free
1:41.21 – NCAA, American, U.S. Open
NCAA/American/U.S. Open – Dana Vollmer, Cal, 1:41.53, 2009 Pac-12 Championships (relay leadoff)
This was the broken record that came out of absolutely nowhere. Until Romano split a 46.0 on a relay anchor on the first day of the meet, I don’t think anybody saw this record going down on the second day of the meet. With this swim, Romano has to make herself a serious contender for the US Olympic Team (in the words of her coach Jack Bauer, the United States NEEDS a Megan Romano on the Olympic Team). What’s going to be really fun next year is when Allison Schmitt comes back, and those two are both training together and competing. 1:40’s are within view.
7. Cal, 200 Medley Relay – Cindy Tran, Caitlin Leverenz, Colleen Fotsch, Liv Jensen
1:34.24 – NCAA/American/U.S. Open
NCAA/American/U.S. Open – Cal, 1:35.03, 2011 NCAA Championships
This is an identical quartet to the one that broke this record last season, so it’s really no wonder that they nabbed it again. Tran really got them on their way with a 23.44 leadoff backstroke leg, which is almost the fastest we’ve ever seen (and may be the fastest we’ll see for quite some time, unless she improves upon it next year).
8. Stanford, 400 Free Relay – Sam Woodward, Maddie Schaeffer, Andie Murez, and Betsy Webb
3:10.77 – American
American – Georgia, 3:11.03, 2011 NCAA Championships
Like a broken record, this broken record went down for the 2nd year in a row. There was no huge superstar anchor for the Cardinal, but after a bit of a shift in the lineup after prelims, this Stanford relay became extremely veteran (two juniors, one senior) with just enough youthful enthusiasm from the freshman Schaeffer, and four solid splits took them to a new American Record.
9. Caitlin Leverenz, So., Cal, 400 IM
3:57.89 – American
American – Julia Smit, Stanford, 3:58.23, 2010 Pac 12 Championships
If Leverenz had been the winner of this race with this time, this probably would have been much higher on the list, because of how impressive the swim, and her improvement this season, has been. As it was, she was bested by the Hungarian Hosszu. But Leverenz will be back again next year, and she could gun down this U.S. Open Record as well. But first, she’s got some big-time Olympic experience to gain.
There were also a few near-misses. Let’s recognize them quickly as well.
Caitlin Leverenz, Cal, 200 Breast – Leverenz touched in 2:04.76 to win this 200 breaststroke. That’s literally as close as you can get to a record without at least matching it, as Rebecca Soni’s mark currently stands .01 faster. Suffice it to say, Leverenz will let her fingernails grow out that much more before next year’s meet.
Cindy Tran, Cal, 100 Back – Cindy Tran’s 50.31 was the second-fastest 100 yard backstroke in history, and the best since another former Cal Bear – Natalie Coughlin. Tran might also have the best underwaters we’ve seen since Coughlin, so it’s appropriate. The mark still stands at 49.97.