Well, it’s that time of year again.
Followers of sports like baseball or football will be familiar with writers from major sports publications making their preseason predictions about Most Valuable Players, World Series or Super Bowl champions, and the like. We know swimming fans enjoy making their predictions about upcoming events, or even whole seasons, just as much as any other fans out there, so we decided to share own predictions about the upcoming NCAA season with our readers.
We’re not quite still in the college swimming preseason as some teams have started competition, but even some of the major Division I squads haven’t yet had their first official meet, so we figured it’s still early enough to call these “preseason” picks.
We polled our staff, did our research, and came up with our six-months-out best guesses as to who would be standing atop the awards podium for each event at the 2019 NCAA Division I championships, and without any further ado, below are our choices by writer:
- Stanford dominated last year, winning all five relays. They’ve lost a lot of relay legs due to graduation and/or swimmers during pro, but they’ve reloaded enough they’re our unanimous pick to win the 800 free relay again, as well as our consensus picks in the 400 medley and 400 free relays, although Cal should be dangerous in both.
- Kathleen Baker turning pro a year early also hurts the Bears a bit, but we think they return enough to still have the advantage over Stanford in both of the 200-distance relays.
- Ella Eastin may have had a rough past two summers, but she’s been utterly consistent during the NCAA season, and she got a possible 27 out of 27 votes to win her three signature events – the 200 IM, the 400 IM, and the 200 fly – this year for Stanford.
- Lilly King is pretty much a no-brainer here, and the Indiana senior was our unanimous pick to sweep the breaststrokes and go for 8-8 in her NCAA career.
- We’re not entirely sure what Taylor Ruck is going to swim for Stanford, and she could very well be a threat in the 200 free, but for now, we’re expecting to see Louisville’s Mallory Comerford win the 200 free for the second time outright after tying as a sophomore.
- Louise Hansson of USC is our favorite to repeat in the 100 fly after going 49.80 last year, but Tennessee sprint star Erika Brown got a few votes too.
- Despite losing Katie Ledecky to a pro career, Stanford may very well still claim the 500 free title, as junior Katie Drabot claimed seven of our nine votes. Others to watch for include Arizona’s Kirsten Jacobsen, who finished just a couple tenths behind Drabot last year, and Texas’s Evie Pfeifer, the only other returner from last year’s A-final.
- Just as Ledecky’s departure opens up the distance events, the absence Simone Manuel means we’ll be crowning a new champion in the sprint free events. Most of our writers feel that Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil will take the 50 free, an event where she is the American Record holder, although Brown and Ruck got votes as well. Comerford finished about a half second ahead of Weitzeil last year in the 100 free, and the Louisville senior got most of our votes for that event, although we again need to point out we don’t know what Ruck is going to swim, and this is a possible event for her.
- For the most part, we do think that Ruck will end up swimming the 200 back and win that. If Ruck doesn’t, though, watch out for Kentucky’s Asia Seidt.
- Beata Nelson has a new coach at Wisconsin, but we don’t think she’ll miss a beat, as she was our unanimous choice to win the 100 back now that Baker has turned pro.
- Penn State’s Ally McHugh finished 2nd last year in the 1650, and then had a great summer, so she’s the favorite at the moment in that event, although Erica Sullivan could make some noise in her freshman campaign at USC.