The Most & Least Likely Records to Fall at the 2022 Women’s NCAA Championships


The NCAA Championships are exhilarating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the records that get broken.

While most NCAA & U.S. Open Records are also American Records, not all NCAA & U.S. Open Records are owned by American swimmers. For example, Maggie MacNeil of the University of Michigan owns the NCAA and U.S. Open Records in the 100 yard butterfly, while the American Record belongs to high school senior Claire Curzan, who will be attending Stanford beginning fall of 2022. MacNeil is the most likely competitor to break her own record, though the American Record is likely to be challenged by Stanford freshman Torri Huske, who is the American Record holder in long course meters (55.66).

46.1% of readers expect 3-4 records to be broken at the upcoming women’s 2022 NCAA Division I Championships, meanwhile 41.2% expect 5 or more records to be broken, while 10.9% expect 1-2 records to be broken, and a pessimistic 1.8% expect 0 records to be broken.

Most Vulnerable

These are records that have either recently been broken or feature the current record holder. In most cases, a simple lifetime best will amount to a new record.

400 Medley Relay, 3:22.34, Virginia (G. Walsh, Wenger, A. Walsh, Douglass) (2022)

The University of Virginia foursome of Gretchen Walsh, Alexis Wenger,Alex Walsh, and Kate Douglass destroyed the NCAA, U.S. Open, and American Records at the 2022 ACC Championships, taking an incredible 2.25 seconds off the mark set by NC State at the 2021 NCAA Championships. The Cavalier women will both seek to defend their top seed as well as lower their month-old trio of records in the 4 x 100 medley relay. This team is full of potential top-3 individual event finishers and, most notably, more than 2 seconds faster than the second-fastest time in history.

200 Medley Relay, 1:31.81, Virginia (G. Walsh, Wenger, Cuomo, Douglass) (2022)

The Cavalier foursome of Kate Douglass, Alex Walsh, Alexa Cuomo, and Gretchen Walsh smashed the NCAA, U.S. Open, and American records in this relay by 1.3 seconds at the 2022 ACC Championships in the same pool they will be racing in this week. Not only did the Cavalier women destroy their own previous record, set at the 2021 ACC Championships, but Gretchen Walsh blasted a 22.82 on the backstroke to become the first-ever woman under 22 seconds in the 50 yard backstroke.

200 Freestyle Relay, 1:24.47, Virginia (Douglass, A. Walsh, Cuomo, G. Walsh) (2022)

The 200 freestyle relay is another NCAA, U.S. Open, and American Record downed by the UVA women at February’s ACC Championships. Even though the Cavalier women only snuck under the previous record by 0.08, there’s no doubt they’re on fire this season, so this is yet another relay record to watch for.

100 Butterfly, 48.89, Maggie MacNeil, Michigan (2021)

Tokyo Olympic gold medalist and reigning NCAA Champion Maggie MacNeil returns to defend her title in the 100 butterfly. Even though it is likely to be a close race between MacNeil, Stanford’s Torri Huske, and Virginia’s Kate Douglass, this seems like MacNeil’s race to loose. However, if MacNeil is out-touched, it will almost certainly require a new record to get the better of her.

100 Backstroke, 49.18, Beata Nelson, Wisconsin (2019)

American Record holder and former LCM World Record holder Regan Smith enters the meet with a nation-leading 49.23. NC State’s Katharine Berkoff is not far off with a 49.41, while UVA’s Gretchen Walsh comes in with a 49.71. Smith’s American Record is a 49.16, just 0.02 ahead of Nelson’s 2019 mark. A best time from Smith guarantees a new trio of records, though Berkoff, Walsh, and Alabama’s Rhyan White are likely to make things interesting.

200 Backstroke, 1:47.24, Beata Nelson, Wisconsin (2019)

Similar to the 100 backstroke, Stanford freshman Regan Smith is the American Record holder with a 1:47.16. Smith is also the top seed with a 1:48.91, though she takes this event on the same day as the 200 butterfly and potentially the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. A best time will automatically result in a new trio of records, and since it comes before the 200 fly she should be (relatively) fresh for her best event. Smith is, after all, the World Record holder and 2019 LCM world champion in the 200 LCM backstroke (2:03.35).

50 Freestyle, 20.90, Abbey Weitzeil, Cal-Berkeley (2019)

Virginia’s Kate Douglass became the 2nd-fastest performer in history in the 50 freestyle with a 21.00 at the 2022 ACC Championships, with teammate Gretchen Walsh blasting a 21.04 to become the 5th-fastest performer all-time. Furthermore, Walsh anchored UVA’s 200 freestyle relay in a blistering 20.53. Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil enters the meet with a 21.32, and after breaking her first World Record in the 50 backstroke in December at the 2021 FINA World Championships (25m), who knows what she could throw down in the 50 free. This race will likely be a battle largely between Douglass and Walsh, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either or both of them hit 21.8 or faster.

In Danger, But Not ‘Sure Things’

These are events that feature individuals or relay teams that have come close to the records in their events, but have not hit them yet. Other things considered are the event schedules of the swimmers with the best chances of breaking certain records.

200 IM, 1:50.67, Ella Eastin, Stanford (2018)

UVA’s Alex Walsh, the Olympic silver medalist in the 200 IM, could make a run at Eastin’s 2018 record, though her current lifetime best remains nearly a second off of Eastin’s mark. Seeing Walsh and even Stanford’s Torri Huske dip into the low-1:51s seems possible, if not probable, and a 1:50 from Walsh could be in the cards, but the chances of seeing a new 200 IM record seem fairly low this season.

200 Butterfly, 1:49.51, Ella Eastin, Stanford (2018)

If it weren’t for the 200 backstroke/200 butterfly double, Regan Smith would almost certainly take this record down. Her current lifetime best sits at a 1:49.78, and she won the Olympic silver medal in the 200 butterfly this past summer. However, the 200 fly is the final individual event of the entire competition, and she will have to swim it twice in the same day–as well as two 200 backstrokes, and likely one or two 100 freestyles as part of Stanford’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Saturday is going to be a big day for Smith.

200 Breaststroke, 2:02.60, Lilly King, Indiana (2018)

With an exciting dual mounting between Virginia’s Kate Douglass and defending champion Sophie Hansson from NC State, Lilly King‘s 2:02.60 could be broken. Douglass is the top seed with a 2:03.14 while Hansson is the second seed with a 2:03.75. The 200 breaststroke has always been a great event for Douglass, though we’ve never seen her do it at a major championships. Now that the pressure to perform and more importantly, rake in major team points, is on, it will be very interesting to see what she is capable of doing in this event fully rested. Hansson, for her part, is an excellent racer, so the two of them together will likely make for one of the most exciting races of the 2022 Women’s NCAA Championships. Could they both dip under King’s mark? Seems like a stretch, but this is NCAAs! 2:02 is definitely in the cards, though.

400 Freestyle Relay, 3:06.96, Cal (Ivey, McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil) (2019)

This relay mark is not necessarily untouchable for the University of Virginia women, but it will take a stretch this season. Kate Douglass (47.02), Alex Walsh (46.72), Reilly Tiltmann (48.13), and Gretchen Walsh (46.35) posted a nation-leading 3:08.22 at the 2022 ACC Championships, shattering the former ACC Conference Record. Even so, the Cavaliers remain 1.28 seconds off the 2019 record set by the Cal Bears. Douglass has a personal best flat-start time of 46.30, so if she comes close to that, and if Tiltmann can dip under 48 seconds, UVA will have a good chance at this record.

The Nigh-Untouchable Records

These are the records that have stood the test of time, or at least, were established by the titans of the sport–Olympic gold medalists and World Record holders set these marks. Furthermore, no other swimmer yet this season has come close to touching these times.

1650 Freestyle, 15:03.31, Katie Ledecky, Stanford (2017)

No one. Is. Touching. This. Record.

For perspective, the #1 seed going into the meet, Tennessee’s Kristen Stege, sits at a 15:42.37, though University of Texas freshman Erica Sullivan boasts a lifetime best of 15:23.81 from 2019. Sullivan is the 2020 Olympic silver medalist in the women’s 1500 free behind Ledecky, and should be the favorite to win the 1650 at NCAAs this week, but Ledecky’s record should remain safe.

500 Freestyle, 4:24.06, Katie Ledecky, Stanford (2017)

Ledecky is practically synonymous with distance freestyle, and her impact on the sport can be seen on the record books. The 500 freestyle record, though perhaps not quite as impressive as her 1650 freestyle record, looks like it will continue elude competitors for some years to come.

200 Freestyle, 1:39.10, Missy Franklin, Cal-Berkeley (2014)

Not even the likes of Katie Ledecky or Mallory Comerford could scare this record, and with the absence of even a single 1:40 this season, Franklin’s record looks safe for another year.

400 IM, 3:54.60, Ella Eastin, Stanford (2018)

This is a record that Virginia’s Alex Walsh and Emma Weyant should set their sights on, but it does not look attainable this year. When Ella Eastin set the mark in 2018, she took an entire 2 seconds off of Ledecky’s month-old record and no one has come close to even cracking 3:56.

100 Freestyle, 45.56, Simone Manuel, Stanford (2017)

Virginia duo Gretchen Walsh and Kate Douglass are nearing the 45-second barrier, but it would take a truly out of this world swim for either of them to crack Manuel’s 5-year-old mark. Walsh and Douglass are the top two contenders to take this record down over the next couple of seasons, but this year, 45.5 still looks untouchable.

100 Breaststroke, 55.73, Lilly King, Indiana (2019)

No one else has come close to matching Lilly King‘s speed in the 100 breaststroke. Not only is she the only woman ever under 56-seconds in the race, she is the fastest of all time by 0.91 (Molly Hannis is the 2nd-fastest ever at 56.64, but she too is no longer swimming in the NCAA). NC State’s Sophie Hansson and Virginia’s Alexis Wenger have been 56.72 and 56.76, respectively, this season, also their best times, but those performances are still a long ways off from King’s mark.

800 Freestyle Relay, 6:45.91, Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky) (2017)

Stanford leads the way in this event this season, yet the foursome of Torri Huske, Taylor Ruck, Regan Smith, and Brooke Forde still sit 4.3 seconds off the mark established by the Cardinal in 2017. Though Huske, Ruck, Smith, and Forde are a good bet to win the NCAA relay title here, they have a ways to go before they can close in on their own program record. After all, the slowest split on that 2017 relay was a 1:42.15 by Neal. Needless to say, this record could stand for a while. The University of Virginia posted a very quick 6:53.37 to take down the ACC Conference Record in February, though they are at best the favorites for silver with the NCAA, U.S. Open, and American Records currently far out of their sights.

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2 years ago

Kate Souglass, McNeil will be individual record holders. R Smith as well.

Old Swimmer
2 years ago

Unless I missed something, Lilly King’s 100 breaststroke record is not mentioned here. What are the chances of that going down? I am going to make a bold prediction here (yes, it is crazy) but I think most of the NCAA and/or American records will get broken. The only ones that won’t will be the 200,500 and 1650 free. There is a small possibility that the 100 breast, 400 IM and 800 free relay could get broken.

Reply to  Old Swimmer
2 years ago

I don’t see Ella Eastin’s 400 IM record going anywhere for awhile. I think Forde is the only one who has been under 4 min but that would still require like a 4 second drop for her.

2 years ago

It’ll be interesting to see what Sullivan can put up in the 1650.. she’s ranked 9th so won’t be swimming at night

Reply to  CanSwim13
2 years ago

She strikes me as being much better in LC than SC, so I don’t think she’ll win let alone get close to the record. Maybe later in her college career, but again she graduated HS in 2018 so I have no idea how many years of eligibility she has.

Team Regan
Reply to  HJones
2 years ago

She’s been 15:23 back in 2019, but that’s when she was training with SAND so idk what she’s gonna be capable of now. I don’t think she’s gonna make the worlds team in the 1500 Free this year just because of how fast Katie Grimes has been going lately, and her success in distance Swimming. Sullivan is a huge name that I expect to be on USA teams in open water for years to come

2 years ago

Just to be fair to poll participants (of which I was one), it was for BOTH women’s and men’s NCAAs, not just for the women’s meet.
I think 4-5 or so will be broken in the womens meet, but if you include the Men’s, it’s a very easy over for me.

Reply to  Greg
2 years ago

the poll was about indiv records only so quite a difference. what indiv records should be broken at the men’s side?

Last edited 2 years ago by Anonymoose
2 years ago

can Ledecky go to a sectionals and break 15 minutes?

Bo Swims
Reply to  NB1
2 years ago

Better off breaking 15 minutes in SCM at a meet offering $$$$$

2 years ago

My predictions
50 Free
1. **Kate Douglass 20.71 *AR, *US
2. **Gretchen Walsh 20.96
3. **Maggie MacNeil 21.02

100 Free
1. **Gretchen Walsh 46.45
2. **Torri Huske 46.61
3. **Maggie MacNeil 46.89

200 Free
1. **Isabelle Ivey 1:42.07
3. **Lia Thomas 1:42.38
4. **Taylor Ruck 1:42.51

500 Free
1. **Lia Thomas 4:31.77
2. **Brooke Forde 4:32.07
3. **Emma Weyant 4:35.14

1650 Free
1. **Liberty Williams 15:35.85
2. **Kristen Stege 15:37.75
3. **Erica Sullivan 15:41.04

100 Back
1. **Regan Smith 49.07 *AR, *US
2. **Katharine Berkoff 49.26
… Read more »

Reply to  Melanie
2 years ago

I don’t think Maggie will be so far off of her 100 Free event-winning 46.0 last year. Interesting that she didn’t get a mention in the main article as a candidate to break 46.

Reply to  Jackman
2 years ago

UVA hype mania. Nobody else has a shot at winning over them. Even the people that beat them last year and are faster and are gold medalists

Reply to  SEC
2 years ago

Yeah there is no way Maggie is coming in third in two events! People forget about her because she’s not part of the UVA media takeover train.

Reply to  SEC
2 years ago

Also Ella Nelson over Sophie Hansson? No way. Hansson has a legit shot at winning it.

Reply to  Hmm
2 years ago

I used a taper calculator so these could be off

Last edited 2 years ago by Melanie
Reply to  SEC
2 years ago

Also the article mentioning Weyant as a candidate to break Eastin’s record is a huge stretch.

Last edited 2 years ago by SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  Jackman
2 years ago

Yea, I feel like there will be a few swimmers much closer to Simone’s record than this article gives credit. Would not be surprised to see at least one swimmer under 46.

Reply to  Melanie
2 years ago

Stadden over White in the 2back? No way

Reply to  Melanie
2 years ago

i like douglass here but no way she’s going a 20.7. 20.89 seems reasonable.

Justin Pollard
2 years ago

Possible correction -> your 400 free relay section states this as the record:

The school is Stanford, but the names appear to be from Cal.

Reply to  Justin Pollard
2 years ago

That’s because its Cal’s record. Not Stanford’s, so that part needs to be fixed.

Joel Lin
2 years ago

The Georgia Tech pool is definitely venue the athletes get excited to compete in.

My boldest prediction is 4 under 21.00 in the 50 free: in no particular order MM, Douglass, Walsh & Berkoff. Other predictions:

Most intriguing player at the meet: Berkoff. Her 100 back could get the better of this loaded field & her sprint free performances have been sublime this season.

Sentimental favorite: it is Izzy Ivey’s last NCAA meet & she will hopefully have a great meet.

Upset alert: Alexis Wenger has been juuuuussst a touch away so many times now versus Hansson in the 100 breast. This time Alexis gets there & grabs that elusive NCAA individual title.

Breakout performance of the meet: Kelly Pash… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Joel Lin
Reply to  Joel Lin
2 years ago

Or wenger finally gets dqd

Reply to  Swimfan
2 years ago

Yeah, we get it. You bring it up on every article. Can you stop trolling now? Alexis Wenger triggers you in a big way, maybe stop letting a 22 year old occupy so much emotional space in your brain. She has one more meet and then you’ll have to find something new to talk about.

Reply to  Swimfan
2 years ago

Yikes, you’re obsessed with this young lady. It’s weird.

Mr. Pancake
Reply to  Swimfan
2 years ago

You’re actually a freak. Go do something remotely productive with your time.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six with the Clay Center Tiger Sharks, a summer league team. At age 14 he began swimming club year-round with the Manhattan Marlins (Manhattan, KS), which took some convincing from his mother as he was very …

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