Welcome back to The Week That Was In College Swimming, where every week we’ll take a look at some of the highlights from around the NCAA in all three divisions.
We took a week off for Thanksgiving, but we’re back now. It was a busy week, as swimmers were racing at a variety of competitions from midseason invites, to rivalry dual meets, to the U.S. Open. It’s all NCAA here, so if you want to check in on how the college stars did in Greensboro, check out our daily live recaps. Otherwise, stick around and let’s close out midseason invite season.
Fights to The Finish
Denison Men Come From Behind, Beat Emory By 4.5 Points To Win Big Red Invite
Heading into the last finals session of the Big Red Invite, the Denison men trailed Emory by 7.5 points. Their milers put on a show, finishing 3rd, 5th, and 8th courtesy of Lucas Conrads, Tyler Distenfeld, and Sam Myaard. They surrendered the lead after the 100 freestyle, but got it back in the final individual event of the night, the 200 butterfly. There, Richie Kurlich finished second in 1:47.42, while his teammates Eric Chimes and Max Soja finished third and sixth. That was enough to take over the lead again, and they did what they needed to do in the 400 free relay, finishing sixth to secure the win.
There was plenty of good that came out of the meet for the defending national champions Emory, though. They swept all five relays, and they’re insane depth was on display. The best example of that is the breaststrokes. The Eagles put four men into the ‘A’ final of the 100 breast, including 1st place fifth-year Jason Hamilton (53.63) and 2nd place junior Jake Meyer (53.70). In the 200 breast, they had five men up, with Hamilton and Meyer going 1-2 again. Their times of 1:54.74 and 1:56.19 make them the #3 and #4 fastest Division III swimmers since 2000, respectively.
It was a similar story of depth in the 200 backstroke, where they put four men into the ‘A’ final. Not only did they make up half the final but in prelims, freshman Sven Becker broke Emory’s program record with a 1:45.34 and he was one of three Eagles under the old record of 1:46.57.
We have to keep this in context: Denison was the only men’s team that entered divers in the meet. That was a 306-point benefit for the Big Red. Emory are still the favorites to defend as NCAA Champions, but this is a big confidence-booster for the home team, and it was an exciting finish none-the-less.
Army Men Beat Navy For The 1st Time in 32 Years
In their annual rivalry meet this weekend, the Black Knights snapped a 32 year losing to the Midshipmen, winning 189-111. Army swept the freestyle events, highlighted by sophomore Owen Harlow‘s huge performance. First, Harlow popped 19.43 in the 50 freestyle, lowering his own Academy record of 19.67 that he swam at 2022 Patriot League Championships. He followed that up with a Patriot League record in the 100 freestyle, blasting 43.07. The previous mark had stood at 43.61 since 2012, swum by Navy’s Zach Ingold.
He finished up his meet by splitting 42.97 on the 400 free relay–the only sub-43 split in the field–to help Army edge out Navy in the final relay of the meet by .04 seconds. The Army quartet of Tanner Falls (43.90), Will Rankin (43.67), Harlow (42.97), and Jacob Powell (44.14) combined to swim 2:54.68, breaking the pool record and tying Navy’s Patriot League record from 2018.
The championship meet format means that it’s unlikely that Army will challenge Navy’s streak of conference championships, especially with the news that their breaststroke ace Evan Yoo has entered the transfer portal with the intent to transfer next semester. However, their win here certainly shows that there are plenty of races come February that are going to be a lot more competitive.
More Highlights from Midseasons Week 2
Kaiser Neverman, Minnesota: For years now, Minnesota has been known in our comments as Max McHugh University. It might be time to retire that nickname, as junior Kaiser Neverman exploded onto the scene during the Minnesota Invitational. He set three school records, including splitting 1:33.64–a whopping 4.7 seconds faster than his lifetime best 200 free–on Minnesota’s record-breaking 800 freestyle relay to open the meet.
His other two records were individuals: the 200 IM and 200 fly. In the 200 IM, he dropped 2.2 seconds over the course of the day. In finals, he split 24.83 on the free leg to get under the school record from 2016 and finish third behind NCAA stars Destin Lasco and Jake Foster. He clocked 1:42.96 in the 200 fly, again finishing third. His swim broke the program record by .41 seconds, and was a lifetime best by 1.6 seconds. His times in both these events, along with the 100 fly (where he registered another personal best) are within striking distance of what it took to qualify for 2022 NCAAs.
Kelly Pash, Texas: Pash put her versatility on display at the Minnesota Invitational. She posted three lifetime bests: the 100 free (47.35), 100 fly (51.01) and 200 fly (1:51.96). It’s the 1:51.96 200 fly that’s most exciting, as it’s the only one of those three events that she races individually. The swim marked her first time under 1:52, a promising sign for last year’s fifth-place finisher. It also puts her at the top of the NCAA this season. She ranks top three in the country in four events: the 100 free, 200 free, 200 fly, and 200 IM. On top of all that, she sits 7th in the 100 fly. Obviously, she can’t swim all these events at NCAAs, but her versatility makes her an incredible weapon for the Longhorns, as they can deploy her on almost every relay and she was a 3x ‘A’ finalist in 2022.
What Did We Learn From Midseason Invites?
Many other sports have “check-in” points throughout the season where you can gauge where athletes and teams are at. Midseason invites serve that purpose for swimming in some ways, but pretty quickly we start getting into the weeds about how tapered swimmers were, etcetera. This comes into play with the nations’ top teams, where swimmers have to worry less about NCAA cut times and more about making their team’s 18-athlete roster. Indeed, Bjorn Seeliger told SwimSwam that Cal “[wasn’t] really coming down for [the Minnesota Invite] a lot.”
So, where does that leave us? If you scroll down to the Division I top times chart, you’ll see that there were only six new marks added–two on the women’s side and four on the men’s. Most of the top teams in the NCAA raced before Thanksgiving, though so that makes sense. The Texas women performed well, reinforcing that there’s going to be a tooth-and-nail fight between them and Stanford for second place at NCAAs. The Stanford women currently hold seven top times in the NCAA, highlighted by Torri Huske‘s 3 individuals and 3 relays, so don’t expect them to go quietly.
On the men’s side, even factoring in that the Foster brothers and David Johnston left early and weren’t rested, Cal looks set to head into March as the favorites. Their fifth-years play a big role in that–Hugo Gonzalez returns, and Reece Whitley looked strong in Minnesota, which was one of our writers’ biggest takeaways from invite season. Outside of the race for the banner, one of the other teams that stood out were the ASU men. Leon Marchand did his thing as per usual, but they also showed depth across the board, even in some events that aren’t typically their specialty. Hubert Kos doesn’t have much time to negotiate the meters to yards transition, but if he can, he’ll be another big threat on a team that’s looking more and more dangerous.
Now that midseason invites are over, what have been your biggest takeaways?
Odds & Ends
- Izzy Ivey has made her plans known: she’s transferring from Cal and heading home to Florida. She’ll join the team for her graduate season in 2023-2024, but starts training with the pro group right away.
- NCAA DI transfers will now receive guaranteed scholarships, a move which is expected to make coaches much more selective about the transfers they accept.
DIVISION I TOP TIMES (THROUGH 12/4, DONE IN COMPETITION)
Note: New marks are in BOLD
|20.94, Gretchen Walsh, Virginia||50 Freestyle||18.27, Jordan Crooks, Tennessee|
|46.85, Torri Huske, Stanford||100 Freestyle||41.17, Jordan Crooks, Tennessee|
|1:43.11, Taylor Ruck, Stanford||200 Freestyle||1:31.89, Charlie Hawke, Alabama|
|4:38.34, Alex Walsh, Virginia||500 Freestyle||4:09.83, Jake Magahey, Georgia|
|15:57.08, Abby McCulloh, Georgia||1650 Freestyle||14:39.63, Victor Johansson, Alabama|
|50.12, Claire Curzan, Stanford||100 Backstroke||44.88, Destin Lasco, California|
|1:48.50, Claire Curzan, Stanford||200 Backstroke||1:38.84, Ian Grum, Georgia|
|56.94, Kaitlyn Dobler, USC||100 Breaststroke||51.14, Reid Mikuta, Auburn|
|2:01.87, Kate Douglass, Virginia||200 Breaststroke||1:50.28, Matt Fallon, Penn|
|49.25, Torri Huske, Stanford||100 Butterfly||44.79, Jordan Crooks, Tennessee|
|1:51.96, Kelly Pash, Texas||200 Butterfly||1:39.57, Léon Marchand, ASU|
|1:53.37, Torri Huske, Stanford||200 IM||1:39.28, Léon Marchand, ASU|
|4:03.61, Ella Nelson, Virginia||400 IM||3:33.65, Léon Marchand, ASU|
|1:25.90, Stanford (Huske, Ruck, Wheal, Curzan)||200 Free Relay||1:15.30, ASU (Dolan, House, Marchand, McCusker)|
|3:09.82, Stanford (Ruck, Nordmann, Curzan, Huske)||400 Free Relay||2:47.27, Tennessee (Caribe, Crooks, Kamman, Tarasenko)|
|6:56.45, Stanford (Huske, Curzan, Ruck, Wilson)||800 Free Relay||6:08.79, Texas (Hobson, Larson, Carrozza, Foster)|
|1:34.33, Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, Douglass, Parker)||200 Medley Relay||1:22.82, Florida (Chaney, Smith, Friese, Liendo)|
|3:25.96, Texas (Bray, Elendt, Sticklen, Pash)||400 Medley Relay||3:01.81, California (Lasco, Whitley, Rose, Seeliger)|