Welcome to the 12th edition of The Week That Was in College Swimming, where every week we take a look at some of the highlights from around the NCAA in all three divisions.
The headline swimmers of the last week have to be the Virginia women. At this point, it should hardly be surprising when they throw down jaw-dropping times, but here we are. At their dual versus in-state rival Virginia Tech, Kate Douglass threw down a 1:52.07 200 IM, taking over the top time in the nation from Torri Huske by 1.3 seconds. It was Douglass’ first time swimming the event since November 2021, and reopens the conversation about what her NCAA event lineup should be.
Her teammate Gretchen Walsh was also impressive, ripping a 1:51.42 in the 200 backstroke, an “off” event for her. It’s a best time by over three seconds, stands up as sixth-fastest in the country this year, and is just .27 seconds off what it took to qualify for the ‘A’ final at 2022 NCAAs.
In addition to these swims, the Cavalier women posted a number of other PBs at the meet, showing that whenever they step up to the blocks, they’re capable of making something special happen.
But aside from the continued brilliance of the back-to-back NCAA champions, what else happened in the NCAA this week?
Big Matchups Didn’t Disappoint
In Alabama, the Crimson Tide took on Texas and Ohio State. Indiana faced off against Big 10 foe Michigan. Navy played host to Notre Dame and Princeton. The University of Chicago took on Division I opponents University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. All across the country, there were some serious matchups this weekend, and they were all exciting.
We’ll start down south, where the Ohio State men put together a complete team performance to defeat Texas 189-164, handing the Longhorns their first dual meet loss since 2019. They won lots of close battles, like Charlie Clark getting the better of David Johnston in the 1000 free and Thomas Watkins holding off Carson Foster in the 200 back. Highlighting the Buckeyes performance was their relay dominance, as they won all four relays contested over the two day affair. Individually, Australian sophomore Alex Quach shone: he factored on four winning relays, won his three individual events, and posted a personal best in the 50 free (19.78) leading off the 200 free relay.
In another example of a complete team performance, Indiana dominated their dual against Michigan as the women’s and men’s teams each won all but two events. The Peplowksi sisters drove the victory on the women’s side, each winning three individual events. But the fact that both sides only lost two events shows how every Hoosier contributed something to the wins. On the scoreboard, this was reflected by the fact neither the Michigan men or women cracked 100 points.
In a rare Division I versus Division III match-up, it was the Division III team, the University of Chicago, that earned the win, sweeping University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Both the Maroon men and women won 11 out of 16 events and broke a school record. Garret Clasen and Annabel Olivio both broke the 100 IM school records, with Clasen clocking 50.47 and Olivio swimming 59.34. With these wins, the University of Chicago is still undefeated this season, boasting a 5-0 record.
Supporting Players Step Up for Notre Dame and Princeton
There were several big takeaways from the meet in Annapolis, which saw Navy take on Notre Dame and Princeton. First, Jack Hoagland is continuing to round into form. He won the three events he swam: the 500 free (4:16.78), 1650 free (14:55.28), and 400 IM (3:43.06). It’s his times in the latter two that are particularly of note, as they are season bests. His times at this meet better the 14:58.23 and 3:43.52 he swam at the Ohio State Invite in November. He’s not yet close to his personal bests or his ACC Swimmer of the Year form, but his continued improvement is a welcome sign for the Fighting Irish.
Another key thing to take away from this meet is that other names aside from the usual suspects on the Notre Dame and Princeton rosters are beginning to step up. Both teams are known for their one or two big names: Hoagland for Notre Dame, Nikki Venema and Raunak Khosla for Princeton. But it wasn’t just those names posting big swims this weekend which is important for both teams as they head towards the post-season.
After coming .04 seconds from his 100-meter backstroke lifetime best at the U.S. Open, Fighting Irish freshman Tommy Janton didn’t miss here. He posted 46.50, taking a quarter of a second off his previous best from March 2022. Janton (21.51 back) also combined with Sean Faikish (24.76 breast), Cason Wilburn (20.69 fly), and Chris Giuliano (18.84 free) to win the 200 medley relay in 1:25.80. It’s their fastest 200 medley relay of the season. Janton was faster than the backstroke split from 2022 ACCs, and Wilburn was right on his fly split, which gets you thinking about what this squad could bring to that event at this year’s meet.
For the Princeton women, it’s been Venema who’s led the way for the team that past couple seasons. That’s still true this year, but the Tigers are beginning to expand their depth, highlighted by breaststroke/IMer freshman Eliza Brown swimming lifetime bests in the 100 (1:01.77) and 200 (2:11.91) breaststroke. That 200 breaststroke time would’ve won Ivies last year, and her 100 breast time would’ve put her third. Together, she and junior Margaux McDonald form a powerful 1-2 for the Tigers. Only 14.7 points separated first through fourth at Women’s Ivies last year, and Brown could swing the meet in favor of the Tigers.
Into the Numbers of NCAA Relay Qualification
Last week, we released articles on the post-invite status of NCAA relay qualification for men and women. Relay qualification is an important way to analyze the success of a program for all schools, especially for those who don’t necessarily project to score points at NCAAs. That’s because it shows that schools aren’t relying on one big name for their success; there are multiple swimmers contributing.
For individual schools, their relay qualification status may look different than it did at this time last year, but overall, things are about on par with where they were last season. Let’s take a look.
Total NCAA ‘A’ and ‘B’ Cuts Post-Midseason Invite, 2021-22 vs. 2022-23
|Relay||21-22 ‘A’ Cuts||21-22 ‘B’ Cuts||22-23 ‘A’ Cuts||22-23 ‘B’ Cuts||Total|
As you can see, the number of ‘A’ cuts is just one off where it was last year, and the ‘B’ cuts have soared, with nine additional teams hitting a ‘B’ cut. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything in terms of qualifying relays for NCAAs (as those teams would also need an ‘A’ cut to swim) but it’s worth noting, especially because the 200 and 800 free relay cuts stayed the same across the two seasons. Teams have taken advantage, as three more teams have swum a ‘B’ cut in the 200 free relay this year than last.
Total NCAA ‘A’ and ‘B’ Cuts Post-Midseason Invite, 2021-22 vs. 2022-23
|Relay||21-22′ A’ Cuts||21-22 ‘B’ Cuts||22-23 ‘A’ Cuts||22-23 ‘B’ Cuts||Total|
While the women’s ‘A’ cuts are down one from last year, the men are up four from this time last season. That’s notable because it happened even with Harvard totally falling out the qualification picture. Last year, they’d hit two ‘A’ cuts and one ‘B’. This year, they haven’t swum any, which means that there are other teams stepping up to fill and still have a net gain.
It’s also worth paying attention to the fact that despite the 400 free relay cut times speeding up, a whopping 16 teams have hit that ‘A’ cut (2:50.52) compared to the eight that swam faster than 2:50.99 last season.