Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month: Paige Madden, Virginia

Ultra Swim Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer who has proven themselves over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishments slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.

First off: the women’s NCAA Championships featured a number of mind-boggling performances – and most of those record-breaking swims have been covered in depth on our Women’s NCAA Championships channel. We’ve all read about Beata Nelson going 3-for-3 and winning the CSCAA Swimmer of the Year award. And let’s be honest: Nelson was the best swimmer at NCAAs. But in lieu of another story rehashing the same stats about Nelson, Abbey Weitzeil, Louise Hansson, Lilly King, Mallory Comerford or another record-breaker, we’re choosing to use our monthly awards series (Swimmer and Coach of the Month) to highlight some under-the-radar performances from the women’s NCAA meet.

With that out of the way, allow us to introduce Paige Madden.

Madden’s Virginia team was perhaps the biggest over-performers of the women’s NCAA meet. Psych sheet scoring had the Cavaliers 12th in swimming points with no likely dive scorers. We projected them 11th as a team in our Power Rankings. And we’ll be the first to admit that we undersold the Cavs. Hard. They went +41 in swimming points from their psych sheet projections – and a whopping 35 of those 41 points gained came from Madden herself.

Paige Madden: Improvement From NCAA Seeds

Event Pre-Meet Seed Actual Finish Point Change
500 free 16th 2nd +16
200 free 15th 5th +12
200 back 17th 10th +7

And those improvements came with big time drops – none more impressive than a nearly-six-second drop in her 500 free to move from the 16th seed to the national runner-up:

Paige Madden: Time Improvement Over Sophomore Season

Event Pre-Season Best Time Best Time After ACCs Time At NCAAs
500 free 4:39.77 4:38.13 4:32.98
200 free 1:44.00 1:43.96 1:43.03
200 back 1:51.81 1:51.81 1:51.36

Madden also took a big step forward from a key development perspective: after a freshman season in which she impressed at ACCs but gained significant time at NCAAs, Madden reversed the trend this year, going lifetime-bests at ACCs and then further improving those times at nationals:

2018 ACCs to NCAAs

Lifetime-bests noted in bold

Event 2018 ACCs 2018 NCAAs Change
500 free 4:39.77 4:45.32 +5.55
200 free 1:44.00 1:45.45 +1.45
200 back 1:51.81 1:52.28 +0.47

2019 ACCs to NCAAs

Lifetime-bests noted in bold

Event 2019 ACCs 2019 NCAAs Change
500 free 4:38.13 4:32.98 -5.15
200 free 1:43.96 1:43.03 -0.93
200 back 1:52.76 1:51.36 -1.40

We were even warned that this was coming: one of the more notable wins from our comment section predictors was that we were under-projecting Madden in our official picks. Were we ever. While last year’s data suggested an NCAA explosion was unlikely, Madden reversed the trend dramatically. With two more NCAA seasons remaining, Madden is one of many reasons for UVA fans to be very, very excited with the state of their program.


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Virginia Sports (Jeff White) profile of Paige from just before the meet – she is much more than a great swimmer!



Do we have any stats on how we did picking her placing in the pickem and how she actually placed? Did anyone predict her second place in the 500?



About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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