The UNLV Invite is being dominated on both sides by out-of-state teams, but the Rebels Dillon Virva put the biggest exclamation point on the day with two nation-leading 50 free times.
The Stanford men are dominating the meet, while on the women’s side, to no one’s surprise, the Cal Bears are rolling, with Missy Franklin winning 4 of the 5 events swum on day 1.
California started things off with a convincing win in the 200 free relay, going 1:29.97. The team of Kaylin Bing, Rachael Acker, Elizabeth Pelton and Missy Franklin won the race by three seconds, with Pelton and Franklin splitting 22.2 and 22.3 respectively. It sure looks like most of Cal’s studs are saving their big swims for Winter Nationals in a few weeks, but this was a solid swim nonetheless. The next five teams all came in within seven tenths – they were Arizona State (1:32.21), UCLA (1:32.32), UNLV (1:32.36), and Cal’s B and C teams (1:32.49, 1:32.97). Stud UCLA freshman Linnea Mack was an impressive 22.3 on her split.
Elizabeth Pelton showed off some of her versatility in a new event, winning the 500 free in 4:42.87. That’s a big improvement, considering she was 4:53 just a few weeks ago against Wisconsin. ASU’s Tristin Baxter rode with Pelton the whole way to put up a nice time of 4:43.88. That’s close to what she went at NCAAs last year, although she was faster at her mid-season taper meet. Cal’s Catherine Breed (12th at NCAAs in 2013) was third in 4:44.97.
Cal swept the top two spots in the 200 IM. Missy Franklin was a smooth 1:58.24 for the Golden Bears while junior Caroline Piehl was 2:00.18. She ran down UCLA’s Anna Senko (2:00.38) in the freestyle leg.
Franklin came right off the 200 IM to win the 50 free, going 22.55 in what was structured like a training double for the star freshman. Her Cal teammates followed her to a 1-2-3 finish, with Kaylin Bing and Rachel Acker going 22.63 and 23.13 respectively. Also notable was the race for 9th place – UCLA freshman Linnea Mack touched out Cal’s Elizabeth Pelton to win the B final. Mack was 22.87 and Pelton 22.94.
The Cal women completed the sweep of the day’s events by sweeping the top 4 spots the 400 medley relay. The team of Elizabeth Pelton, Marina Garcia Urzainqui, Celina Li, and Missy Franklin went 3:35.02 to win, and Cal’s B, C and even D relays got in before the rest of the field. Pelton’s 51.4 backstroke split was notable (that’s an NCAA “A” cut in the 100 back), as was Franklin’s 49.1 anchor leg in her third consecutive event of the night. In fact, Franklin swam 4 of the 5 events in the lineup tonight, winning all four.
UCLA was 3:42.18 to beat out ASU (3:42.80) on Linnea Mack’s freestyle leg.
UNLV took the opening relay at home with 3 of 4 swimmers going 19s and the last going 20.01. Dillon Virva led off in 19.53, only his third-best 50 of the day, but still faster than anyone else in the NCAA thus far. The Rebel relay team of Gui Passos, David Szele, and Tom Paco-Pedroni went 1:19.06. Stanford wasn’t too far behind at 1:19.81, including a fast 19.3 from David Nolan.
Stanford junior Drew Cosgarea was fast in the 500 free, breaking 4:20 for the first time this season. He went 4:19.63, which leads the NCAA so far. Stanford is counting on Cosgarea, who was 4:17 as a freshman, to regain form and score points at NCAAs again this spring. His teammates Danny Thompson (4:20.80), Justin Buck (4:25.99) and Jimmy Yoder (4:26.14) followed him to the finish.
Stanford claimed the top few spots in the 200 IM as well – Tom Kremer raced teammate Max Williamson the whole 200 yards, outsplitting him on the freestyle leg to win in 1:46.27 to Williamson’s 1:46.41. Giacomo Gremizzi was also a 1:46 in prelims, but went 1:47.04 for third place at night.
After making headlines with his 19.4 prelims swim, UNLV sophomore Dillon Virva stepped things up another notch at finals, going 19.37 to add to his NCAA lead. Virva beat out Stanford star David Nolan, who went 19.72 as well as his teammate Gui Passos (19.96). Virva is a fast riser; he was just 19.91 last season and didn’t even qualify for the NCAA championships as an individual. Now, though, he looks like a potential finalist with defending champ Vlad Morozov turned pro.
Nolan came off his 50 freestyle to lead off Stanford’s 400 medley relay, which won over UNLV thanks in large part to his 46.12 backstroke split. His teammates were Mason Shaw, Connor Black and Tom Kremer, and the relay went 3:10.58. Virva swam butterfly for UNLV, which finished second in 3:12.31. Breaststroker David Szele was 53.1 on his split to somewhat close the gap on Stanford. Wyoming finished in third place and ASU was fourth.