WATCH: UVA Women Win Their First-Ever NCAA Relay Title in the 800 FR-R


It has been nearly two years since the swimming community saw the last NCAA Championship meet. Now, the first event of the championships are in the books after the cancellation of the 2020 championships. With their win in the 800 free relay tonight, the Virginia Cavaliers take the early lead heading into the first full day of competition. Rounding out the top 3 teams in the relay and overall are Kentucky and Cal.

Originally reported by Karl Ortegon.


  • NCAA Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • American Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • U.S. Open Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • Meet Record: Stanford (Manuel, Neal, Eastin, Ledecky), 2017 – 6:45.91
  • 2019 Champion: Stanford (Drabot, Eastin, Ruck, Forde) – 6:47.22
  • 2020 Top Performer: Tennessee (Small, Brown, Pintar, Cieplucha) – 6:53.27

Top 3 (final)

  1. Virginia – 6:52.56
  2. Kentucky – 6:57.02
  3. Cal – 6:57.06

There were no more than four teams in each heat to adhere to social distancing guidelines tonight, as will be the case in relays to come.

The final heat went to Virginia, helped by Isabel Ivey being kept off of this relay, as they were challenged by Cal and Texas. Texas led after the first leg, as sophomore Kelly Pash hit a 1:43.07 for the lead-off. Paige Madden went second for the ‘Hoo’s, pulling them into a big lead. Ella Nelson extended that lead on the third leg for UVA, with Alex Walsh bringing it home for them. Virginia clocked a 6:52.56, getting a 1:41.63 leg from Madden, 1:43-lows from Nelson and Walsh and a 1:44.6 lead-off from Valls. Cal and Texas were second and third in the heat, but Kentucky’s time from an earlier heat held up for second overall, a great performance from the SEC Champions.

Virginia’s time was the fastest of the night by over three full seconds, a commanding victory, as they were one of just three teams to have four splits break 1:45.

NC State, swimming in the final heat, gained six seconds after taking Katharine Berkoff and Kylee Alons off of the relay. They place 17th, the only team to not score tonight, after they were seeded fourth overall.

In the penultimate heat, Stanford, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky squared off. Florida’s Talia Bates got the Gators off to a good start with a 1:43.70 lead-off, but Riley Gaines pulled Kentucky in a huge lead on the second leg. Kentucky won this easily, going 6:57.02 and dropping from seed. That was a lights-out swim for the Wildcats, who had three swimmers go faster than they did at SECs, and they surge to a silver medal finish tonight among all heats. Georgia also broke seven minutes at 6:59.82, while Stanford was just third in 7:01.05 after they broke 6:50 in 2019.

Morgan Scott led off Alabama in heat three, churning out a 1:44.15 to give them a lead, with Cora Dupre splitting a 1:43-high to follow, giving them a big lead over Michigan, who themselves had a large lead on Tennessee. Though their lead shrunk over the back-half, the Crimson Tide still dropped from seed to go 7:00.38 and overtake the top position with just two heats left. Michigan also put up a strong swim, going 7:01.81 to move to the #3 position and drop from seed. The final two heats have four relays, each.

In heat two, Chloe Stepanek of Texas A&M led off the Aggies in a lifetime best of 1:42.89, which makes her the fifth woman under 1:43 in this event this year and the ninth-fastest freshman ever in the event. The race tightened up, and in the final turn, A&M, Indiana and VT were about even. IU got the touch in 7:02.42, though, ahead of A&M (7:02.48) and VT (7:02.73).

Heat one was a race between Ohio State, Louisville and Wisconsin, and only one team in this field won’t score as there are only 17 teams racing this relay. So long as a team finished first or second in this first heat, they’d secure at least two points. OSU took the win in 7:00.79, dropping three seconds from seed, while Wisconsin and Louisville also dropped about two seconds from seed.


  1. Virginia 40
  2. Kentucky 34
  3. California 32
  4. Texas 30
  5. Georgia 28
  6. Alabama 26
  7. Ohio St 24
  8. Stanford 22
  9. Florida 18
  10. Michigan 14
  11. Indiana 12
  12. Texas A&M
  13. 13. Wisconsin 8
  14. Virginia Tech 6
  15. Louisville 4
  16. Tennessee 2

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1 month ago

So, is putting the fastest swimmers second the smartest strategy now? Seemed to work for the top 2 anyways.

Reply to  Hswimmer
1 month ago

Unpopular opinion: I think the uniform “fastest person first/last” arguments are dumb.

There are two things that matter:

  1. Who’s got smallest delta between their flat start/flying start – put them first. (Ex. Dressel’s flying starts aren’t much better than his flat starts, and in some cases they’re worse. So he should lead off in every relay he can)
  2. The personalities of swimmers involved. If your third fastest person is the most likely to put in a killer anchor split cause they don’t like losing/don’t want to let the team down, put them on the anchor leg. If your fastest swimmer doesn’t like pressure, put them second.
Last edited 1 month ago by PVSFree
Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  PVSFree
1 month ago

Obviously also depends on the relay, if they’re any major size differences, and whether they’re swimming in every lane. Don’t want your tiniest swimmer trying to break through Nathan Adrian’s wake off the the wall. They might get a concussion. Hence the typical mixed relay strategy.

Reply to  PVSFree
1 month ago

I agree

Reply to  Hswimmer
1 month ago

Louisville used to do this with Comerford. It normally worked pretty well for them.

Reply to  Hswimmer
1 month ago

This has been a thing for a while. Vlad Morozov was the second swimmer back in 2013 when he was the first person to break 18 in the 50 on a relay

Coach Rob
1 month ago

I watched this 5 times, I can’t get enough of it!

1 month ago

Great swim – Congrats to UVA

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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