The Louisville Cardinals were unstoppable on night 1 of the 2015 Women’s SMU Classic, hitting the NCAA’s first automatic relay qualifying standard of the year and winning 7 of 9 events to take the early lead.
The SMU Classic is an annual format meet with a unique set-up. 6 teams contest the meet, with each team allowed two entries per event. One swimmer heads to the “A” heat and one to the “B” heat, meaning each heat features 6 swimmers, one from each program. The heats swim like “A” and “B” finals, with the “A” heat swimmers locked into the top 6 spots, and the “B” heat making up places 7 through 12.
This year, participating teams include SMU, Louisville, Missouri, TCU, UCLA and Florida State, representing 5 different conferences (AAC, ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12).
Louisville powered away with the day 1 points lead by 33 over Missouri.
Much of that came on the back of rising star Kelsi Worrell, who picked up right where she left off last season with untouchable speed in the free and fly events.
Most notable was that Worrell split a blazing 50.87 on the fly leg of the 400 medley relay. Worrell split 49.56 at last year’s NCAA Championships, believed to be the fastest split of all-time, and she’s only a little more than a second off that time already, just about a month into her senior season.
That Louisville relay went 3:32.36, hitting the NCAA’s automatic qualifying standard time and assuring the Cardinals of a relay slot at the NCAA Championships, provided at least one individual swimmer earns an invite as well. (And someone did, just a few events later. We’ll leave you to guess who that was until later in this story.) Louisville is the first team this season to hit an automatic relay qualifying bid.
The whole relay was on fire. Russian freshman Alina Kendzior was 53.71 on backstroke (ranking 4th in the nation individually, pending results of other meets this weekend), All-American Andee Cottrell was 59.09 on breaststroke and Dutch senior Andrea Kneppers was 48.69 on the anchor leg.
Cottrell would win the 100 breast easily, going 59.58 to top Missouri’s Abby Duncan. Cottrell’s time now leads the NCAA, as Duncan was the previous leader at 1:00.56. Duncan bettered her season-best in second place, going 1:00.26, and her teammate Katharine Ross was 1:00.22 from the B heat.
For her part, Worrell blasted a 51.51 to win the 100 fly and jump to the top of the NCAA rankings by a longshot. Prior to tonight, no one else in the nation had broken 53 yet this year, much less 52. That’s also the first NCAA “A” cut of the season, meaning Worrell has already punched her ticket to the national championships and Louisville’s medley relay is also locked in to the NCAA meet. Worrell also put up a nation-leading 22.20 to win the 50 free.
Cardinal freshmen Rachael Bradford-Feldman and Mallory Comerford combined to win two more events for the rising Louisville team. Bradford-Feldman was 4:09.45 to touch out Florida State freshman Megan Brown‘s 4;09.82 for the 400 IM win. One event later, Comerford went 1:45.19 to win the 200 free over SMU’s Maddie Hoch (1:47.48). Both Cardinals now lead the NCAA in their respective events.
The only swimming event to slip away from the Cardinals was the 100 back, which was a fantastic showdown between UCLA’s Linnea Mack and Missouri’s Hannah Stevens. Mack ultimately took the win at 53.09, moving her to #2 in the nation in that event. Stevens was 53.38. Notably, Missouri’s Nadine Laemmler was the exact same time in winning the B heat, giving the Tigers two of the top backstrokers in the nation early in this season. Laemmler is debuting for Mizzou after transferring in from the suspended Western Kentucky program this offseason.
UCLA also won the 1-meter diving event with Maria Polyakova, who scored 301.95 points.
Louisville ended the night with a win in the 800 free relay, with the team of Kneppers, Comerford, Abbie Houck and Mara Pugh going 7:10.40. Kneppers had the top split, leading off in 1:46.12. Comerford was 1:46.64 on her leg.
Team Scores After Day 1
- Louisville – 184
- Missouri – 151
- UCLA – 145
- Florida State – 136
- SMU – 124
- TCU – 97