NCAA D1 Women's Champs + NCAA D3 Champs in Review

Gretchen Walsh is the fastest woman to ever swim yards. In multiple events.

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🏊‍♀️ SWIMS OF THE WEEK 🏊🏽‍♂️

NCAA Division I Womens’ Championships

For the fourth year in a row, it was the Virginia Show at D1 Women’s champs. This time it was Gretchen Walsh’s turn in the historic spotlight, breaking barriers all over the place. GWalsh swam records in all three individual events and two relays and the Hoos came close within hundredths in her other two relays. A recap:

  • 20.37 50 free (NCAA, American, US Open records + first woman sub-20.5)

  • 44.83 100 free (NCAA, American, US Open records + first woman sub-45)

  • 47.42 100 fly (NCAA, American, US Open records + first woman sub-48)

  • 1:24.05 200 free relay - Nocentini 21.26/GWalsh 20.23/AWalsh 21.23/Parker 21.33 (NCAA, US Open records)

  • 3:21.01 400 medley relay - GWalsh 48.26/Nocentini 56.34/AWalsh 49.15/Parker 47.26 (NCAA, US Open records)

  • 1:31.58 200 medley relay - GWalsh 22.10/Nocentini 25.72/Novelline 22.38/Parker 21.38 (GWalsh fastest 50 back ever)

  • 3:05.89 400 free relay - Nocentini 47.06/AWalsh 46.54/GWalsh 45.17/Parker 47.12

It’s a close call who had the better meet between GWalsh this year and Douglass last year.

Of course, a championship takes more than one star, and as usual the Cavaliers were loaded. In what has to be a first for siblings, Gretchen’s sister Alex Walsh also swept her events with 2nd-fastest-in-history 1:49.20 200 IM, 3:55.97 400 IM, and 2:02.07 200 breast. Also contributing a win was Jasmine Nocentini. The Northwestern transfer was primarily a sprinter with the Wildcats but was beginning to show breaststroke talent before an injury took out her 2023 second semester, but really blossomed with Virginia, dropping a total of 2.2 seconds in the 100 breast to swim the 2nd fastest time in history with a 56.09 championship.

UVA took control of the meet from the first night of individual events, and any hope of a Texas or Florida comeback was quashed with a 5-scorer 200 breast for Virginia courtesy of champ Alex Walsh, 3rd place Ella Nelson, 8th place Anna Keating, 10th place Aimee Canny, and 15th place Emma Weber.

While the championship was Virginia’s from early on, the battle for the other podium spots was a tight affair. Florida and Texas had a dogfight for 2nd place, with Florida riding two championships from Bella Sims (4:32.47 500 free/1:40.90 200 free) plus a dominant 800 free relay win (6:48.59 - Sims 1:41.03/Ivey 1:41.64/Weyant 1:42.90/Cronk 1:43.02) and 3 scorers in the 200 back (Sims 3rd, Catie Choate 8th, Jojo Ramey 11th), while Texas came on strong in the back half of the meet thanks to their powerful fly group (Sticklen 49.70/1:50.99, Pash 50.55/1:51.57, Bray 50.33/1:52.45, Stoll 1:53.84). Just check out Sticklen off that last wall - that’s been her calling card!

Meanwhile, Tennessee and Stanford went back and forth for the final podium spot. For the Volunteers, Mona McSharry took two runner-ups in the breaststrokes (56.64/2:04.07), while Josephine Fuller had a PR week with 3 A final performances (50.25/1:49.57 backs, 1:52.05 IM), with Fuller’s 2back giving Tennessee a lead over Stanford they finally wouldn’t relinquish. Lucy Bell was the high scorer for Stanford, topping out with a 3rd place 4IM (4:01.23), while Aurora Roghair’s runner-up 15:41.11 mile was the best individual finish for the Cardinal.

Rounding out the champions for the week were Katharine Berkoff, whose 48.55 100 back, shaking off a relay false start in the 2MR, makes her the second fastest performer in history; Phoebe Bacon, who held off a hard charging Kennedy Noble for a 1:48.23 200 back win to take her second career title in the event; and Abby McCulloh, the most dominant distance swimmer in the country all season, with a 15:37.74 mile.

NCAA Division III Championships

The non-scholarship division also held their national championships this week. The women’s team race was something to watch, with 16 points between Kenyon, Denison, and NYU going into the last day. Kenyon would come out on top thanks to a final day championship from Bengisu Caymaz (16:34.67 mile), and a 1-2 200 breast finish (Gabby Wei 2:11.70/Jennah Fadely 2:12.71).

Earlier in the meet, Caymaz took her first career championship in the 500 (4:48.65), while Fadely notched another sub-1:00 100 breast on her belt for a win (59.80).

Denison took no event wins, but took runner-up overall with admirable depth. Their best performances came from Emily Harris (2nd 200 free 1:48.97, 3rd 200 fly 2:00.03) and Tara Witkowski (3rd 500 free 4:51.10, 3rd 400 IM 4:21.16, 5th 1650 free 16:46.62).

NYU, meanwhile, was powered by the most decorated swimmer and record-breaker of the week. A revelation last year as a freshman, Kaley McIntyre leveled up again this year, sweeping the sprint 50/100/200 frees in 22.46/48.79/1:46.05, the shorter two new NCAA D3 records. She took Swimmer of the Year for her performance.

Also notable was a 4-swimmer 200 fly A final for the Violets, led by Caitlin Marshall’s 1:58.50 championship, but also including Nicole Ranile in 4th, Reina Gomez in 5th, and Youngju Baik in 8th.

Another record came from MIT’s Kate Augustyn, who hit a 53.41 100 back leading off the Engineers’ 400 medley relay. She’d come back the next day to win the individual race in the same time with a second 50 .6 faster than the rest of the field, and would double up with a 1:55.98 200 back win the next day, only .3 off the D3 record there with a year left for the junior.

Other championships came from Williams’s Sophia Verkleeren with a 1:59.59 200 IM and Samantha Kilcoyne with a 53.47 100 fly, and Trinity’s Neely Burns with a dominant 4:15.67 400 IM.

The men’s meet was another championship for Emory, their third straight. Emory’s top performers were Crow Thorsen, who gave the Eagles their only individual championship with a 3:51.84 400 IM, and Jake Meyer, who took runner-ups in the breaststroke, going toe-to-toe with D1 transfer Derek Maas in 52.26/1:56.01.

Maas didn’t quite get to D3 legend Andrew Wilson’s breaststroke records, but he did take his 200 IM record with a strong 1:42.97 swim. Other records came in the butterflys, with UChicago’s Jesse Ssengonzi breaking the 100 fly on his last chance in 46.28 after coming agonizingly close a handful of times this season and last, and Connecticut College’s Justin Finkel, who ran down reigning champ and record holder Frank Applebaum on the last 50 for a 1:43.21 win.

Kenyon, runners-up in the team battle, set their own national record with a 3:09.78 400 medley relay (Kosian 47.07/Dobric 53.29/Krtinic 47.00/Dragojlovic 42.42) to make them the first D3 school sub-3:10. DJ Dragojlovic was a two-time individual winner as well, hitting a 43.26 100 free and a 46.90 100 back to go with a 19.69 50 free runner-up.

Finkel, the men’s Swimmer of the Year, took a second championship as well, opening up the meet with a 4:21.32 win, foreshadowing his 200 fly comeback by making up over a second on runner-up Sam Dienstag on the final 50. MIT’s Tobe Obochi nipped Dragojlovic to win the 50 in 19.66. Reigning champ and D3 record holder James McChesney took the 200 free in 1:34.95, two tenths off his record. CMS’s Lucas Lang held off a hard charge from NYU’s Connor Vincent to take the mile win by less than a tenth in 15:17.48. WashU’s Elite 90 award winner Alex McCormick backhalfed past Yurii Kosian to take an exciting 200 back win in 1:43.40. Interestingly, two former 200 back standouts in Jack Wadsworth (100 back champ, 400 IM 2nd, and 200 back 3rd in 2022) and Tanner Filion (D3 record holder and 2022-2023 2back champ) transferred to D1 schools after their event wins and will be competing at D1 NCAAs next week. Will McCormick follow in their footsteps next year?

🏊🏽‍♂️ Weekend Preview 🏊🏼

D1 men’s champs this week!

Arizona State comes in as the prohibitive favorite on paper. Led by international stars Leon Marchand and Hubert Kos plus freshman butterflyer Ilya Kharun, the Sun Devils could leave this week with over half the NCAA records if everything breaks right for them.

Meets aren’t won and lost on paper though. Defend champs Cal have played some mind games with this season, most notably sending four of their top five swimmers to a Pro Series meet instead of Pac-12s, while the fifth, Bjorn Seeliger, sat out after taking on World Champs. Those five - Seeliger plus Destin Lasco, Jack Alexy, Dare Rose, and Gabriel Jett, will have to be firing on all cylinders to challenge ASU.

Other podium challengers include NC State, the only team to go over the max roster size in qualifiers; Florida, led by Josh Liendo and their sprint gang; Tennessee with Jordan Crooks and Gui Caribe right up there for best sprint duo in the nation; Stanford, who through recent history has one of the highest ceilings but also probably the lowest floor of any contender; Georgia and their beastly backstroke group; and Indiana and their beastly breaststroke group.

Race of the meet might be the 500 free. While we wait to see what Marchand is capable of, two former champs in Texas’s Luke Hobson and Georgia’s Jake Magahey look to block his path to another event win. Also intriguing are Destin Lasco and Hubert Kos’s three-round slugfest in the backstrokes and 200 IM, Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano continuing his sprint ascension against the best in the nation, and Andrei Minakov getting another crack at Kharun in the 2fly.

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