College Swimming Roundup: More Power 5 + Mid-Majors Part Deux
D2/D3 Selection Day + Weekend Preview
COLLEGE SWIMMING ROUNDUP
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🏊♀️ SWIMS OF THE WEEK 🏊🏽♂️
This week featured the Big 12, Big Ten (M), and Pac-12 (W) swimming for conference titles and NCAA spots.
Brendan Burns, Underwater Ironman
Brendan Burns got Big Man On Campus credentials with one of the craziest doubles you'll ever see on the last day of Big Tens. He took on the 200 back/200 fly double for the third time in his career, and 1:41.1/1:42.2 prelim swims were just an appetizer for the evening. He started out with a 1:38.22 200 back, taking control early and never letting runner-up Jake Newmark (1:40.02) get any closer. That's a nation-leading time (sneaking .01 under Destin Lasco's Cal/Stanford dual swim) for a man who's never actually swam the event at NCAAs. A couple events later, he used his trademark underwaters to break away from Michigan's 100 fly champ Gal Groumi on the last 50 to take the 200 fly win in 1:39.51 - another nation-leader for the defending NCAA champ. He also took the 100 back the day prior in 44.65.
Some historical context here: Jack Conger was the first man to hold sub-1:40 200 back/fly times for a career in 2015. Shaine Casas joined him in 2021. Nick Albiero one-upped them by doing it at the same meet - 2022 ACCs, where the 200 back and 200 fly were on different days. Burns took it to another level - he's the first man to break 1:40 in both at the same session. Dude has some decisions to make for NCAAs, he's a title hopeful in both flys and backs, but either way requires a tough double.
More Power Five Action
Of course, Burns wasn't the only star of the Power Five action last week.
In the Big Ten, Indiana took a fairly convincing victory on the strength of 11 event wins, and helped by scoring 5 divers in each of the 3 diving events. Outside of Burns, a big story was Van Mathias and his continued transformation from IM/2flyer to mustachioed sprinter/breaststroker. He took the 50 free in 19.00, was runner-up to OSU's Ruslan Gaziev (Big Ten meet record 41.38) in the 100 free in 41.58, and was runner-up to Minnesota's Max McHugh (50.80, also 1:50.20 in the 200) in the 100 breast in 51.32. He was also a relay stalwart for the Hoosiers, leading off the 200/400 free relays in 19.04/41.96, and adding a 1:32.71 split in the 800 free relay and a 22.74 in the breast leg of the 200 medley relay.
Wisconsin's Jake Newmark (check that relaxed stroke!) contributed a couple event wins for the Badgers. The junior had a fantastic Big Tens last year but came down with an illness before NCAAs and was subpar at Nationals. This year he had perhaps an even better conference meet, taking the 200 and 500 free in 1:31.61/4:12.96, was the aforementioned runner-up in the 200 back, and tacked on 19.15/42.17 free relay splits, and a 42.99 400 free relay leadoff. Freshman teammate Dominik Torok made up a 3 second difference on Michigan freshman Eitan Ben Shitrit at the halfway of the 400 IM with a 1:01.19/50.27 back half to take the win in that event in 3:39.96.
Ben Shitrit's Michigan teammate and fellow Israeli national Gal Groumi was the final double event winner of the week, taking the 200 IM in 1:41.20 and the 100 fly in a PR 44.50.
In the Big 12, the story was Texas women finding potential third events, and the Texas men fighting to qualify their usual large national team.
On the former, Olivia Bray's got some decisions to make. She took runner-up to Erica Sullivan in the 500 in 4:37.31, and won the 100 fly in 50.07. The latter is a better swim from an absolute standpoint, but the 100 fly is by far the strongest event field in the entire NCAA meet, and possibly in history and would require a double with her 100 back, while her 500 currently sits her 4th in the country. Meanwhile, Kelly Pash is probably well-set with a 200 IM, 200 free, 200 fly lineup, but she blazed a 4:05.55 IM that sits her 10th in the country.
Of other note for the Longhorn women, Lydia Jacoby just keeps getting better. She popped PRs of 57.29/2:04.32 in the breaststrokes for a couple of new Age Group records. That 200 just keeps getting better by leaps and bounds, and now ranks #3 in the country, same as her 100. This race is fun to watch because she's found a gear in the last 50 that simply wasn't there earlier this year.
For the Texas men, the goal was to qualify more guys for NCAAs. They had fairly good results on that mission over the week. Bubble guys Peter Larson and Coby Carrozza moved to near-lock status with leadoff 800 free relay splits of 1:32.50 and 1:32.65 respectively. Will Chan's 51.65 100 breast and Ethan Harder's 1:40.79 200 back should put them in a lock position. Alex Zettle went a 4:14.28 500 to move into the strong bubble category, as did Braden Vines with a 3:42.47 400 IM. The Longhorns have to have these guys in and scoring if they want to keep up with the growth of Florida, NC State, and Arizona State.
The final Power Five meet this week was the Pac-12 women. Biggest swims out of this meet were Claire Curzan's backstrokes - she went 23.34/49.46/1:47.43 for three PRs and the fastest NCAA 200 back swim since Beata Nelson in 2019. Not to be lost behind that, Isabelle Stadden's runner-up 1:48.75 is also second in the NCAA - she added a PR 50.79 100 back and 1:55.52 200 IM as well. ASU's Lindsay Looney had another great meet, with a PR 500 free (4:38.29) and a PR in her signature 200 fly (1:52.68, #5 in the NCAA). Torri Huske won every event she swam (21.67/47.18 50/100 Free and 49.27 100 Fly) and crushed 4 relays.
Mid-Majors Round Two
Another big batch of D1-Mid Major championships all over the country.
Ivy League men was probably the highest-profile meet. Coming into the meet, it looked like Harvard's big graduations would give Princeton room to sneak in a title, but the Crimson men put together a great performance from top to bottom to defend their title convincingly. Leading the way for Harvard was Umit Gures - he won the 50 free in 19.36 and the 100 fly in 44.91 - he's an NCAA champs finalist in the latter. Supporting him was double backstroke champ Will Grant (46.29/1:41.14 - the latter on the bubble for NCAAs) and mid-distance guy Ben Littlejohn (1:33.44/4:19.40 free, 1:43.73 fly). Sophomore Ryan Linnihan made huge strides to fill the sprint relay hammer role formerly played by Dean Farris - he popped a couple sub-19 splits (18.77 & 18.98) to lead the 200 free and 200 medley relays to big wins. Other top performers from the meet were, as always, Princeton's Raunak Khosla, a triple winner with 1:41.11/3:41.95 IMs and 1:41.72 200 fly, while also showcasing a sprint-ier side with 19.33/42.80/1:32.98 free relay splits and a 50.68 breast relay split. He ends his conference career as the career high point scorer for the Ivy League meet. Yale's Noah Millard put up the conference's best 500 from the B final last year, but didn't make a prelims mistake this year, taking 3 of the longer free events with 1:32.85/4:10.62/14:47.51 PRs. He finished the freestyle cycle with 19.88/43.08 relay leadoff PRs. Check out all the waves in that pool..he might have a 4:08 in him with clear water!
A bunch of NCAA-worthy times came out of the women's MAC championships. Akron's Abby Daniel went 51.65/1:56.46 fly and 1:56.26 IM PRs - the 100 fly and 200 IM are locks. Likewise for teammate Weronika Gorecka's 1:53.33 200 back and Buffalo's Toni Naccarella's 48.28 100 free. Miami Ohio's Nicole Maier will have some NCAA event decisions to make - she didn't swim perhaps her best event, the 500 free with a 4:39 PR, at conference, but she did go PR 22.39/48.15/1:44.50 frees, 1:56.56 fly, 1:56.04 200 IM and a season best 4:09.22 400 IM. The 100 and 200 free and IMs are all clear locks for March.
In the WAC, Air Force's Wen Zhang was the man. This dude's progression is crazy - he was a 1:37.73 200 free out of high school, 1:33.93 freshman year, 1:34.55 sophomore year, then blasted a 1:32.21 junior year and finally hit 1:31 twice this week to sit at 1:31.42 and third best in the nation thus far. He added 42.32 in the 100 and 4:15.96 in the 500. Cal Baptist's Remi Fabiani also punched his NCAA ticket, winning the sprints 19.10/42.28 and taking 2nd in the 200 in 1:33.72, while UNLV's Panos Bolanos did the same with a 1:40.64 200 back.
The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) champs also featured a numbers of times in strong NCAA consideration. Towson's Brian Benzing and Delaware's Toni Sabev gave a nice amuse-bouche the first night of the meet with respective 22.54/22.63 breast splits that are among the best of all time, and then followed that up with 51.25/51.96 100s. Benzing is very safe for March (he added a 1:44.41 200 IM, 46.25 100 fly, 43.63/1:35.08 800 free relay leadoffs and a 50.94 breast relay split), while Sabev is on the bubble with that time. William and Mary's Katie Stevenson also popped a 48.37 100 free that will be on the borderline of qualification. UNCW, coached by Bobby Guntoro, won both the Men's and the Women's team titles for the first time since 2006.
At the Summit League, Denver's Natalie Arky's 1:53.94 200 back is a strong bubble time. First year D1 program Lindenwood's men put up some times that would be just on the wrong side of qualifying (Elliott Irwin's 19.40 50 free and 45.85 100 fly, Johan Cue Carrillo's 52.28 100 breast), continuing the success shown by Queens, another recent D2-to-D1 conversion putting put NCAA-worthy times.
D2/D3 Selection Day
We'll have a bit more about this in the following weeks with NCAA previews, but the selection lists for for the D2 & D3 NCAA meets came out this week.
In D2, the biggest teams are Tampa's 18 women and Drury's 16 men. UIndy (16 women, 15 men) and Colorado Mesa (15 women, 14 men) aren't far back. This is going to be a close meet for the podium - these teams all have strengths and weaknesses, no complete juggernauts like Queens the past few years.
For D3, it's going to be a 3-way slugfest for the women as Denison and Emory both qualified 18 swimmers, while Kenyon will bring 16. On the men's side, Emory's 18 means the Eagles will have a full roster on both sides, and their raw numbers may see them run away with this meet on the men's side again.
🏊🏽♂️ WEEKEND PREVIEW 🏊🏼
Last round of conference meets!
Pac-12 men is the big one. Arizona State's been showing up big all year, but Cal and Stanford both have sights set on the NCAA podium and still need to qualify quite a few guys to have that chance - in fact, my quick skim of rankings shows only about 3 guys on Stanford's roster with safe times for March thus far. Cal fares a little better with 7, but that's clearly not good enough for a team that wants to win it all - they'll have to double that, and they can. That means this is going to be a fast meet.
Men's MAC-tion is also in full swing this week. We'll see if SIU, a team we profiled earlier this season with some good midseason sprinting, can drop enough time to get a relay into the big show.
NAIA and NJCAA National Championships start on Wednesday, and the last batch of last-chance meets see Texas and Ohio State play host to NCAA hopefuls.
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