D3 Review + End of Christmas Break Meets
Jordan Crooks is still on fire! Hannah Bach, Andrei Minakov are back.
COLLEGE SWIMMING ROUNDUP
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🏊♀️ SWIMS OF THE WEEK 🏊🏽♂️
Jordan Crooks: Still on Fire
Tennessee sophomore Jordan Crooks is the must-see male swimmer of the 2022-2023 season. He put up some of the fastest in-season sprint times ever seen in the first semester, making 19.2 50s in a Speedo look like a walk in the park. He swam the nation's fastest times in the 50 free (18.27), 100 free (41.17), and 100 fly (44.79) and a top 10 100 back (45.55) at the Tennessee Invite. He followed that up with the Cayman Islands's first swimming World Championships gold medal, in the 50 free, while tacking on a 100 free final appearance, and he seems to be nicely carrying that momentum into the second semester.
Tennessee rolled past Mizzou, 181-116 for the women, 175-120 for the men, and Crooks was a big reason for the latter. He started off with a 19.97 200 Medley Relay fly split (the whole relay was notable at 1:25.17 off 22.18/23.71/19.97/19.30 splits), took the 100 back in 46.09, the 100 fly in 45.42 (a time that would be 10th in the nation), and finished off by anchoring the 400 Free Relay in a 41.61!
On the women's side, Tennessee has another sophomore carrying momentum through a breakout first semester in Josephine Fuller. She took on her specialties at this dual, swimming 25.21/53.88/1:55.31 backstrokes and 2:00.59 IMs. In the first semester, she showed she's a threat to final in any of those events with 51.81/1:50.12 backs and 1:55.54 IM, plus popped long course PRs in those in the US Open with 1:00.00/2:09.77 backs and 2:16.07 IM.
Louisville: Starting to Ignite
The day before the Tennessee meet, Mizzou also hosted the Louisville Cardinals. This meet didn't go any better for the hosts, with the Cardinal men winning 175-120, and the women taking a 207-93 decision. The real eye-popping swims for Louisville were the relays. The splits were messed up for the women's 200 Medley Relay (Gabi Albiero is real fast, but I don't think 20.0 fast), but their 1:35.94 was less than a second off their invite time. They bookended the meet with a 3:14.91 (off 48.45/48.88/49.34/48.24) 400 Free Relay that's the second fastest dual meet time in the country this year. That latter relay was notably done without their biggest star Albeiro, who in addition to swimming the fly leg on the 200 MR, swam 51.48/1:55.04 flies and 47.96 frees for the best individual performances of the meet. Granted that it was still a light weekend for meets, but the Louisville women authored the top time in the country in 8 individual events and 26 top-5 performances.
The men one-upped the women in season-best relay times, putting together their best 200 Medley Relay of the season (1:24.23 off 21.96/23.40/19.91/18.96 splits), and coming in less than a tenth off their midseason 400 Free Relay (2:52.08 off 43.30/43.21/43.04/42.53 splits). Mizzou put up a heck of a fight on that last relay, coming in just behind in 2:52.55 (43.99/43.48/42.11/42.97). This is a team that typically builds over the course of the season, so look out for what might seem like a surprise great showing at ACCs in a couple months.
🏊♀️ DIVISION III RECAP 🏊🏽♂️
We've reached the end of our first semester summaries with Division III. You don't usually see the top teams play most of the best cards until NCAAs, so the end of season outlook is still a little murky, but we did see some notable performances in the first semester.
Johns Hopkins has no conference meet, so we were treated to a very early season run at NCAA qualification at the Thomas Murphy Invitational in October. It was there that Kristin Cornish went 1:50.42/4:49.43/16:29.52 free swims that threw down the gauntlet for distance swimmers this season. The latter two still sit as top times in the nation, while she improved to 1:49.88 in the 200 in November to lead that event in the first semester as well.
The best women's races are shaping up to be the breaststrokes. MIT's Edenna Chen became the second women in D3 to break 1:00 in the 100 last year, and currently sits second with a 1:01.09. Kenyon's Jenna Fadely leads with a 1:00.98 that's only a couple tenths off her NCAA 3rd place time from last year. Last year's runner-up (and 200 breast champ) Jordyn Wentzel sits back at 1:02.81 from an early season invite, but she swam back and fly events at St. Kate's midseason invite so could be hiding her cards. Pomona-Pitzer's Alex Gill beat Wentzel at that Chicago D3 Shootout with her season best 1:01.93 that was a PR for her at the time by almost a second. Williams only has two meets on the books thus far this season, but Amanda Wager put up the 4th-ranked 100 breast (1:02.65) and 2nd-ranked 200 breast (2:14.97) and will be a threat in both.
The rise of Calvin College's sprint group was the most notable storyline on the men's side. Individually, senior Noah Holstege leads the 50 free by almost half a second in 19.66. Collectively, their 200 free relay leads the nation by almost a whole second in 1:19.44. There's a lot of firepower behind them with Emory, Kenyon, and defending champ MIT ranking 2-4, but if the Knights can continue to improve, they certainly can take home the title.
The best men's race is shaping up to be the 100 back. Only 5 men had broken 47 in D3 history prior to this year, and we may have another 5 just this year alone - and that's with defending champ Jack Wadsworth transferring out to Arizona State. The first man under the mark this year was MIT's Adam Janicki, sneaking under in 46.99. Kenyon's Yuri Kosian sits right behind in a 47.03, also a best time. His teammate, freshman Djordje Dragojlovic, is ranked just behind in 47.55. John Carroll's do-it-all sprinter Liam McDonnell, who leads the 100 fly in 47.15, is ranked 4th in this 100 back in 47.61, just a tenth off his all-time PR, while Whitman's Tanner Filion, the runner-up from last year in 46.89, rounds out the division's sub-48 first half performers with a 47.63 for fifth.
🏊♀️ WEEKEND PREVIEW 🏊🏽♂️
Getting closer to a full week of competition this weekend as teams emerge from winter training, preparing for the final stretch to conference and nationals.
The TYR Pro Swim Series hits Knoxville, TN and some college teams are getting some LCM racing in. Notably, Tennessee, Louisville, Cal, NC State, and Mizzou appear to be sending significant teams to race some of the world's best.
Biggest college meet of the weekend is an interesting three-conference tri meet between Texas, Alabama, and Ohio State. All three teams have strong rosters and designs on top-10 or better finishes on both sides come March. Ohio State is adding back 100 breast championship finalist Hannah Bach, which makes their relays more dangerous and may allow them to go toe-to-toe with the other two teams, who have looked like solid podium contenders all year.
Some other meets with interesting storylines are Stanford/Pacific, where we see if perhaps Andrei Minakov makes a return to give the Cardinal a chance at a podium spot and Claire Curzan, Torri Huske, and Taylor Ruck making their return to the college pool after success at SCM Worlds; Penn State/Army, with the Black Knights continuing their impressive breakout season against a Big Ten opponent; and D2 stalwarts Findlay, Grand Valley, and Indianapolis visiting Eastern Michigan - Findlay and Indy have perhaps two of the best three men's sprint relay corps in D2, and GVSU isn't anything to sneeze at either.
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