2013NCAAD2 Crossplex
Courtesy of: Richie Krzyzanowski
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By Richie Krzyzanowski

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, March 5. THE beginning of the end has come for those schools participating in NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships in Birmingham, Alabama at the Birmingham Crossplex, March 6-9.


Student-athletes from across the countries Division II universities are here to wreak havoc on one another throughout this marathon of a meet during the next four days. For some schools this is their last chance to win at the Division 2 level, with University of the Incarnate Word moving to Division 1 to the Southland Conference and Grand Canyon University moving to Division 1 and the Western Athletic Conference.

For others, this pretty familiar territory to be at the top to bring home some trophies, Drury University, UC San Diego, Wayne State just to name a few. One swimmer to keep an eye on is from Drury University Wai Ting "Janet" Yu.

According to head coach Brian Reynolds, "She tore her ACL and will be swimming at the meet not at a full 100%. She has been training well with full flip turns and starts off the blocks. This ultimately will hurt our 200, 400, 800 free relays but we will see how she fares at NCAAs."

This can very well open up some points to be scored by other teams but we want to wish Yu a great meet and recovery after her participation in the NCAA Championships.

Here's a preview of the day one events: Men's and Women's 1000 Freestyle, Men's and Women's 200 I.M., Men's and Women's 50 Freestyle, and to end the day's events with an exciting 200 Medley Relay.

1000 Freestyle Women:
My Predicted Winner:
Erin Black Senior, Nova Southeastern University
Coming into the meet Erin is seeded with the top qualification time of 10:04.57. She has approximately a 4 second cushion over West Chester University of Pennsylvania's Kassandra McNichol. Overall, after these two women it is a shootout on who is going to get on the podium and take home some hardware as well with being named an Athletic All-American. Erin who had a stellar NCAA Championships last year, looks to carry that over and take home the victory to go out on top as a Senior.

My Dark Horse:
Maura Donahue, Senior at the University of Indianapolis can very well surprise a lot of the field with the speed she has in the shorter races (200 Free and 100 Free) to get out in front of the pack nice and early and hold on tough to secure what could very well be a very astounding Senior moment. Right now she qualified for the meet at a time of 10:10.11 which sits in the 4th place position. We will see tomorrow night the enticing battle to be named the first National Champion of the 2013 NCAA Swimming Championships.

1000 Freestyle Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Mark Rubin, Senior, University of the Incarnate Word
Normally the top seed qualified for the meet would be the overall FAVORITE; however, based off of where the qualifying times that are entered into the meet range between December meets and Conference Championships in February, my pick is Mark Rubin, no offense to Oskar Nordstrand of Nova Southeastern University. Mark is entered with a time that is 9:13.90 which ranks him in 4th place. University of the Incarnate Word did not send their top guns to RMAC Conference Championships which tells me that Head Coach Phil Davis is saving the best races for the big dance. Mark comes in placing second in this event at last year's NCAA Championships as he battled hard the whole way out of an outside Lane 1. If he wins this could be the second Senior of the day to go out on top crowned a National Champion.

My Dark Horse:
Oskar Nordstrand, Senior, Nova Southeastern University holds the top qualifying spot coming in to the meet and can very well hold on to it. Oskar, last year at NCAA's finished 4th but made a very valiant effort and push but just fell short of finishing 2nd in the event. He has the ability to go out hard and hang on or back half the race and catch up and put his hand on the wall first. His experience in Distance events will be a plus for him but just like the Women's 1000 free it is hard to determine who will win with a the top 4 seeds being within 4 seconds of one another.

200 Individual Medley Women:
My Predicted Winner:

Amanda Thomas, Senior, Southern Connecticut State University
Amanda Thomas comes in as the reigning champ in this event and is my favorite to win the event in back to back to back years. She stands with a qualifying time of 2:02.73 and sits in the 2nd place time. She comes in with the best front half of the race with her butterfly and backstroke legs and with that has the ability to stay in front on breaststroke and hold the charging field on freestyle. Her experience of being an NCAA Champ 2 years in a row will pay huge dividends in once again crowning another Senior with being a National Champion.

My Dark Horse:
Caroline Arakelian , Freshman, Queens University of North Carolina comes into this NCAA Championships as her first go around. Caroline has qualified for the meet as the top qualifier and lone qualifier with "A" cut with a time of 2:02.18. She has her work cut out to win the event with 2x reigning NCAA champ in the event Amanda Thomas, conference rival Valerie Dembny of Wingate University time of 2:03.90 4th place, and Alexandra Hippolito of Tampa University with a time of 2:03.68 at 3rd place. Between these four girls it revolves around who has the guts to go out and upset the reigning champ in stellar fashion as a Freshman.

200 Individual Medley Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Piotr Jachowicz, Sophomore, Wayne State University
Piotr comes into the meet as the current NCAA record holder in the event from his Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships about 3 weeks ago. His time stands qualified for the meet at 1:45.92. From all strokes of the event, Piotr can go the distance and catch or separate himself from the field. His strength of the event is his Breastroke in which he can very well clinch himself the win in the event by taking a body lengths lead into the final leg. This will be a race in which he will break his record and lower it to a standard that could be under 1:45.

My Dark Horse:
Gianni Ferrero, Freshman, Grand Valley State University, is qualified with a time 1:47.95 and sits in the 6th position. Gianni has the blistering front half speed of the Butterfly and Backstroke legs that sets him apart from everyone in the pool which can give him the ability to try to hold off people in the middle leg of breaststroke. If he gives himself the opportunity to be within about a ? body length deficit to body lengths deficit, he can very well split the last 50 in style by getting to the wall and celebrate in Champion style.

50 Yard Freestyle Women:
My Predicted Winner:

Tamiris Nascimento, Senior, University of the Incarnate Word
Tamiris comes into the meet with the top time at 22.67 with about a .4 tenths of a second lead on Sprint Freestyle and Backstroke specialist Carol Azambuja, Junior, Wayne State University with a time of 23.04. Tamiris herself is a sprint specialist in Freestyle and holds the top time in both the 50 and 100. University of the Incarnate Word did not send their top guns to RMAC Conference Championships which tells me as stated above that Head Coach Phil Davis is saving the best races for the big dance. She has the height and wing span to get off the blocks first to get clean water and hang on to it for the splash and dash race! Ultimately, she controls her own destiny, and once again a Senior can be named National Champion.

My Dark Horse:
Julie Widmann, Senior, Ashland University
She is qualified with a time of 23.15 and is qualified 5th in the event. My dark horse before finding out the news was, Wai Ting "Janet" Yu of Drury University. Adrenaline and the moment can kick in and really become a story to remember, and best of luck to Yu. Now back to Julie, she has the height and wing span just as Tamiris Nascimento does to win the event. Julie has the experience in the event in which she has finished 3rd in three straight years. If it is a bittersweet story, her Senior swim and emotion will put her on the Podium as the Top Dog in the 50 Freestyle.

50 Yard Freestyle Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Michael Branning, Junior, Grand Canyon University
Michael comes into the meet as the top qualifier in the event at an outstanding time of 19.55 from his Rocky Mountain Conference Championships. He has a pretty large lead in declaring him the fastest guy in the pool for Division II with about a .5 second of a lead over Matheus Assis, Freshman, Saint Leo University with a time of 20.02. Michael is the lone guy under 20, and has a lot to prove by possibly taking down the current NCAA record set two years ago at the 2011 NCAA Championships in San Antonio, Texas by Andrey "Russian Rocket" Seryy with a time of 19.39. Michael, who has finished 2nd in back to back years behind Seryy will want to make it his time to shine in his last meet of a Division II swimmer. Michael, also holds the fastest relay split in Division II history of 19.01 from last year's 2012 NCAA Swimming Championships in Mansfield, Texas. He is the heavy favorite to win and will be hard to beat due to his ability to surge in front of the field off of the start and his turn. Good luck trying to catch this one Men!

My Dark Horse:
It is a tie between Marcus Schlesinger, Senior, Ouachita Baptist University who is qualified at 3rd with a time of 20.11, and Taylor Turner, Senior Grand Canyon University qualified 6th with a time of 20.27. Marcus, who has been on the podium in this event for the past three years will be trying to make a push to break 20 for the first time and can cause some problems once everyone gets up and swims. Taylor, who last year came into the meet in this event with a time of 19.85 was on the podium and fell a little short of expectations and is looking to redeem his Pure Sprint abilities by breaking 20 and making a very strong push for the title. Both of these Men have had a pretty good season so far and can make big things happen right off the bat!

200 Medley Relay Women:
My Predicted Winner:

Wayne State University
The quad women swimmers of Wayne State University sit qualified 2nd with a time of 1:43.53. They have experience on all strokes and are the reigning champs in this event from last year's NCAA championships. There 1st, 2nd and last legs of the relay prove to be the fastest in the pool which declares them the most rounded relay in this event. If all goes to plan it will be very difficult to beat once again this year in this event.

My Dark Horse:
Drury University women have had the ability in the past to pull an upset as well with straight up prove there outright title. They are not entered with a qualifying time but they have enough swimmers in the meet to swim the relay and really score some major points. Depending on Wai Ting "Janet" Yu who has ACL tear availability, that knowing Drury and Coach Reynolds they will have one of their Women step up and have them contend. Drury shines when the lights are brightest!

200 Medley Relay Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Grand Canyon University
The GCU men's relay can really set high standards with coming away with the National Title and NCAA Record from 2009 the last Festival year. They are entered at the top qualifying time of 1:27.78 and the NCAA Record from 2009 NCAA Swimming Championships in Houston, Texas of 1:27.25 set by Ouachita Baptist University. Last year, they had 2 outstanding legs of Eetu Karvonen who swims the Breaststroke leg and is the reigning NCAA Champ in both the 100 and 200 Breaststroke, and Michael Branning who has the fastest 50 Free split in Division 2 History. All their other 2 legs have to do is split with the field to give their big guns the ability to lead the way. Though this event is stacked and can go anyway possible but my money is on the Grand Canyon University contingency to get the job done at the end of the day.

My Dark Horse:
University of the Incarnate Word Men's team is heavily loaded on their first three legs and has the ability to juggle their backstrokers and butterflyers around with their bread and butter breaststroker Thiago Parravicini. Basically, for their relay team revolves around whether or not their anchor on the Freestyle leg to hold his own and hold off the field as long as they are in the lead. This is a Dual in the Pool for the National Title between the big guns of GCU, UIW, Grand Valley State, Florida Southern, and Drury.

Day 1 of the 2013 NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Alabama will dictate the meet for the individual and teams for the quest of a Team National Champion. Teams seemed to be ready to rumble and will have to provide their scorers in the events in prelims to set them up in Finals. All in all, it is going to be fun, exciting, and some really fast swimming and cannot wait to see what happens on Day 1-4!

Special thanks to Grand Canyon University swimmer Richie Krzyzanowski for providing excellent coverage this week in Birmingham!