Courtesy of: NCAA
PHOENIX, Arizona, February 24. THE college conference championships are always fast, but I don't think anyone expected two American records and three NCAA records. And then there's high school, where teenagers are continuing to raise the bar on what's possible in this sport. So let's get our countdown of the top five headlines of the past week started, and we begin in Los Angeles for number five.
After 18 months of reconstruction, the new aquatics facility at the University of Southern California is now officially open, making the famous pool even more spectacular. Now called the Uytengsu Aquatics Center in honor of its very generous donor, former USC swimmer Fred Uytengsu, the pool itself is not different, looking very much as it did when it was built for the 1984 Olympics but now named the Peter Daland Pool in honor of the great coach who led the Trojans to nine NCAA titles. The pool might be the same but the area around it is very new, featuring updated locker rooms and offices, as well as a new diving tower and probably most important for anyone who's been to this pool before, shaded spectator seating. Though meets have been contested in the pool during the renovation, last weekend's meet against Utah was the first official one in the facility, and the Trojan men's team took down Utah with a score of 134-117. An all-senior 400 freestyle relay of Cristian Quintero, Dmitri Colupaev, Jack Wagner and Chase Bloch beat Utah by two hundredths of a second to close out the meet and send both squads into final preparation for the Pac 12 championships, which starts a week from Wednesday. Perhaps there is a stipulation that the Pac 12 championships be held indoors, which limits the number of places it could be held in California, but the Uytengsu Aquatics Center looks like a fantastic place to hold a championship meet.
Further north in California was a much bigger men's collegiate dual meet, the annual rivalry matchup between Stanford and Cal, which is number four on the countdown. Though Cal's women could not beat Stanford in their dual meet on February 15, the Golden Bears were very dominant in the men's meet, winning every single swimming event and placing first through third in several of them. This meet is often a lot closer than it was, but just because Stanford lost by 95 points doesn't mean the Cardinal won't be strong at the Pac 12 meet. Cal ended Stanford's championship streak at the conference meet last year, and Stanford won't take things lying down this year. Cal does look much stronger on paper, they have been ranked higher than Stanford on the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's poll all season and they have more potential NCAA champions, but again, Stanford should never be underestimated. But it's undeniable that Saturday's win gave Cal a lot of confidence in these final days of preparation for Pac 12s.
We move to high school swimming for the number three swimming headline of the past week. Various states and regions held championships across the country, and many of them featured team races that were decided by very small margins. In the Texas 5A meet, for example, Westlake beat Carroll by just one point for the girls team title, thanks to a fifth-place finish in the 400 free relay by Westlake to offset Carroll's win in the race and a win in the 200 medley relay by three tenths of a second. The highlight of that meet on the boys side was the 4:16.90 in the 500 free by Jonathan Roberts to break the meet record set in 2005 by none other than world championship team member Michael Kleuh. At the Eastern Interscholastic championships in Philadelphia, a meet strictly for private schools in the region, Loyola Blakefield beat defending champion Peddie by just 7.5 points. SwimmingWorld.TV was there producing the live stream of the meet, and it was great to see the teams fighting for every point possible. Those were just two of the high school championships that took place over the weekend, and you can go to our high school page at swimmingworld.com to read recaps from other meets. You should also head over to swimmingworld.tv to watch races from Easterns.
We return to college swimming for the number two headline of the week. This was the first major week of college conference championships as many teams get ready for the NCAA championships. This was the time for many swimmers to get their automatic qualifying times for the NCAAs, which many did in spades. Some of the times we saw at several meets, such as the Southeastern conference meet, the Atlantic Coast conference women's meet, the Big 10 women's meet and the American Athletic conference, saw times that ranked in the top 10 in Division I swimming and produce some interesting potential matchups for next month's championships. One of the biggest stories of the conference meets was Stephanie Peacock in the 1650 freestyle at the ACC meet. After posting an NCAA record time of 9:28.76 at the 1000-yard mark, Peacock was passed in the home stretch by teammate Leah Smith, who would win the event by almost four seconds. We later learned that Peacock fell ill in the race and had to be taken from the facility on a stretcher. North Carolina isn't saying what affected Peacock during the race, but we certainly hope she's well enough to return for the NCAA championships next month. Judging from her splits, Peacock seemed to only have issues in the final 150 yards, so thankfully the issue did not present itself until the very end of the race.
So what's the number one swimming headline of the week? That's easy: It's the four major records broken, three of which were oddly enough in breaststroke. We already mentioned Peacock's NCAA record in the 1000, so let's break down those three remaining records. Also done at the ACC championships on Saturday was the American record by Notre Dame's Emma Reaney in the 200 breaststroke with a 2:04.34 to take down the 2:04.48 by Texas A&M's Breeja Larson in November 2012. Reaney has been a contender in the breaststrokes for the past two years, and now she's definitely one to watch at the NCAA championships. Before this season, Reaney's best time in the 200 was 2:06.77 from the 2013 NCAA championships. Then, she swam a 2:05.85 at the Hawkeye Invitational in December 2013 that likely gave her the confidence to go for the fastest swim in history. Larson also had a great weekend, breaking her own American record in the 100 breast at the SEC championships with a 57.28, beating her best by .15 seconds. Larson set that record at last year's SEC championships, and now is in the spotlight to see if she can get faster at the NCAA championships, which she was unable to do last year but still won the 100 breast. And finally, the other major record set was a 53.24 by Andrew Seliskar at the Virginia 5A state championship to give him the national high school record in the 100 breast. The time is just two hundredths faster than his best time, which he swam at last December's USA Swimming nationals. Because swimmers cannot break national high school records outside of official high school championships, Seliskar had to do it last weekend, and he's now the fastest high school breaststroker in history.