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Morning Splash by David Rieder.
Stanford should finish atop the field at this week’s women’s NCAA championships in Columbus, Ohio, and the Cardinal will likely be followed by Cal, Texas A&M and Michigan. And then, things get interesting.
According to pre-diving score projections, teams projected to finish fifth through ninth will all be within 43 points of each other, and several more are within striking distance of that pack. Check out the full chart.
So Tennessee, which fell to a shocking 22nd last year, has a legitimate shot at a top-five finish, and that’s almost entirely thanks to Erika Brown. She’s seeded first, third and fifth in her three individual events, and she will be the key to the Tennessee relays as well. The Vols are only projected for four individual scoring swims from other swimmers, two from Meghan Small, one from Tess Cieplucha and one from Katie Armitage.
USC won’t get as many relay points but should get an influx of individual points from Louise Hansson, as well as potential A-final contributions from Riley Scott, Maggie Aroesty and Maddie Wright.
Louisville, like Tennessee, is dependent on a single swimmer: Mallory Comerford. The Cardinals managed to finish sixth last season despite only five A-final swims (three by Comerford and two by the graduated Andrea Cottrell) and one B-finalist in Grace Oglesby. This year’s team is the deepest the Cardinals have ever had and very strong in relays.
Virginia beat Louisville at the ACC championships, but the depth that won the Cavaliers the conference meet will not show as well given the NCAA championship format. The sprint relays should score big, but UVA is projected for only three individual A-final swims all meet: Caitlin Cooper in the 50 free, Megan Moroney in the 200 free and Jen Marrkand in the 200 fly.
Texas, the last of the bunched-up teams within striking range of fifth place, should have room to move up given that flyers Remedy Rule and Lauren Case are both seeded outside the scoring in the 200 fly. Claire Adams having a big meet is the key for the Longhorns.
Behind them, it’s tough to see Indiana gaining much from their swimming seeds, given that Lilly King and the medley relays are already very high seeds, but diving could be a big boost for the Hoosiers.
Look a little further down that list, and there’s the University of Georgia seeded to finish 15th—yes, the same Bulldogs who have finished in the top two 15 of the last 19 years. But after the losses of Olympic medalists Olivia Smoliga and Chantal Van Landeghem to graduation, some drop-off was inevitable.
This year’s Bulldogs have some good pieces on the roster, with Courtney Harnish (500 and 1650 free), Meaghan Raab (200 IM and 200 free), Megan Kingsley (200 fly) and Veronica Burchill (100 free) all capable of championship final swims and both Chelsea Britt and Kylie Stewart having shots at scoring individually. But it’s tough to see Georgia finishing top eight in any relay outside of the 4×200 free.
The good news: None of the seeds mean anything at all once the meet starts. Plenty of teams will be up and down, and then diving comes into the equation. The national title may be out of reach for any team but Stanford, but especially when it comes to the bottom of the top ten, this meet should be wide open.