By Richie Krzyzanowski
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, March 8. AFTER a scintillating finals session of day two, the vibe for the most part entering the facility was a little dead, being the halfway point of the meet. The performances to open up Day three's prelims session were very fast and set up a lot of close consolation and championship final races. The one thing that the prelims session lacked was that no NCAA records were set, but tonight looks like it will contain a few NCAA records to be broken.
The morning session dealt with a nearly one-hour delay of the meet , due to an environmental condition of someone vomiting in the pool. With that delay the NCAA Championships finals will be moved back 30 minutes and will not start at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time. With that, let's get a rundown of what happened this morning races of the Men's and Women's 500 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, 200 butterfly.
500 Freestyle Women:
This event dealt with a very fast top 8 in which you needed a 4:57.25 to qualify into the championship final. The top qualifier going into the session is UC-San Diego junior Anjali Shakya, who posted a time of 4:53.55 just ahead of Allison Crenshaw of Florida Southern (4:53.97), Erin Black of Nova Southeastern (4:54.16) and Heather Glenday from the University of Tampa (4:54.18). These four women will have a lot to say in tonight's final, and will have a nice race going in lanes 3-6 of the middle of the pool. Shakya, who last night's winner in the 200 free, looks to make herself a national champion in back-to-back nights with a win in this event. Crenshaw, who was the 1000 freestyle national champ, would like to go for a sweep in the distance events with a win, and Black looks to defend her NCAA title from last year. This race will be exciting and will get everyone on their feet to watch these women.
500 Freestyle Men:
University of Incarnate Word's senior Mark Rubin has the top time going into tonight's finals session with a 4:25.55. He is followed by Queens University's Alex Menke (4:26.79), West Chester's Bradley Strathmeyer (4:27.67) and Florida Southern's Juan Tolosa (4:28.06). Rubin had the top time coming into the meet and looked as if he took the morning swim easy to save up some energy for tonight's finale. Rubin can very well run away with this race and will have his eyes set on the NCAA record set by Iaroslav Denysenko of Wingate at last year's NCAA's with a time of 4:21.48. After speaking to Rubin, all he says about the race is, “I just want to get Denysenko's record. That's all I want!” Hearing that from Rubin makes me say that NCAA record is going to take some rewriting tonight.
100 Backstroke Women:
Tonight's top qualifier is Alaska-Fairbanks junior Bente Heller, who posted a time of 54.53. She is followed by the defending national champion in the event, Ashland's Julie Widmann (55.02). Clarion's Kayla Shull (55.40) and Wayne States Sarah Maraskine (55.64) will also be in the mix. One big story in this event is Wayne State's Ana Azambuja being disqualified for her start in which she kicked clearly passed 15 meters. Wayne State would have had the third and fifth fastest times of the morning session if Azambuja was not disqualified. This race will be a close one and will have a lot of pressure put on their shoulders by their team. Widmann will look to become a two-time national champion in the event, while Heller looks to make it her first NCAA title. All of these women have experience, and with that they will be able to control their emotions tonight. Looking forward to a great race.
100 Backstroke Men:
Bridgeport University's junior Oscar Pereiro is sitting with the top time going into tonight with a 47.54. He is followed by Drury's Daniel Swietlicki (47.96), Florida Southern's Jeb Halfacre (48.00) and two other Drury men: Jordi Montseny Diez (48.03) and Taylor Westby (48.19). Drury has three guys in the A final and looks to capitalize on some big points to be scored. Pereiro, who is the NCAA record holder in the event, will likely to make it a three-time NCAA champion, as well with break a new NCAA record, which is on the line tonight. Pereiro will be pushed by Swietlicki and Halfacre, but I do not think either of these fine men will be able to keep up with Pereiro's speed. Prove me wrong men, but this race will be exciting and a must watch for a NCAA Record.
100 Breastroke Women:
Simon Fraser's freshman Mariya Chekanovych qualified with the top time of 1:01.96, which is a hair off of the NCAA record of 1:01.58 set last year by Wayne State's Kayla Scott, who is second in the event tonight (1:02.64). This is a two-woman race between Chekanovych and Scott, and both of them look as if they will break the NCAA record tonight. If the race is head to head going into the last 50, the NCAA title should go to Chekanovych ,who split on the back half of the race with a 32.27, the fastest split in the morning. Both of these women are fierce competitors and will do whatever it takes to become a national champion.
100 Breaststroke Men:
Grand Canyon University's Eetu Karvonen is the top qualifier going into finals and defending champion in the event with a time of 53.01. He is followed by a pretty stacked field: Florida Southern's Miguel Ferreira (53.47), Wingate's Rory Julyan (53.74) and two-time NCAA champ and record holder at the meet, Wayne State's Piotr Jachowicz (53.81). Karvonen will look to repeat, but has his work cut out for him. After talking to him after the race, he stated “It felt like 200 pace and I knew I had my heat won.” Whatever that means to Karvonen, it shows that he will be ready to tear things up tonight. In this event the NCAA record will be at stake of 52.43 set by University of Tampa's Aleksander Hetland in 2009. Karvonen will be pushed by Ferreira, who was the NCAA Champion in the event two years ago and who lost to Karvonen on the last 25 of the race last year. Jachowicz looks to make his individual event NCAA championship a perfect three-for-three, but in an event that isn't like the IM where he is the top dog, he will have a big upset in mind for these men. This will be the most exciting and loud race of the evening.
200 Butterfly Women:
Wayne State's sophomore Kristina Novichenko is the top qualifier going into finals with a 2:00.60. She is followed by LIU Post's Joyce Kwok: 2:01.66 and Southern Connecticut State's Amanda Thomas (2:01.88). This race will be a three-headed race and will include a back and forth leader throughout. Kwok will like to capitalize on a missed opportunity in yesterday's 100 fly (second place) with a win in the longer distance. Amanda Thomas looks to add another NCAA title to her stellar career as a collegian.
200 Butterfly Men:
The leader going into finals is UC-San Diego sophomore Dane Stassi with a time of 1:46.83. He is followed by Drury's Stanislav Kuzmin (1:48.04), Indy's Daniel Chan (1:48.22) and Wingate's Marko Blazevski (1:48.55). Stassi, who did not seem like he was as fatigued as the others after the races, showed that he will be a lot to handle and it will be hard to take him down. Stassi, if he is pushed, can really can turn on the throttle early and hold on to win the event. A sleeper to watch out for is out of lane 8, Grand Canyon University's Ivan Nechunaev.
Both the women's and men's 800 free relays top eight will swim in tonight's finals and will provide some excitement to end the night heading into Day 4, the final day. Tonight will once again be an exciting and fast night where we can see multiple NCAA records broken. I can't wait for this time of the day to see these student-athletes shine bright when the lights are all on them at the big show. Once again, follow us on twitter @swimmingworld for constant updates of the races at NCAA Division II Championships in Birmingham.