COLLEGE STATION, Texas, March 19. THE 2009 edition of college swimming's Big Dance are just underway this morning in College Station, Texas. California and Georgia are off to a strong start, along with defending champion Arizona.
200 Freestyle Relay
California's foursome of Liv Jensen (22.06), Hannah Wilson (21.77), Madison Kennedy (21.76) and Dana Vollmer (21.46) led the way with a stellar time of 1:27.05, just off Arizona's NCAA and American record of 1:26.90, set at last year's championships. Auburn followed in a time of 1:27.45, with Georgia just behind in 1:27.51. Defending champ Arizona (1:28.18), Texas A&M (1:28.25), Louisville (1:28.44), Stanford (1:28.57), and Texas (1:28.75) rounded out the rest of the championship final.
Florida picked up ninth place in a time of 1:28.80 behind Gemma Spofforth's 21.53 split. LSU, Virginia, and Minnesota were close behind in times of 1:29.09, 1:29.12 and 1:29.17, respectively. Completing this evening's B final are Wisconsin (1:29.42), Clemson (1:29.56), Tennessee (1:29.67) and SMU (1:29.85).
Last year, any time under 4:42 would have been good enough to make top eight; this year, things have changed. Georgia's Allison Schmitt qualified first for tonight's final in a swift time of 4:35.43. Maggie Bird of Auburn followed in 4:36.63, just ahead of California's Sara Isakovic (4:36.79). The second of three Lady Bulldog's in the championship final, Chelsea Nauta posted a 4:37.78 for fourth. Katinka Hosszu from USC took fifth in 4:38.52. Rounding out the top eight finishers were Whitney Sprague (4:38.72), Wendy Trott (4:38.80) and Yuen Kobayashi (4:38.91).
Princeton's Alicia Aemisegger grabbed the top seed in consols with a 4:40.01. She will be joined by Texas A&M Aggies Codie Hanson and Christine Marshall, who placed 10th and 12th, respectively. Completing the top 16 finishers were Cal's Lauren Boyle, Arizona's Alyssa Anderson, Stanford's Whitney Spence, Indiana's Amanda Smith and Florida's Laurabeth Guenthner.
200 Individual Medley
Texas freshman Kathleen Hersey just missed Julia Smit's American record of 1:53.11, posting a top-qualifying time of 1:53.44. Smit, meanwhile, cruised to a second-place time of 1:54.39. Auburn's Ava Ohlgren picked up third in 1:54.93, followed by Morgan Scroggy of Georgia (1:55.56) and Julie Stupp of Arizona (1:55.81). Rounding out the championship heat are Gemma Spofforth (1:55.85), Elaine Breeden (1:56.59) and Margaret Kelly (1:56.71).
The consolation final tonight will be tightly packed, featuring eight swimmers within half a second of one another. Arizona will be well represented, with Annie Chandler (1:57.02), Jenny Forster (1:57.16) and Hailey Degolia (1:57.18) qualifying 11th, 12th and 14th. Oregon State's Saori Haruguchi finished ninth in 1:56.80. The remaining finalists include Auburn's Caitlin Geary (1:56.98), Virginia's Megan Evo (1:57.17), Minnesota's Jenny Shaughnessy (1:57.22) and Texas A&M's Alia Atkinson (1:57.31).
American record-holder Lara Jackson took an important step in defending her NCAA title from last year, posting the fastest swim of the morning in 21.75. Just behind her was Georgia's Anne-marie Botek, who qualified second in 21.82. Michele King of Tennessee took third in 22.01, while Triin Aljand picked up fourth in 22.02. California swimmers grabbed the next three spots, as Hannah Wilson (22.06), Madison Kennedy (22.08) and Liv Jensen (22.09) placed fifth, sixth and seventh. Hee-jin Chang of Texas squeezed into the eighth and final spot in 22.11
Virginia Tech's Sara Smith will be the top seed in the consolation heat this evening in 22.12. Anne Marie May from UC Santa Barbara qualified tenth in 22.13, followed by Wisconsin's Rebecca Thompson (22.14) and Stanford's Samantha Woodward (22.16). Thompson's teammate Maggie Meyer took 13th in 22.18. Whitney Campbell, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Justine Schluntz round out the top 16 finishers.
400 Medley Relay
Arizona looks to be in strong position to defend it's title from a year ago, posting the top qualifying time of 3:29.89. They will have to contend with the likes of USC and California in finals, however who placed second and third in times of 3:30.59 and 3:31.26, respectively. Perennial power Georgia continued to post strong performances, garnering the fourth seed in 3:32.04, with Stanford just behind in 3:32.12. Tennessee (3:32.61), Virginia (3:32.74) and Wisconsin (3:33.37) grabbed the remaining three spots.
Powerhouses Auburn and Texas will have to battle it out for ninth place as the two schools qualified ninth and tenth, respectively. Florida finished just behind in 3:33.79, while Washington and Texas A&M tied for 12th in 3:34.16. Minnesota (3:34.32), Indiana (3:34.63) and SMU (3:35.02) will make up the rest of the consolation heat.
Houston's Anastasia Pozdniakova topped preliminary qualifying with 343.10 points, while Indiana's Christina Loukas placed second with 316.40 points. Hawaii's Emma Friesen (303.25), Purdue's Ashley Karnes (302.60), USC's Victoria Ishimatsu (302.60), Texas' Kathryn Kelly (293.00), Kansas' Erin Mertz (284.36) and Miami's Jenna Dreyer (282.70)also earned the right to dive for the title tonight.
Texas A&M's Jaele Patrick (281.30), Nevada's Candice Minette (278.75), Purdue's Casey Matthews (278.10), Indiana's Brittney Feldman (277.20), Florida's Kara Salamone (275.60), Purdue's Emily Wetzel (271.70), Georgia's Hannah Moore (271.50) and Miami's Brittany Viola (270.55) moved into consolation competition.
Patrick gave the home crowd something to cheer for with a consolation winning tally of 304.85 points. Viola placed second with 301.60 points, while Wetzel took third with 300.75 points.