NCAA Division II Championships Preview: Day 2

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By Richie Krzyzanowski

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, March 6. AFTER day 1 is all said and done at the NCAA Division II Championships, the next slew of events begin to have some serious team score implications that can really swing things either good or bad for the assembled teams.

With that, let's get into the thick and the thin of the events being swum on Day 2; Men's and Women's 200 freestyle relay, Men's and Women's 400 Individual Medley, Men's and Women's 100 Butterfly, Men's and Women's 200 Freestyle, and to conclude the day with Men's and Women's 400 Medley Relay. Here it goes…

200 Freestyle Relay Women:
My Predicted Winner:

University of the Incarnate Word
They are entered with the top qualified time in the event of 1:32.56 and have a little over a second lead on the field coming into the race. The person that this revolves around the most is Tamiris Nascimento who from Day 1's result can be the fastest women swimmer in the pool and can get the job done for the team. Another key person to the relay contingency of Incarnate Word is Meghann McGoldrick who split on their qualifying time relay a 22.84. She has the ability to set up UIW with a 1-2 punch that can be hard to catch and cope with throughout the race.

My Dark Horse:
Anybody in the top 8! This one relay depends on who on their anchor leg can get their hand on the wall first. 2nd through 7th place is separated by a mere .89 of a second. Those relay teams are in qualification order: UCSD, Drury, GCU, Tampa, Ashland, Cal State East Bay, and Wayne State. Whichever relay team has the ability to get out in front and have some clear water may benefit come the final 5 yards! This is going to be one exciting race to become a National Champion!

200 Freestyle Relay Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University once again has a potent sprint freestyle group that you do not want to mess with. GCU represents this relay with top seed in the 50 free Michael Branning, who has the fastest 50 free relay split, recorded for Division II. With that they are also represented by another big gun, Taylor Turner, who has been under 20 seconds flat start last year. With these 2 men they have the ability to set themselves up with a possible NCAA record that was set by Limestone in Houston, Texas at NCAA's in 2009 of 1:19.25. GCU's other sprinters, whoever they put on the relay (Kyle Shores, Tanner Brotherton, and Alex Dmitriyenko) will just have to hold their own to let the top dogs do the work.

My Dark Horse:
Kind of familiar this time of year at NCAA's we say this but, Drury University is the team that can stir up problems for anyone else in the field. Drury last year won the event with a fantastic anchor leg by Vladimir Sidorkin, who once again is back to claim the victory for the event. Drury, who as a team hasn't really rested since November/December, should be ready to shine in this with a contingency that is pretty well-rounded. All they need is 2 guys under 20 on a split and it is going to be a duel in the pool between GCU and Drury, which for these two teams is expected to come down to the wire once again.

400 Individual Medley Women:
My Predicted Winner:

Amanda Thomas, Senior, Southern Connecticut State University
Once again, Amanda Thomas should be the favorite to win the event, as well with possibly breaking the NCAA record of 4:14.00 held by Casey Hurrell-Zitelman from the University of Incarnate Word at the 2011 NCAA Championships. Thomas has blistering speed in the front half of the race in the butterfly and backstroke legs, which sets her apart to have no one in her sight the rest of the race. She is qualified in 4th place with a time of 4:20.73. If she wins this event, it will be hers for the second time in back to back years.

My Dark Horse:
Beth Dong, Junior, UC San Diego
Dong is entered with the top qualifying time in the event at 4:18.01. She has experience in this event in which she finished 4th in it at last year's NCAA Championships. She is pretty well-rounded in all strokes which will pay dividends for her but not having a weak stroke. This time around for her she has the ability to compete with Thomas and go head to head with her the whole race from start to finish. A little bit of guts may turn into a lot of glory after the race is finished is she hits on all cylinders.

400 Individual Medley Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Marko Blazevski, Junior, Wingate University
Blazevski comes into this race as the 2 time defending NCAA Champion, which makes him hard to beat. In the qualification rankings he sits with the 15th best time from November 2012 at 3:58.33. Seems a little low but by the looks of it, seems as if Marko hasn't rested much through the season. If he comes into the meet tearing it up and on fire he can very well set an NCAA record time, of 3:49.17 set by Kyrillo Fesenko of Drury at 2012 NCAA Championships, a record that he has been after for two years now. If he has the drive inside of him he will come out as the top dog in the event.

My Dark Horse:
It's a three way tie between Daniel Samaniego Torres, Evandro Silva of the University of the Incarnate Word and Brian Morrison of Grand Canyon University.

Samaniego Torres currently holds the qualified top time of 3:50.55 and Silva is 17th at a time of 3:58.77 and looks like both of their sights are on the NCAA record. Both of these Men haven't rested since their December meet in which they had a stellar meet. University of the Incarnate Word did not send their top guns to RMAC Conference Championships which tells me as stated from Day 1's preview that head coach Phil Davis is saving the best races for the big dance. Both of these men could very well be standing 1-2 when the race is all said and done. Brian Morrison, who was runner up in this event at last year's NCAA's looks for some redemption against Blazevski as well with the NCAA record. Morrison currently is qualified in 3rd with a time of 3:53.99. All it takes for Morrison is a body length lead going into the freestyle leg he could secure himself a nice title of National Champion. From 1st -8th place it looks like it will be a blood bath throughout this grueling race.

100 Butterfly Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Mychala Lynch, Senior, Grand Canyon University
Mychala Lynch comes in qualified to NCAA's with a time of 54.70 which sits at 2nd place. Lynch is the reigning NCAA champion in the event. Last year Lynch came up just short of the NCAA record set by Li Tao of Drury a time of 53.55 at the 2011 NCAA Championships. Lynch once again has her eye on two prizes, another NCAA National Title as well with an NCAA Division II record. Lynch, seems to not have rested since December which means she is going to turn things up a notch on the big stage. If it goes to Coach Steve Schaffer's plan she will be a very happy camper when they look up at the scoreboard in Birmingham.

My Dark Horse:
Joyce Kwok, Freshman, C.W. Post
She comes into the meet as the top qualifier with a time of 53.93. Kwok who is a newcomer to the NCAA Championships has her work cut out for her from her competitors of Lynch, as well with Olivia Fountain of UCSD. Her qualification time is from mid-November, which shows she has a lot to show for when it is her time to race. Kwok, also has her eyes on two prizes of another NCAA National Title as well with an NCAA Division II record.

100 Butterfly Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Marcus Schlesinger, Senior, Ouachita Baptist University
Schlesinger comes in with the top time qualified for the meet of 47.63. Schlesinger, who has been so consistent all year in this event and looks to capitalize with his first National Title. Schlesinger who has posted two of the top times this year both in the fall semester and now in the winter semester. Marcus, placed at last year's NCAA's in 4th place, and seems like this race all falls into his hands. His swimming speed is something special and makes it look so effortless. If it is that effortless looking he will undeniably win the event in effort-fashion.

My Dark Horse:
Stanislav Kuzmin, Sophomore, Drury University
He came in at the semester and really has taken off like a rocket. His 47.91 was achieved 3 weeks ago which sits qualified for 2nd place can really shake things up. Kuzmin is from Kazakhstan, and is unseen talent so far in Division II. He's our dark horse because we do not know much about him since he has swam only about 9 weeks of the season. We will see what he does to help Drury's men capture their 8th straight National Championship.

200 Freestyle Women:
My Predicted Winner:

Anjali Shakya, Junior, UC San Diego
Shakya comes into the meet as the top seed in the event with a time of 1:48.01. Last year at the 2012 NCAA Championships she placed second in the event by just coming up short by .3 tenths of a second. Shakya, is coming into the meet hungry to become a National Champ and the notion of breaking a possible NCAA record of 1:47.10 set by Loni Burton of CSU Bakersfield at NCAA Championships in 2005. UCSD's girls teams are always in contention of winning the team Title outright and Anjali will play a major role in their team's success.

My Dark Horse:
Ana Azambuja, Junior, Wayne State University
She sits in 21st place with a time of 1:52.02. This is why she is the dark horse because she is the reigning champ in the event. Azambuja is definitely Wayne State's top girl and will try to repeat as NCAA champ and hold the NCAA record all to herself. In prelims she will be in an outside lane and should cruise into finals, but once Finals hits she will be ready to go to help secure major points for her team. Expect big things in this race from both Anjali, Ana, Ana's teammate Sarah Marskine of Wayne State, and Maura Donahue of Indianapolis University.

200 Freestyle Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Vladimir Sidorkin, Senior, Drury University
Sidorkin comes into the meet as probably one of the most decorated All-American swimmers, and looks like he is going to come away with some hardware once again. He is qualified as the top qualifier with a time of 1:36.65. The passed two NCAA's he has come in 3rd and 4th place respectively and those who finished in front are no longer with Division II. Vladimir has the strength to go out pretty fast and back half the race like a champ. His back 100 is going to be the key to him winning and if he has anybody within a body length of him going into the last 50, he will run them down because he is one of the hungriest swimmers in the pool to win for him and his team.

My Dark Horse:
Olexandr Padalkin, Sophomore, Drury University,
Padalkin comes into the meet qualified 13th with a time of 1:37.97. This is an event in which Drury has 4-5 guys that can very well place in the top 16 as well with 3 that can get into the top 8. Padalkin, has good front half speed, but his back half speed is one of the fastest, if not the fastest one in the pool. Don't count him out if he does squeeze into the top 8 because once that first 100 hits, he becomes a lethal competitor. Expect Drury to rack up points in this event and possibly see one of these 3 guys Sidorkin, Padalkin, and teammate Artur Dilman 1-2 on the podium.

400 Medley Relay Women:
My Predicted Winner:

Wayne State University
The quartet of women swimmers of Wayne State University sits qualified 7th with a time of 3:47.96. They have experience on all strokes and are the reigning champs in this event from last year's NCAA championships as well with the leadership of Junior Ana Azambuja to lead them to the promised land. Their 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 Wayne State will be very difficult to beat once again this year in this event.

My Dark Horse:
C.W. Post has the top qualified time of 3:45.90 and looks to be a team not to mess with on these medley relays. Their team is led by top qualifier in the 100 butterfly, Joyce Kwok. Going into the final two legs of the relay, butterfly and freestyle, and C.W. Post is in the lead, it may be hard to catch because the combination of Kwok, and teammate Meghan Brazier are one of the fastest duos in the pool for the medley relays. Wayne State and C.W. Post should have a tight race from start to finish, and will be something to watch after Wayne State ran away with the title last year in the event.

400 Medley Relay Men:
My Predicted Winner:

Toss Up!
The top five teams in the event are as follows, Grand Canyon University, University of the Incarnate Word, Drury, Grand Valley State University, and Florida Southern. All 5 of these teams are within a second of one another, and with passed NCAA history, Florida Southern would be the heavy favorite, though they sit in 5th place with some potent company of GCU, UIW, and Drury. Whoever gets out in front of the field on the final leg will win the race due to clean water being a factor than rather fight their way to the front. I think that the NCAA record will be broken, not only by 1 team but 4 teams of FSC, GCU, UIW, and DU and will end with a fingernail finish. This one is too hard to decide on so we will let it stand as a toss up!

Day 2 we will really start to see the top 5 teams separate themselves and set them up for the following 2 days. The teams that will be sitting in the top of the points on the women's side will be Wayne State, Drury, UCSD, Florida Southern, UIW, and GCU. For the Men's side sitting on top will be GCU, UIW, Drury, Florida Southern, and UCSD. It will look like these following 2 days will be full of exciting racing going on at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama.

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