Women's NCAA Championships
The Big Three Set the Pace at prelims on Day One
By Phillip Whitten
March 16, INDIANAPOLIS. Swimmers from the top three ranked schools–Georgia, Arizona and Stanford–set the pace during prelims on the first day of the Women's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, being held at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis. Bu by no means did they dominate the competition.
The University of Arizona got the ball rolling by qualifying first in the 4×50 meter freestyle relay, setting an American and U.S. open record in an event that has seldom been contested. The Wildcat team of Denali Knapp (25.35), Jenny Vanker (24.72), Emily Mastin (25.35) and Sarah Tolar (24.79) touched in 1:40.21, six tenths of a second ahead of Stanford, with Cal third and Georgia fourth. Georgia's Courtney Shealey had the fastest split of the morning, 24.60.
It took under 4:10 to make the finals of the 400 meter freestyle, with Columbia's Cristina Teuscher leading the way with a smooth 4:06.46. Teuscher had the fastest splits from start to finish. Virginia freshman Cara Lane qualified second with Stanford's Jessica Foschi third.
Georgia's Kristy Kowal unleashed an awesome breaststroke split to qualify first in the 200 meter individual medley at 2:11.02. Cal's Elli Overton, an Australian Olympian, qualified second, ahead of USC freshman Michala Kwasny and Cal's Jocelyn Yeo, an Olympian from Singapore.
Notre Dame's Carrie Nixon was the surprise top qualifier in the 50 meter freestyle, and the only swimmer to dip below 25 seconds. Nixon clocked 24.99, just two-hundredths ahead of Stanford's Catherine Fox. Fox, who has won the event three years in a row, is poised to become only the sixth woman in NCAA history to win an event for four consecutive years. It won't be easy, as only a quarter of a second separates the top eight qualifiers.
The US Open record in the 400 meter medley relay, set by a team from East Germany, lasted 17 years. But the Stanford team of Shelly Ripple, Gabrielle Rose, Misty Hyman and Catherine Fox hacked more than a second off that standard with a 4:01.76 clocking. Ripple led off the backstroke in 59.70, while Hyman contributed a 57.92 fly leg. Georgia was only 9-hundredths back, largely on the strength of a 59.51 backstroke leg by Courtney Shealy and Kristy Kowal's smokin' 1:05.29 breaststroke split.