NCAA Women’s Division I Championships: Georgia Keeps Piling Up Finalists

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, March 22. THE second day of preliminary swimming is complete at the NCAA Women's Division I Championships at the IU Natatorium at IUPUI. Special thanks to SpeedoUSA for sponsoring our editorial coverage for this meet.

The Georgia Bulldogs put together a strong day, including a huge three up, three down effort in the 200-yard freestyle as Jack Bauerle's squad kept on rolling towards the team title.

Barring disqualifications, Georgia looks to be in first at the end of tonight with nearly 300 points, while California will likely be standing second with around 280 points. Tennessee (265.5), Texas A&M (221) and Arizona (220) will likely comprise the rest of the top five based on this morning's performances.

Women's 200 medley relay
Southern California put together a strong top-seeded time this morning in what proved to be an extremely fast preliminary session of spring medley work. USC's Christel Simms (24.52), Kasey Carlson (26.47), Kendyl Stewart (23.01) and Katarzyna Wilk (21.72) held off a strong surge from the rest of the field to turn in a 1:35.72. USC has never won this event, but is looking to keep it in the Pacific 12 family as Arizona (2010) and California (2011, 2012) have won the previous three NCAA titles in the event.

Powered by a monster backstroke leadoff from Rachel Bootsma (23.46), California's Caitlin Leverenz (27.25), Cindy Tran (23.36) and Kaylin Bing (21.89) brought home the second-seeded time of 1:35.96. Cal is looking for a threepeat, which has not happened in this event since Florida took home the titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990 with the likes of Stephanie Zunich and Dara Torres. The foursome of Tran, Leverenz, Colleen Fotsch and Liv Jensen triumphed the last two years for the Golden Bears.

Arizona's Lauren Smart (24.61), Chelsey Salli (26.91), Megan Lafferty (23.27) and Margo Geer (21.24) raced to third in 1:36.03. Arizona has won the event three previous times with wins in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and is looking to become just the fourth program with four wins (Stanford — 11; Auburn — 4; Florida — 4).

Tennessee's Lauren Solernou (24.69), Molly Hannis (26.37), Kelsey Floyd (23.10) and Caroline Simmons (22.04) put the Lady Vols in position to win their third relay title in as many tries this week with a fourth-seeded time of 1:36.20. Texas A&M (1:36.39), Stanford (1:36.57), Florida (1:36.80) and Auburn (1:36.90) earned the other championship heat spots. In the team title race, Georgia squeaked into the B final with a 16th-place 1:38.34 and could improve its position greatly this evening.

Women's 400 IM
Texas A&M's Sarah Henry bounced back in a big way after a disappointing B final finish in the 500-yard free yesterday. Henry popped a 4:04.90 to lead the way in the distance medley event. She is looking to become the Aggies first 400 IM NCAA titlist and join the likes of Alia Atkinson, Julia Wilkinson and Breeja Larson as fellow Aggie winners at NCAAs.

Stanford's Maya DiRado raced to second in 4:05.49, but has plenty in the tank heading into this evening's final. She's one of just five sub-4:00 swimmers in history with a 3:59.88 to her credit from last year's NCAA Championships. Two of the other four sub-4:00 swimmers just so happen to have made the finale as well as American-record holder Caitlin Leverenz cruised into third with a 4:05.57, while Florida's Elizabeth Beisel also shut it down to qualify fourth in 4:05.65. Katinka Hosszu and Julia Smit are the other two sub-4:00 swimmers in the event.

USC's Stina Gardell (4:06.73), UNC's Carolyn Blalock (4:06.77), Texas A&M's Cammile Adams (4:06.83) and Georgia's Melanie Margalis (4:07.27) placed fifth through eighth to make up the rest of the championship heat.

Georgia had a big event with a one up, three down performance as Amber McDermott (4:09.20), Hali Flickinger (4:09.47) and Annie Zhu (4:10.06) also made the consolation heat for the Bulldogs.

Women's 100 fly
The 100 fly featured a surprisingly disparate distribution of team qualifiers with just two teams earning multiple final spots. Florida's Ellese Zalewski (51.50) led the way for one of them with a top-seeded effort putting her just outside the top 15 all time in the event's history. Natalie Hinds finished 10th for Florida with a 52.28 to give the Gators a one up, one down prelim. Florida is looking for its first NCAA title in the event since the 80s when the legendary Tracy Caulkins (1982) and Dara Torres (1988) won the only two 100 fly titles for the Gators.

California's Rachel Bootsma could be looking at the front-end of an NCAA double win to go with a 100 back later in the evening after clocking a second-seeded 51.86. California owns the most titles in this event's history with 10. Should Bootsma win, she would join the pantheon of Mary T. Meagher (1985, 1987), Natalie Coughlin (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), Dana Vollmer (2007), Amanda Sims (2009, 2011) and Sara Isakovic (2012) as Golden Bear victors in the event.

Louisville's Kelsi Worrell raced to a third-seeded time of 51.91, while Auburn's Olivia Scott (51.96) and Arizona's Megan Lafferty (51.98) also cleared 52 seconds to qualify fourth and fifth. Arizona is the only other team with two coming back tonight as Lauren Smart qualified 12th in 52.40.

UCLA's Ting Quah (52.08), Virginia Tech's Heather Savage (52.21) and North Carolina's Katie Nolan (52.25) finished sixth through eighth to make up the rest of the A final.

Women's 200 free
Georgia absolutely dominated the 200 free in what could be the tipping point as the Bulldogs keep rolling towards the NCAA title. The Bulldogs managed to pull off an astounding three up, three down. Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt shook off a subpar 500 free from last night with a blistering 1:42.94 this morning. Schmitt won this event in 2010 and 2011, just one of eight swimmers to win the event multiple times. Teammate Megan Romano picked up the 2012 NCAA title, but will have some work to do this evening after qualifying fourth in 1:44.08. Another Bulldog, Shannon Vreeland, qualified second in 1:43.36 in what could wind up being a UGA 1-2-3 tonight.

California's Elizabeth Pelton raced to third with a 1:43.47, and will be looking to upset the Bulldogs and become just the third Golden Bear to win this event along with Conny Van Bentum (1986) and Dana Vollmer (2009). Teammate Caroline Piehl also is vying for that honor with a fifth-place 1:44.11, while Tennessee's Lindsay Gendron (1:44.27), Texas A&M's Liliana Ibanez Lopez (1:44.44) and Stanford's Andrea Murez (1:44.72) also making the A final.

Women's 100 breast
The 100 breast proved to be another event with plenty of team representation as only Arizona (two up) and Indiana (two down) managed to qualify more than one swimmer.

Texas A&M's Breeja Larson, the NCAA and American-record holder with a 57.43 to her credit, blazed prelims with the seventh-fastest time ever as she smoked a 58.03. She's looking to defend her title from 2012, and become just the eighth swimmer ever to earn multiple 100 breast NCAA titles. Larson's ability to throw down fast times at any time is becoming legendary. She currently owns six of the top 10 times, including four of the top five all time.

USC's Kasey Carlson, who has been on fire at this meet, qualified second in 58.66. That's just off her lifetime best of 58.46 from 2011 that ranks her 10th all time in the event. Columbia's Katie Meili continued to have a remarkable meet, qualifying third in 58.87.

Arizona's Ellyn Baumgardner (59.09), Arkansas's Nicole Daniels (59.11), Notre Dame's Emma Reaney (59.12), Texas' Laura Sogar (59.20) and Arizona's Chelsey Salli (59.30) also earned their way into the championship heat. Tennessee's Molly Hannis, who moved to sixth all time with a 58.22 in February at SECs to help push Larson in College Station, finished a surprising ninth with a 59.31.

Women's 100 back
California fought back in the 100 back with a two up, two down performance. But, it might be too little too late after Georgia's epic 200 free and 500 free performances so far. Olympian Rachel Bootsma dropped a smoking 50.75 to lead the way, but has plenty more time to drop considering her lifetime best is a fourth-ranked 50.54 from last November.

Two-time defending champ Cindy Tran of Cal qualified fourth in 51.82, and will be vying to become just the sixth swimmer to ever pull off a title trifecta in the event, and the second Golden Bear behind Natalie Coughlin's epic four-year run from 2001-04.

Florida's Sinead Russell (51.61) and Texas A&M's Paige Miller (51.68) qualified second and third, and will definitely challenge for the title. Stanford's Felicia Lee (51.85), Indiana's Brooklyn Snodgrass (52.00), Texas A&M's Tess Simpson (52.01) and Missouri's Dominique Bouchard (52.11) also made the championship heat.

Hoi Shun Au (52.25) and Melanie Klaren (52.69) picked up ninth and 14th seeds for the Golden Bears to make up Cal's two up, two down effort. Arizona's Lauren Smart then downed Stanford's Annemarie Thayer, 52.08 to 52.32, for 16th in the first swimoff of the meet. The two had deadheated for 16th earlier with matching 52.84s.

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