By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, March 22. THE final night of competition at this year’s NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships is in the books, and the Georgia Bulldogs are bringing home their second straight NCAA women’s title and sixth overall since 1982.
The final night of racing proved to be just as exciting as the first two, as a couple of first-time NCAA champions were crowned, American and NCAA records were torched, and Georgia proved once again to be the deepest team in the field. Here are a few highlights from the final night of racing in what turned out to be a fantastic end to the collegiate season!
First-Time, Defending NCAA Champs Make Their Mark
A couple of first-time NCAA champions were crowned tonight, while a couple of other swimmers successfully defended their individual titles from last season. In 2013, Arizona’s Margo Geer swept the 50 and 100 freestyle events; after finishing third in the 50 two nights ago, Geer climbed back on top of the podium in the 100 free, defending the title she won in that event last year in a time of 47.10. Geer took the race out fast and just held off Stanford’s Lia Neal, who touched in 47.17. Geer’s prelim time of 47.00 just missed Natalie Coughlin’s American record of 46.84 from 2011.
Texas A&M Olympian Cammile Adams also defended her title from last year in the 200 fly. Adams qualified first this morning by over half a second and then held off Stanford’s Maya DiRado in finals, 1:52.25 to 1:52.99. That marked a personal best for Adams, and put the cherry on top of a stellar collegiate career with the Aggies. Adams also finished fifth in the 400 IM (4:03.16) and 10th in the 500 free (4:38.38) at the meet.
Two first-time NCAA champions emerged on the final night of competition in Indiana’s Brooklyn Snodgrass and Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney. Snodgrass, a sophomore from Calgary, entered the meet as the fourth seed in the 200 back, but faced stiff competition from a handful of others, including American record-holder Elizabeth Pelton of Cal, top seed Courtney Bartholomew of Virginia and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel of Florida. That didn’t seem to phase her in finals, as she held on to touch out Pelton, 1:50.52 to 1:50.55.
After stunning the swimming community with an American record in the 200 breast last month, Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney did not disappoint in her first NCAA championships as an American record-holder. After taking the first 100 out in under a minute, Reaney cruised to a new NCAA, American, US Open and Championship record of 2:04.06, becoming Notre Dame’s first NCAA swimming champion in the process. Reaney still has one year remaining at Notre Dame, and will have a chance to sweep the breaststroke events at NCAAs next year with the graduation of key challengers Breeja Larson, Emily McClellan and Kasey Carlson.
Depth Wins Championships
The University of Georgia won five of the 21 events contested at the meet – the second most wins behind Stanford’s seven – yet still proved that depth is the key to winning a national championship. Individually, Georgia placed two or more swimmers in the finals of eight individual events and one or more swimmers/divers in the finals of 15 out of 16 individual events. The only event the Bulldogs did not score in was the 100 fly, and their five scoring swimmers in the 500 free and four in the 400 IM proved to be a deathblow to their competitors.
Thanks to Georgia’s seemingly endless pool of talent, it’s basically gotten to the point where teams need two or three swimmers/divers in every final to even compete for the team title. Georgia will lose only three of its point scorers to graduation – Jessica Graber, Melanie Margalis and Shannon Vreeland – and looks to be in great shape for the future with the likes of Kylie Stewart, Meaghan Raab, Megan Kingsley and Courtney Weaver coming to town, all top 30 recruits on Collegeswimming.com. Next year is already shaping up to be another dog-fight as the top teams reload once again.
It’s unlikely that many people predicted Stanford to win four of the five relays; and, they were only .68 away from sweeping all five, as they finished third in the 800 free relay, less than a second out of first. Stanford came ready to race and had a great meet from all of their swimmers and divers, which resulted in their highest finish since also taking second in 2010.
Several NCAA records fell at the meet, including one of the most impressive swims in NCAA history tonight by Georgia’s Brittany MacLean. MacLean took the 1650 free out in a new NCAA record in the 1000 free, en route to a record-smashing final time of 15:27.84. That broke Stephanie Peacock’s NCAA record by almost 10 seconds, unheard of at this level of competition. And, the amazing thing is, she’s still 12 seconds off Katie Ledecky’s US Open record of 15:15.17. MacLean is only a sophomore, so she’ll have two more years to chase that one down.
What a great meet full of surprises and upsets. Let the countdown to 2015 begin!