PHOENIX, Arizona, March 21. THE women's NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships kicked off this morning in Indianapolis in a big way, with some surprising swims in preliminaries that will affect the team standings in tonight's finals. Arizona leads the 200 free relay field tonight with a 1:27.85, with Georgia and Tennessee taking second and third. Auburn, typically a strong contender in this event, was disqualified for an early takeoff.
One of Georgia's best events is the 500 freestyle, and the Bulldogs put three in the top eight and two in the B final. Allison Schmitt will be looking to reclaim the crown she took in 2011 before taking last year off to train for the Olympics. Georgia's Shannon Vreeland, also an Olympian, had a great prelim swim and will be in the hunt, as will teammate Amber McDermott. Haley Anderson will try to defend her title in the final, while Indiana's Lindsay Vrooman could be a spoiler. Sarah Henry came into the meet as the top seed but will be on the outside looking in as the ninth seed.
Elizabeth Pelton and Caitlin Leverenz, teammates at UC-Berkeley, looked like they were cruising through the prelims of the 200 IM, just getting comfortably into the final. Leverenz is the defending champion in the event, while Pelton is looking to win in her freshman season. Also look out for Stanford's Maya DiRado, always a threat, and Florida junior Elizabeth Beisel.
Margo Geer put down the hammer twice today in the 50 freestyle, leading off Arizona's relay with a 21.88 then taking the top seed in the individual 50 with a 21.73, a lifetime best for her. Geer has played second fiddle to past champions Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Liv Jensen for the past two years, and is now looking for her first NCAA crown. Megan Romano and Maddy Schaefer also cracked 22 seconds, tying for second with 21.99.
The 400 medley relay put a damper on USC's hopes of contending for a team trophy when butterflyer Kendyl Stewart left the blocks three-hundredths of a second too early. UC-Berkeley had an interesting tactic, not putting any of their fast backstrokers in the prelims. We'll have to see tonight if Cal uses defending 100 back champ Cindy Tran, Pelton or Rachel Bootsma on the backstroke leg. Either way, the Golden Bears will be much faster tonight.
The finals begins at 7 p.m. Eastern time, and Swimming World is covering the meet minute-by-minute, heat by heat, so be sure to stay with swimmingworld.com for complete finals coverage, and don't miss our Race Day show that I will be hosting with our on-deck correspondent Tiffany Elias.
Last night Caroline Wilson was the star of the Division III swimming and diving championships, winning the 500 freestyle and 200 IM. Wilson set the NCAA record in the 200 IM with a 1:58.81 in prelims, but the tough back-to-back double may have taken some of the heat out of her, and she did enough to win finals with a 1:59.43.
Like Wilson, Allen Weik of Denison was able to defend his 500 free title with a 4:23.99, as did Jeff Depew of Redlands, who took the men's 200 IM with a 1:47.20 ahead of teammate and brother Chris Depew.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, yes the famous MIT, won its first NCAA swimming title with Wyatt Ubellacker taking the 50 free with a 19.81. He also helped MIT take the men's 200 medley relay, using a strong 20.44 fly split to get ahead of Denison.
After the first day of competition, the Emory women are 50 points ahead of Kenyon, but it's Kenyon that leads in the men's race by 21 points over defending champion Denison. You can read a full recap of the first night at D-III on our college channel at swimmingworld.com.