2019 NCAA Performances of the Year: Abbey Weitzeil, Dean Farris

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Abbey Weitzeil basks in victory after the 400 free relay. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

There were plenty of stellar performances at the 2019 NCAA swimming championships. Records were broken, titles were won and historical performances turned heads. What performances were the 2019 NCAA Performances of the Year?

Lilly King, Beata Nelson, Louise Hansson and Andrew Seliskar turned in stellar individual performances, while the Cal men and Stanford women won team titles. But there were two performances that had the sport’s full attention.

One saved her best performance for last, closing out the women’s meet in record fashion. The other started the men’s meet in record fashion. Both had unprecedented energy and a buzz that people are still talking about.

Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil and Harvard’s Dean Farris had the top NCAA swimming performances of the year.

NCAA Performances of the Year: Weitzeil’s Relay Heroics

After spending hours at the hospital before the final night of the NCAA championships, Abbey Weitzeil was determined to push through the pain.

Weitzeil did more than push through the pain of her elbow injury, she turned in one of the most impressive performances in NCAA history.

With her right arm heavily wrapped, in addition to the pain of the injury and limited mobility of her arm — suffered on Friday night when she jammed it finishing the 200 medley relay — she had some extra drag with the wrap in the water.

Weitzeil overcame all of that to finish fourth in the 100 free, before turning in an amazing performance to close the meet, anchoring Cal’s title in the 400 free relay — in an NCAA record time of 3:06.96, along with Izzy Ivey, Katie McLaughlin and Amy Bilquist.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Honestly, I was just going out there before the relay (looking at my teammates) going, you got me, I got you. We were all going to put it all out there,” Weitzeil said. “Even in the race I wasn’t even thinking about it — I was trying not to think about it. We got our hand to the wall, that is all that matters.”

Her fierceness, coupled with the drive for her team that has made her one of the best relay swimmers in NCAA history.

“It just speaks to her character,” Bilquist said. “She is a fighter. She is a warrior.”

“We always got the relays. We always get fired up for relays. We have each other’s back. You just trust each other, and that is the fun part,” Weitzeil said. “Well, since my arms aren’t great, I was like, ‘Legs you’re up.’ I just kicked as hard as I could the entire time. I wanted to make sure we win this.”

Dean Farris starts with speed

While Cal, Indiana and Texas were looking to start the NCAA championships strong in the first event of the meet, Harvard’s Dean Farris completely stole the show.

Farris led off the Crimson relay with a stunning 1:29.15, breaking the NCAA and American record in the 200 freestyle as the lead-off swimmer.

Farris swam a 1:29.15 to take down Townley Haas’s record of 1:29.50 set in 2018. Farris is now the third man to break 1:30 in the history of the sport, joining Haas and Blake Pieroni (1:29.63).

Farris was faster than all of the other lead-off legs in the entire relay by almost a full second with Cal’s Andrew Seliskar leading off in a 1:30.14 to move up to fourth all-time. Indiana’s Zach Apple also led off the Hoosiers with a 1:30.34 to move up to fifth all-time.

Harvard finished in seventh place with their team of Farris, Brennan Novak (1:33.77), Mahlon Reihman (1:34.39) and Corban Rawls (1:34.42).

“I remember 2016. I was a senior in high school, and I watched Townley go a 1:30.5,” Farris said. “I was a 1:36 at the time. I was like, ‘I need to start taking it out.’ He definitely inspired me to take it out harder.”

After breaking the record, he did not swim the 200 free individually, instead winning the NCAA title in the 100 back.

“I’m happy to get out of that event,” Farris said. “That was my one swim. They can go for it on Friday. I’m sure they’re going to be close. I’m just ready to do 100 back. I love that race. I’ve loved it since high school. They can take it this year. They can go get it.”