2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Championships: How Sweet It Is to Have This Again (Ups, Downs Available)

Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming Championships: How Sweet It Is to Have This Again (Ups, Downs)

How sweet it is! After 12 long months of not knowing if we would even get to an NCAA championship meet, it is so nice to finally be able to have a championship competition that isn’t virtual. Yes, this year’s meet looks different with no spectators, only four relays in a heat, no media members, zoom interviews, and limited deck access, but the actual swimming portion of the meet has largely remained unaffected. We still have 281 swimmers in the meet, 75 divers, and a national champion crowned Saturday night.

With all that being said, it is hard to ignore the impact the COVID pandemic has had on the swimmers in this meet. Every single swimmer in the A-Final of the 200 IM added from their seed times. In the 500 freestyle, it took a 4:43 to score in the top 16, which four years ago would have been 41st at NCAAs. It is not that this is a slow pool, or that these swimmers are just not good. The loss of training time in the summer months of 2020 has affected these athlete’s aerobic bases and in turn, that can affect how they taper. 

Taper in swimming is a period of usually two weeks for swimmers to recover from the hard workload they accumulated during the season. When the majority of that season has been used to get back in shape, the taper has to be modified. With a relatively abbreviated season this year, it isn’t really surprising that the times are slower than in years past.

No fans in the stands certainly takes a lot of that “NCAA meet feel” out of the championship which may also be affecting everyone and their performance, but the extended time out of the water is still affecting everyone and it may take a couple more months to still recover from that.

The Team Race

Heading into the meet, Virginia was the heavy favorite with NC State and Cal looking to battle for second with the fourth place spot up for grabs between the likes of Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Stanford and Kentucky.

From this morning’s prelims, here is a look at the ups, downs report.

NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships: Ups, Downs (Including Diving)

  1. Virginia 4, 1
  2. NC State 4, 0
  3. Texas 3, 0
  4. California 2, 3
  5. Ohio State 2, 2
  6. Georgia 2, 1
  7. Michigan 2, 0
  8. North Carolina 2, 0
  9. Alabama 1, 1
  10. Stanford 1, 1
  11. Indiana 1, 1
  12. Texas A&M 1, 1
  13. Missouri 1, 1
  14. Miami FL 1, 1
  15. Wisconsin 1, 0
  16. Northwestern 1, 0
  17. Arkansas 1, 0
  18. Minnesota 1, 0
  19. Arizona 1, 0
  20. Florida 0, 5
  21. Kentucky 0, 3
  22. Louisville 0, 2
  23. Tennessee 0, 2
  24. USC 0, 2
  25. Virginia Tech 0, 1
  26. Nebraska 0, 1
  27. Houston 0, 1
  28. Akron 0, 1
  29. Duke 0, 1

Virginia and NC State each advanced four to A-Finals and both schools will lock horns in the 200 free and 400 medley relays tonight. Cal advanced two to A-Finals and three to B-Finals, which should keep them in the battle for second with the Wolfpack. Friday’s prelims will be more of an indicator of where each team stands as the 100s of strokes will highlight “moving day” as it always referred to whereas Thursday generally favors the teams with the best sprinters due to the 50 free and the 200 free relay and 400 medley relay being three of the six scoring events. 

Thursday Prelims Results based on seeds:

(Data compiled by Price Fishback. The below data is how many points each top 15 seeded team gained or lost based on where they were on the psych sheet).

  1. Southern Cal +9
  2. California +6
  3. Northwestern +6
  4. Michigan +5
  5. Ohio State +5
  6. Virginia +3
  7. Texas +3
  8. Tennessee 0
  9. Kentucky -3
  10. NC State -4
  11. Missouri -5
  12. Stanford -6
  13. Alabama -12
  14. Florida -16
  15. Georgia -21

It is worth noting that neither Virginia nor NC State have placed in the top four at the women’s meet. Virginia also has a chance to win every swimming event tonight with Paige MaddenAlex Walsh and Kate Douglass swimming as the top seed in their respective events and each a heavy favorite to take home the national title. Stanford’s 2018 team was the last team to win every swimming event on the Thursday night of NCAAs. Other than that, it is extremely rare for that kind of dominance to be on display at the NCAA women’s swimming championships.

The Cavaliers are also the top seeds in both relays although those will not come as easily. The 400 medley for example, could go the way to NC State, California or Texas if Virginia falters, while the 200 free is expected to come down to Virginia, NC State and Cal. The Wolfpack scratched their two best out of last night’s 800 free relay in Kylee Alons and Katharine Berkoff to put full emphasis on the four sprint relays as both swimmers advanced to the A-Final of the 50 free.

Finals for the Division I NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships will begin at 6 p.m. EST and will be streamed here.

1m Diving Prelims Results:

  1. Sarah Bacon, Minnesota, 341.85
  2. Delaney Schnell, Arizona, 335.45
  3. Anne Fowler, Indiana, 317.55
  4. Aranza Vazquez Montano, North Carolina, 315.40
  5. Paola Pineda, Texas, 308.25
  6. Mia Vallee, Miami FL, 304.00
  7. Brooke Schultz, Arkansas, 303.20
  8. Charly Campbell, Texas A&M, 290.05
  9. Emma Gullstrand, Miami FL, 289.55
  10. Nike Agunbiade, USC, 287.00
  11. Mackenzie Crawford, Ohio State, 286.20
  12. Tarrin Gilliland, Indiana, 283.20
  13. Aimee Wilson, Texas A&M, 280.85
  14. Maddison Pullinger, Duke, 279.95
  15. Kyndal Knight, Kentucky, 278.80
  16. Ashley McCool, Florida, 278.60