3 Teams To Watch In Women NCAA Division I Relays

molly hannis women ncaa division i relay
Photo Courtesy: Azaria Basile

Commentary by Jeff Commings

TUCSON – Relays are the most exciting part of the NCAA championships, for fans, athletes and coaches. Double points are awarded for the top 16 teams in the five women NCAA Division I relays contested, and the school that takes home the team trophy at the end of the meet usually wins the majority of relays.

The California Golden Bears are slated to win the team championship in two weeks in Greesnboro, and go into the meet as the top seed in three of the five relays. As I always say with the NCAA championships, anything can happen, but with the depth and strength California is displaying this season, nothing appears to stand in their way in terms of winning multiple relays.

California is not seeded first in the 400 free relay, with Stanford holding the top spot in that. The Cardinal is vulnerable with the departure of Maddy Schaefer earlier this year. Schaefer’s absence puts a major hole in that relay as well as the other freestyle relays, but this one hurts the most.

Virginia is the top seed in the 400 medley relay, and will rely heavily on Courtney Bartholomew on backstroke to give her teammates a lead. Bartholomew nearly broke Natalie Coughlin’s American record in the 100 back in her leadoff for Virginia’s 3:27.84 last December at the Georgia Invitational, and that momentum could be enough to give the Cavaliers a major win.

But California remains the big headliner of the relays on the road to a team title. Here are three others that could also make headlines with strong relay performances.

Wisconsin Badgers

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Wisconsin has never placed higher than fourth in the 200 free relay or 400 free relay at the women’s NCAA championships, but that could change in two weeks. Led by star sprinter Ivy Martin, the Badgers could find themselves in the top three in both events. But what’s the best strategy to make that happen? Does head coach Whitney Hite put Martin on the leadoff leg to give the next three some clean water, or save her for the anchor and give her the opportunity to make up some ground, and put up a faster relay split than she could on the first leg? Wisconsin is seeded fourth in both sprint free relays, and with Stanford losing a key swimmer, the chance to move up becomes a possibility.

Tennessee Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, TN - December 5, 2013 - Tennessee cheers on their teammate during the USA Swimming AT&T Winter National Championships at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tennessee

Photo Courtesy: Tia Patron/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee won the 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay at the 2013 NCAA championships in a bit of a surprise, and could be the spoiler again. Molly Hannis is closing out her collegiate career, and she could provide a boost to her squad with stellar breaststroke swims. The key will be backstroker Amanda Carner, who will need to have the swims of her life to stay in contact with such teams as Virginia and California. That could help bolster Hannis’ confidence when she dives in for breaststroke, leaving butterflyer Harper Bruens and freestyler Faith Johnson to finish the race. Johnson has been an NCAA finalist in the sprint freestyles, and having a reliable anchor on your team means a lot when races are decided by hundredths of a second.

Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana women ncaa division i relay

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Indiana is not on the list of qualifiers for three of the five relays, giving the Hoosiers the opportunity to be a little fresher for the 400 free relay and 800 free relay. Indiana is seeded fourth in the 800 free relay, and though California might have the race wrapped up, the hunt for places two through eight are very much undecided. Ray Looze’s women’s team stepped up in a big way at the Big Ten championships to win the 800 free relay, and that attitude will need to be replicated at the NCAA meet. The four likely to swim the race in Greensboro – Haley Lips, Kennedy Goss, Grace Vertigans and Brooklynn Snodgrass – are very talented racers, and have the opportunity to swim two to three seconds faster in two weeks. If that happens, the stranglehold that California, Georgia and Stanford appear to have on the top three could get a shakeup.

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Dustin James
9 years ago

Go Badgers!!!!!

Desert Olympic Tritons

Go Wisconsin Swimming and Diving ladies!

Kelly Togesen
9 years ago

Go Badgers! Joanie, is Grace on the relay?

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