5 Freshmen To Watch In Women NCAA Division I Butterfly Events

women ncaa division i butterfly
Photo Courtesy: Jeff Commings

Commentary by Jeff Commings

TUCSON – Being a freshman at the NCAA championships is a daunting ordeal. The meet has been called one of the toughest meets in the United States, and for good reason. You have to swim fast in every session if you want to not only get a second swim but set yourself up to score the most points for your team. That could be a scary thing for a first-timer, but five ladies could step up and perform well for their universities in two weeks in the butterfly events. Some of them are seeded in the top ten, while others are just outside but have a very good chance of scoring big points. Here’s a look at their prospects for the women NCAA Division I butterfly races.

Beryl Gastaldello

Beryl Gastaldello women's ncaa division i butterfly

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Gastaldello is only swimming one butterfly event at the NCAA championships, the 100 fly, but she’s bound to make a big statement after already dropping some jaws last month at the Southeastern Conference championships. The Texas A&M Aggie from France became the sixth-fastest swimmer in history in the event with a 50.87, and though Kelsi Worrell and Kendyl Stewart have the pedigree to win the event, Gastaldello could be the spoiler. With this marking her first year racing in short course yards, she has amazing untapped potential that head coach Steve Bultman apparently saw in her during recruiting.

Janet Hu

janet hu women ncaa division i butterfly

Photo Courtesy: Tia Patron/Tennessee Athletics

Unlike Gastaldello, Hu is well-known in short course yards for her butterfly prowess. She owns the short course 200 butterfly 17-18 national age group record with a 1:52.92 from last March’s NCSA junior nationals. If she approaches her best time in two weeks, she’ll be in the hunt for a win. The 200 fly is fairly wide open this year, with Christina Bechtel of Kentucky holding the top seed with a 1:52.36 and Georgia’s Hali Flickinger second at 1:52.88. Tanja Kylliainen of Louisville is also a major force in that race. As for the 100 fly, Hu also has the chops to contend. Though she’s seeded 14th with a 51.93 – 1.8 seconds behind top seed Worrell – I think her sprint butterfly is on the verge of making big improvements under Greg Meehan’s tutelage. It might be a tougher hill for Hu to climb in the 100 fly, but if she makes the top eight, it should give her major confidence the next day in the 200 fly.

Jasmine Mau

jasmine mau women ncaa division i butterfly

Photo Courtesy: Hawaii Swimming

A bit of research shows that a Hawaii native has yet to win an NCAA swimming title, so Mau is on the cusp of history if she can get herself among the contenders in either butterfly event. The California freshman has a better chance in the 100 fly, the event in which she is the former national public high school record holder with a 52.23. Mau was just off that lifetime best at the Pac 12 championships with a 52.26 and all she needs to do is break 52 seconds for a shot at her first major national championship final. It would be a big move up the rankings for Mau, who is seeded 20th in the 100 fly. But stranger things have happened at the NCAAs, so don’t count it out. Mau is seeded 15th in the 200 fly with a 1:55.53, and it would be a great finish to her freshman season if Mau can get into the championship final of both butterfly events.

Noemie Thomas

noemie thomas women ncaa division i butterfly

Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada

Thomas comes to her first NCAA championships off an impressive list of international accomplishments, including a seventh-place finish in the 100 fly at the 2013 world championships for Canada. She’s a sprint specialist, owning the Canadian record in the short course meters 50 butterfly, but don’t count her out in the 200 fly. She is seeded fifth in that event with a 1:54.10, well within striking distance of a national title. The potential is greater in the 100 fly, where she’s seeded 13th with a 51.91 but could easily move into the top eight. It’s likely that her performances at the Pac 12 meet representing California were not fully rested, and it would not be surprising if Thomas can crack 51 seconds and potentially give the 100 fly final three freshman competitors.

Courtney Weaver

courtney weaver women's ncaa division i butterfly

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Weaver could turn out to be a silent but deadly contributor to Georgia’s point tally as the Bulldogs try to defend their team title. She’s seeded 14th in the 200 fly (1:55.33) and 30th in the 100 fly (52.49), and has the potential to score in the consolation finals in both events. She posted lifetime bests in both events to get the invite to NCAAs, and will need to shake off the nerves and swim fast in prelims to give herself the opportunity to become an All-American. Based on seeding, her best shot is in the 200 fly, but the 16th seed in the 100 fly is 51.98, just five tenths off her best. In swimming, that’s a country mile, but when the adrenaline is pumping and your teammates are on the deck cheering you on, there’s always that unexplained boost that gets you the result you need.

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