College Conference Notebook: Eastin Comes Out On Top in 200 IM Virtual Race

conference notebook-feb-24

By David Rieder.

Yes, Katie Ledecky’s American record-breaking performance in the 500 free Thursday night was impressive and pretty incredible to watch. But since you’ve most likely heard plenty about that already, today’s college conference notebook focuses elsewhere. Check out the top takeaways from Thursday night, and look ahead to Friday’s action.

Ella Eastin posts top time in 200 IM multi-meet competition against Kathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox.

Around 7 p.m. central time, Texas senior Madisyn Cox won the women’s 200 IM at the Big 12 championships in 1:52.82, knocking one one-hundredth of her own nation-leading time. But Cox couldn’t have felt comfortable that the time would hold up as the NCAA pace-setter through the night, not with Stanford’s Ella Eastin and Cal’s Kathleen Baker getting ready to face off in the event at Pac-12s.

Sure enough, both Eastin and Baker did dip under Cox’s mark. In a tight duel eerily similar to what happened at the same meet last season, Eastin out-dueled Baker and got to the wall in 1:52.34, just ahead of Baker’s 1:52.74.

Next month at the NCAA championships, all three will be in the field, which should provide one of the most interesting races of the meet considering the different strategies that each employ.

Baker likes to use her speed on the fly leg—she split 24.39 on the fly leg Thursday night, compared to Cox’s 24.76 and Eastin’s 25.16—and she has the backstroke credentials as well with her Olympic silver medal in the 100 back from Rio. But Eastin and Cox both specialize in coming home strong on the breast and free legs.

 1 Madisyn Cox            SR Texas             1:55.71    1:52.82*  20  
    r:+0.72  24.76        53.32 (28.56)
        1:26.12 (32.80)     1:52.82 (26.70)
 1 Eastin, Ella           SO STAN-PC           1:54.76    1:52.34   32  
       25.16    27.51    32.70    26.97
 2 Baker, Kathleen        SO CAL-PC            1:54.87    1:52.74   28  
       24.39    27.47    32.90    27.98

And in case anyone forgot, Eastin’s American record stands at 1:51.65 from NCAAs last year. When all three are actually in the same pool in Indianapolis, that mark figures to be in jeopardy.

Vini Lanza and Ian Finnerty blast Indiana into first place at B1G championships.

If Indiana goes on to break Michigan’s six-year winning streak at the men’s B1G championships, point to the 200 IM final as a key turning point for the Hoosiers. Three Michigan men were in the championship final, but it was Indiana sophomores Vini Lanza and Ian Finnerty who took control of the race and finished one-two.

Lanza won in 1:41.59, and Finnerty finished three tenths back in 1:41.86, good for the third and fourth-fastest times in the country this season, respectively. One hour later in the 400 medley relay, Finnerty’s 51.18 breaststroke split and Lanza’s 44.64 fly split put Indiana in the lead for a big 64 points.

The Hoosiers go into Friday’s action up 100.5 points on the Wolverines, and with Lanza favored in the 100 fly, Finnerty ready to go in the 100 breast and Blake Pieroni scheduled to swim the 200 free, the team race might already be over.

Joseph Schooling a sprint freestyler for the day.

Texas’ Joseph Schooling made a rare appearance in the 50 free Thursday at the Big 12 championships, and he promptly threw down a time of 18.76, joining former Bolles teammate Caeleb Dressel as the only men under the 19-second barrier this season.

Perhaps Dressel’s otherworldly speed has made us numb to swims in the 18-high range, but Schooling’s 18.76 breaks two-time U.S. Olympian Jimmy Feigen’s Texas school record and would have placed second behind Dressel at last year’s NCAA championships.

So will Schooling swim the 50 at NCAAs? In terms of individual events, it certainly fits with the 100 and 200 fly because of scheduling, but there’s still a strong chance Texas coach Eddie Reese holds out his star junior so that Schooling can participate on all five relays.

Then again, Texas did get a 1:32.62 split out of Jeff Newkirk on the 800 free relay Wednesday night, so maybe Reese thinks his squad could win that relay without Schooling. This could be yet another NCAA lineup decision that bears watching.

Shane Ryan gets under 45 in 100 back at B1G meet.

Penn State’s Shane Ryan became just the third man in the past two seasons to get under the 45-second barrier in the 100 back Thursday night when he led off the Nittany Lions’ 400 medley relay in 44.95. So far this season, Ryan Murphy (44.61) and Connor Oslin (44.73) are the only men faster.

Ryan took last season off while preparing to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games (he made the semifinals of the 100 back), but before he left Penn State, he was ranked No. 7 all-time in the 100 back. In 2014, when Murphy, then a freshman, won his first of three straight NCAA titles in the 100 back, he had to touch out Ryan, 44.63 to 44.78.

Murphy has taken the event to a crazy level—last year, he posted a 43.49, and that time could drop even lower this season—but the event is wide open behind him, and the experienced Ryan has as good a chance as anyone to finish in the top three. Before that, watch him in the 100 back today in Columbus, and see if he can drop that 44.95 a little lower.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.