Missy Franklin Flirting with History at Women’s NCAAs

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By David Rieder

GREENSBORO − A night two of incredible races took the focus, momentarily, off the team race at women’s NCAAs and placed it on talks of history and legacy. Two American records went down on Friday night in Greensboro, one of them a legendary record that lasted 13 years, the other − Missy Franklin’s 200 free − incredible enough that it, too, might last that long.

Worrell first set the American record in the 100 fly in prelims, clocking a 49.89 to take down Natalie Coughlin’s 13 year old mark. She claimed to have room for improvement after that race, citing walls not hit perfectly. And even without perfect turns, she knocked off another eight one-hundredths at night, checking in at 49.81 to bring Greensboro Aquatic Center to its feet.

How do you top that? Well how about another record. Upstairs, some of us in the media had been debating who would win between Franklin and Simone Manuel. Everyone expected a sub-1:40 performance, but who knew how much. Well, Franklin erased any doubt early. Franklin went out in 47.74, almost a second and a half ahead of everyone else, and she never looked back.

Franklin won her second-straight NCAA title in the event with a massive 1:39.10, 1.21 ahead of the previous American mark she had set last year. What did it mean to her? In all of the races I’ve watched Missy Franklin swim, including in-person and on television, I’ve never seen that kind of reaction. She fist-pumped repeatedly and looked absolutely elated in the water as teammates Cierra Runge and Caroline Piehl quickly swam over to congratulate her.

As illustrious a career as Franklin has had, this was one of the most impressive races she’s ever unleashed. Only Allison Schmitt (1:40.62) has swum within two seconds of the mark Franklin posted on Friday. To me, that swim ranks just behind her 200 back from the Olympics as the second-best swim of her career. In London, Franklin clocked a 2:04.06 for a new world record − the only long course mark she owns − a mark that ranks two seconds ahead of what anyone else has done in a textile suit.

And a few hours later, the swim still had Bears coach Teri McKeever in awe. McKeever compared Franklin’s effort to what her former pupil, Coughlin, had uncorked over a decade earlier, when she set American marks in the 100 fly and 100 back (still-standing) on the same day. McKeever believes that Franklin’s mark might similarly withstand the test of time. And if it does, everyone at GAC was lucky enough to witness history.

And will there be even more history made on Saturday night? A trio of records look like they could be on the chopping block headed into the final two sessions of the meets. First off, there’s Franklin in the 200 back, where she could pull off a 1-2 finish along with Cal teammate Elizabeth Pelton. Virginia coach Augie Busch, who will have Courtney Bartholomew as a top contender in that final, told reporters on Friday that he expects it will take a 1:47 or even 1:46 to win. Pelton’s American record, by the way, is 1:47.84.

And then there’s Manuel in the 100 free, where she will be the big favorite for the win after a meet that, if it were not for Franklin, would have her as the favorite for NCAA Swimmer of the Year. Manuel formerly held the American record in the event, at 46.62, but Abbey Weitzeil took it away with a jaw-dropping 46.29 in December.

Despite not being able to hang with Franklin in the 200 free on Friday night, Manuel has had a big meet, splitting 45.45 as the anchor leg of Stanford’s 400 medley relay on Thursday, so Weitzeil’s record could come under fire in the final. She also won the 50 free on Thursday in 21.32, the second-fastest mark of all-time in the event.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney in the 200 breast as another potential record candidate. Reaney almost stole the 100 breast out of lane one on Friday, will be swimming in her preferred distance tonight, and she will chase her own American and NCAA record that she first set in this pool a year ago at ACCs. Even though she is not the top seed, she’s showing her top form, not seen last month at this year’s ACC meet.

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Russ Davis
7 years ago

Flirting with history? I’d say she’s married it!

7 years ago

Way to go Missy!

Bill Bell
7 years ago

If Franklin wins 200 back tonite I am pretty sure she’ll be first swimmer of either sex to record the 200 IM/free/back triple @ NCAAs and if she sets an AR again I’d say she’ll be first woman to set national standards in 200 free/back at same NCAAs and possibly for either sex — although men’s meet is going on 80 years now and likely some male has set ARs in both at at least one title-meet.

7 years ago
Reply to  Bill Bell

No one has done it. Closest was Betsy Mitchell of Texas with 200 IM 200 back wins in 1987

7 years ago

Franklin is a great swimmer, but let’s not forget about Katie Ledecky who is becoming better and better at the 200. I’d say she has a great shot at breaking the record.