NCAA Swim Meet of the Week: Arizona State Dominates Arizona in Intense Rivalry

Silja Kansakoski. Photo Courtesy: McKenna Ehrmantraut

NCAA Swim Meet of the Week

Saturday February 8 was deemed “rivalry day” in college basketball with many great and intense rivalry games being played across the country with North Carolina – Duke, Purdue – Indiana, and Michigan State – Michigan. The same was true for the pool this weekend for NCAA swimming and diving as Arizona visited in-state rival Arizona State to close their regular season.

The Pac-12 conference will hold center stage over the next two weeks as they will have the spotlight in our NCAA swim meet of the week with Cal and Stanford swimming their last duel meet of the season just before we get to the Pac-12 Championships at the end of the month.

Arizona State sent a message to the rest of the Pac-12 conference that they are ready for championship season and will be on their A-game in Seattle.

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Zachary Poti. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Arizona vs. Arizona State results

It was expected to be a tightly contested battle between #10 Arizona and #13 Arizona State men but the Sun Devils came out swinging and completely demolished the Wildcats 202 – 92. Arizona State suited up for the meet and put a lot of emphasis on the day, and it resulted in some shots thrown on Twitter.

We aren’t going to post all of them, but below is just a sample of what was being said between current swimmers and alums from both schools on the app.

Arizona State swam extremely well on Saturday. They swam so well that there were questions being asked over whether the team was rested or not. We at Swimming World don’t know the answer to that question, but we do know for a fact that a rivalry meet will bring out the best in people. Swimming at home and wearing suits will add to that, and Arizona State performed lights out in that atmosphere.

In starting the day, Arizona State won the 200 medley relay with a 1:24.23 with Zachary Poti (21.02), Elijah Warren (23.86), Cody Bybee (20.17) and Evan Carlson (19.18) putting up the third fastest time in Division I this season behind only Cal (1:23.12) and Texas (1:23.53). They secured a 1-2 finish over Arizona as they never looked back.

The upsets continued into the 1000 with Ben Olszewski upsetting Brooks Fail with a 8:57.80 to Fail’s 9:04.35. Fail is currently the second fastest swimmer in Division I in the 1650 but Olszewski was able to beat him handily at home on Saturday.

In fact, Arizona did not win a single event in the men’s or women’s meet. This may mean nothing in the long run as both schools will see each other again in three weeks at the Pac-12 Championships and again in six weeks at NCAAs where both schools will vie for top ten finishes. But we got a good glimpse of what Arizona State will bring to championship season.

Zachary Poti and Cody Bybee look to be the two main scorers at the national level with Poti winning the 100 (45.75) and 200 back (1:40.91), putting himself in the top ten nationally in both events as he scored season bests. Bybee won the 200 free (1:34.21) and 100 fly (46.71) and should be a major relay contributor for the Sun Devils at Pac-12’s and NCAAs.

It may be hard for someone like Poti to claim a national title this year with the likes of Coleman StewartAustin Katz and Shaine Casas sitting at the top of the national rankings, but he could be a popular upset pick if he has anything left in the bag come nationals. If not a national title, then Poti definitely has a shot for a top four finish at the end of the year after reaching the A-Final in the 200 back last year.

Arizona State did swim well, but they didn’t seem rested so that means that there could still be some room for improvement.

Arizona on the other hand had a great showing at the Minnesota Invite in December, but showed the signs of a team desperately in need of taper over the weekend. Swimming a duel meet while the other team is suited and at home can be demoralizing and it showed. However, Arizona is still in line to finish in the top ten come NCAAs, and may even finish as high as fifth. Right now, Texas and Cal are head and shoulders above the rest of the country, and there is a big gap between them and the likes of Michigan and NC State, who are the favorites to grab the other two trophies.

Arizona has the pieces to contend for a top five spot, with Fail being one of the top distance swimmers and Jorge Iga being a strong middle distance freestyler. Their relays will be a big question mark for them as they could be the main deciding factor in where they end up in the top ten. Their 200 free relay is currently ranked second, but none of their other relays are ranked higher than seventh.


Emma Nordin. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

On the women’s side, both Arizona and Arizona State are unranked, and the Sun Devils won 181 – 103 behind dominant performances from Emma Nordin and Silja Kansakoski.

The Sun Devils look particularly strong in the 800 free relay as Nordin led a clean sweep in the 200 free with a 1:44.95 ahead of Erica Laning (1:45.32) and 2016 Olympian Cierra Runge (1:47.53). They were a 7:01 at the NC State Invite and sit fifth in the country with 37 days until the 800 free relay at NCAAs. That relay at NCAAs is a huge momentum builder and a precursor for the whole meet so a good start is imperative.

Junior Nordin, who was a standout swimmer at Carmel High School in Indiana, won the 200 free just minutes after the 1000 (9:37.14) as she put up the fourth fastest time in the country in the longer distance. She also sits 17th in Division I in the 200 free, and also won the 500 free with a 4:41.73. She scored season best times in the 1000 and 200 and was also right on her best in the 500 after a long day of racing. Nordin was one of the top freestylers in the country out of high school in 2017 but struggled to get back to her form at ASU that made her so dangerous at Carmel. If this weekend is any indication, it is that Nordin is back among the nation’s best in distance freestyle. The 1650 is perhaps the most wide open event at NCAAs this year with Leah Braswell and Sierra Schmidt holding the top spots with five weeks to go, and Nordin has a real chance to improve on her ninth place finish last year.

The Sun Devils also had a good showing from senior breaststroker Silja Kansakoski, who won the 100 (1:00.06) and 200 breast (2:10.91) and was followed closely by junior Nora Deleske (1:01.38, 2:11.57). The time wasn’t anything special for Kansakoski, who was an All-American two years ago in the 100 breast as a sophomore. But she did her job in getting the points for her team. She has scored every year of her career at NCAAs in the 100 breast and has the potential to be an A-Finalist.

A top ten finish for the Arizona State women may be tough to achieve this season but they have some strong swimmers that could push them there. Nordin and Kansakoski look to be scorers in their respective events.

Freshman Lindsay Looney won both the 100 (53.65) and 200 fly (1:55.39) this weekend, putting up the 11th fastest time in Division I in the 200.

The big question mark for Arizona State is Runge, who was second in the 1000 (9:41.71), third in the 200 (1:47.53) and 500 free (4:47.32). She was fourth in the 500 and eighth in the 1650 last season and should be an All-American again in those events this season. She just didn’t show out too well over the weekend, but it was just a duel meet and she has performed on the sport’s highest stage – the Olympic Games. If she is on form come five weeks from now, then she could help push Arizona State to a top ten finish.

Arizona State’s performance on Saturday caused some disdain with members of the Arizona swimming and diving family, but they will get a chance to have a rematch at Pac-12’s in three weeks in Seattle. The rivalry is what made this the NCAA swim meet of the week.

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