NCAA Swim Meets of the Week: Michigan Poised to Win Back Big Ten Crown With Wins Over Indiana

ricardo-vargas-jacobo-
Ricardo Vargas won 2 events for Michigan against Big Ten rival Indiana. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA Swim Meet of the Week

The second semester of the 2019-20 NCAA season has arrived, and the focus shifts from hard training in winter break to fine tuning for conference season and NCAAs. This week’s NCAA swim meets of the week focused on particular matchups that would springboard the winning team to momentum towards either conference or nationals.

NCAA Swim Meet of the Week Division I: Michigan Sweeps Indiana to Take Control of Big Ten

thomas-cope-

Tommy Cope. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Indiana vs. Michigan results

The Indiana Hoosiers won both the men’s and women’s Big Ten swimming and diving titles last season. The women used their home pool advantage last year to end Michigan’s three-year winning streak, and the men won their third straight title.

Those results weren’t particularly surprising. The Hoosier women were swimming at home and had the best NCAA breaststroker all-time on their team in Lilly King. The men had a stacked senior class that had built Indiana to become a national powerhouse with the likes of NCAA champs Ian Finnerty and Vini Lanza as well as transfer Zach Apple.

The big question was how would Indiana fare this year without those seniors? Michigan was nipping at their heels and both teams wanted the Big Ten crown back. The Michigan men seniors have never won a conference title, so they would be hungry. And the duel meet with Indiana would be the perfect opportunity to send a warning sign ahead of Big Ten’s in February.

Swimming at home, the Wolverines came out firing, winning both medley relays and both 1000’s. The Indiana men fought back with a 1-2-3 in the 100 free and a 1-2 in the 200 back. But that momentum was quickly shifted back to Michigan with a 1-2 in the 200 breast and a 1-2-3 in the 500.

The Michigan men won 160-140 and seem to be the team to beat in the Big Ten. They already took down Cal at the Minnesota Invite in December and had great performances from Ricardo VargasTommy Cope and Miles Smachlo on Saturday. Vargas looks like the top distance swimmer in the country with a 9:01 in the 1000 and a 4:21 in the 500, taking down fellow Wolverine Felix Auböck. Auböck is the reigning NCAA champion in the 1650 and is a big rest swimmer but he took a backseat to Vargas this weekend.

Cope won the 100 breast (53.28), 200 breast (1;56.34) and 200 IM (1:45.61).

The only weak spot for Michigan appears to be in backstroke where the Hoosiers took full advantage with Gabriel Fantoni winning both the 100 and 200. If Indiana is going to win a fourth straight Big Ten title, they will need to take advantage of those weaknesses.

The Hoosier men did not go down without a fight. They lost a lot of seniors last year but have a young core group with the likes of Mikey Calvillo and Brendan Burns scoring big points this weekend. They also still have good leadership from Fantoni and Mohamed Samy, who won the 200 free at 1:35.57, so they won’t go down without a fight at Big Ten’s.

This feels like the year for Michigan to win the Big Ten title as the Hoosiers will only get stronger from here.

maggie-macneil-

Maggie MacNeil starred for the Wolverines against Indiana. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

On the women’s side, it wasn’t surprising that the Wolverines won big. Maggie MacNeil seems to be the top swimmer in the NCAA with wins in the 100 back (51.89) and 100 free (48.42). Those are championship times in a duel meet and she hasn’t missed a beat since becoming a World champion this summer. Just a sophomore, MacNeil is a front runner for a couple national titles this year before she heads to Canada at the end of March to vie for a spot on the Olympic team.

The Michigan women have placed in the top four nationally the last two seasons, and despite graduating Siobhan Haughey and Catie DeLoof, have a strong team in place to chase another top four finish. Freshman Kaitlynn Sims won both distance events with a 9:45 in the 1000 and 4:46 in the 500. Transfer Olivia Carter has been a nice pick-up for the Wolverines and has meshed well after joining the team not long ago on their training trip in Miami. The sophomore won both butterflys with a 1:58.80 in the 200 and 54.20 in the 100. Butterfly wasn’t necessarily a weakness for the Wolverines but Carter has made the Michigan team stronger.

The Indiana Hoosiers are really missing Lilly King, but have a nice replacement in Noelle Peplowski, who won both breaststrokes with a 1:00.32 in the 100 and 2:13.32 in the 200. Indiana has a young team in place as well with Cora Dupre emerging as a rising talent in freestyle. Strangely, freshman breaststroker Emily Weiss did not compete on Saturday. There’s probably no cause for alarm here, but she would have been a big help in breaststroke for Indiana.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite in the national landscape. Cal and Stanford are going to be tough as always. Tennessee and Virginia have strong teams. Florida has been on the rise as well. And Michigan is good, too. Perhaps the Wolverines will fight for more than just a top four finish this year. And they proved that with a statement win over Indiana.

NCAA Swim Meet of the Week Division II: Nova Southeastern Sweeps West Chester in Battle of Division II Heavyweights

emma-sundstedt-

Emma Sundstedt. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

West Chester vs. Nova Southeastern Results

The Nova Southeastern Sharks took care of business against the West Chester Golden Rams in a non-conference matchup between two top ten Division II teams. The NSU women won 122 – 83 while the men won 145.5 – 59.5. On the women’s side, #5 West Chester was just one spot ahead of #6 Nova Southeastern in the November poll, but the Sharks proved they were the better team on Friday in their home pool.

We highlighted before the meet started the distance matchup between reigning NCAA champion Georgia Wright of West Chester and last year’s 500 runner-up Emma Sundstedt of Nova. Sundstedt placed third in the 1000 and 1650 at last year’s NCAAs while Wright won all three distance races. It was a heavily hyped matchup and the winner of the 1000 and 500 would come out as a favorite to win the NCAA title in March. A duel meet in January doesn’t necessarily dictate what will happen at Nationals, but it would be a good chance for both swimmers to race each other.

Sundstedt won both matchups, first taking the 1000 with a 10:16.06 to Wright’s 10:22.18. The two were even at the 500 but Sundstedt negative split with a 5:06 on the back-half to take a commanding win. They met later in the 500 with Sundstedt coming from behind this time with a 5:03.36 to Wright’s 5:05.60. The pair were dead even at the 350 before Sundstedt threw down three consecutive 29 second splits to pull away from her rival. Wright did not split under 30 the whole race.

The Sharks also had a big day from Cassie Wright, who won the 100 IM (58.46) and 100 back (56.29), who is swimming in her first season for the Sharks after spending the last two seasons at Sioux Falls. She is one of the top backstrokers in Division II and has been a big help on relays for Nova this year. Their medley relays should be national contenders moving forward this year with Wright on the lead-off as well as Sasha Maslova on butterfly. Maslova is swimming in her first full season for the Sharks after coming in January last season and swam the butterfly leg on the winning medley relay to start the meet. She was second in the 200 free to West Chester’s Julia McCarthy (1:54.42) but took the win in the 100 fly (55.71) over Ann Carozza (56.01).

Breaststroker Cailey Friel and sprinter Jenna Johns are the other two members on the dangerous medley relay and that quartet looks strong moving forward to championship season as they were a 1:44.81 on Friday.

The Nova Southeastern men won every single swimming event except for the 100 back which Leo Chaves won (53.00). Nova’s relays were dominant as their sprinters Jonathan Yanello and Matteo Masiero went 1-2 in the 50 while Alec Dawson and Lliam Dolan went 1-2 in the 100 free. Masiero, Dawson and Yanello teamed up with Magnus Poulsen to put up an impressive 200 free relay to close the meet out with a 1:24.34, which looks to be the Sharks’ best relay ahead of championship season.

Poulsen also swam the fly leg on the medley relay and won the 100 IM with a 52.24.

The Nova Southeastern women seem to not have a weak spot on their roster and should be in line for a top five finish at NCAAs with their strong performance against West Chester in this week’s NCAA Swim Meet of the Week.

NCAA Swim Meet of the Week Division III: Williams Crushes Amherst in Historic D3 Rivalry

laura-westphal-

Laura Westphal. Photo Courtesy: Williams College Athletics

The Division III NESCAC Conference is unique in the fact that its member institutions don’t start official practice until early November. With a strict focus on academics, the swim teams don’t swim a fall invitational so they don’t get to see how they stack up with the rest of the country at “mid-season.” Thus this Williams-Amherst meet was a big deal. They didn’t wear tech suits but the nature of the rivalry would cause the swimmers to step up.

The Williams men won in Amherst for the first time since 2010.

The Eph distance swimmers dominated on the day with Andrew Trunsky leading a 1-2-3 finish in the 1000 and Jackson Karofsky leading a 1-2-3 finish in the 500 to give them huge points in those events. Williams has been a traditionally strong distance team and they proved that over the weekend with additional wins in the 200 free, 200 IM and 200 fly. Jamie Lovett won the 200 free for the Ephs and the trio of Trunsky, Karofsky and Lovett continue to be a dangerous core that should score a lot of points on the national level. Amherst’s sprinters were able to keep them in the meet as they won both men’s relays, but it was not enough to win the meet. Sean Mebust and Craig Smith are ready for huge championship years. Sprinter Scott Romeyn is even better than he was last year when he was sixth in the 50 at NCAAs as a freshman. He is not far off his best time with his 20.5 over the weekend.

Liam Sullivan stepped up for Williams in the 200 breast in placing second behind Mebust. There was no 100 at the meet but Sullivan has made vast improvements this season and could be the breaststroker that Williams needs come championship season.

The Williams women were hardly matched, winning by over 100 points ahead of their arch rival. They won every swimming event except for both breaststrokes with Nina Fitzgerald, who got the upper hand over Williams All-American Caroline White, claiming wins in the 100 and 200.

Keeping with their distance tradition, the Williams women were led by Abby Matheny in the 1000 and Casey Delano in the 500, scoring 1-2 finishes in both. Junior national champion Laura Westphal also came up big for the Ephs in winning the 200 and 100 free, out-touching Amherst’s Natalie Rumpelt on both occasions. Rumpelt is not quite on the level of the Williams swimmers but she came up big on Amherst’s relays, and also pushed Westphal for all she was worth. Westphal is the two-time defending NCAA champ in the 500 and 1650 and showed her freestyle versatility with strong performances in the 100 and 200.

She is just one of the reasons why this Williams team will continue to be high in the national rankings at the end of the year. The Ephs are currently ranked tenth in Division III but have finished in the top four at NCAAs each of the last five years. The trio of Westphal, White and Molly Craig continue to be fire for the team