NCAA Women’s Championships: Erica Sullivan Swims 15:45.94 in 1650 Free Early Heats

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Erica Sullivan -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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NCAA Women’s Championships: Erica Sullivan Swims 15:45.94 in 1650 Free Early Heats

At her first NCAA Championships, Erica Sullivan found herself in an unfamiliar situation in the 1650 freestyle: seeded outside the top eight. That meant the Olympic silver medalist in the 1500-meter free would race for an NCAA title from the final afternoon heat and not against her top competitors racing at night. So Sullivan raced almost completely by herself for the entire distance.

Sullivan held 28-mid splits through the first 1000 yards, but she fell off that pace slightly down the stretch, and over the last 300 yards, fellow Texas Longhorn Evie Pfeifer began to close the gap on her decorated teammate. Sullivan held on to finish first in the heat at 15:45.94, while Pfeifer came in second at 15:48.43. Those were the top two performances of the entire afternoon session. Sullivan broke Pfeifer’s Texas school record during the race, the 15:46.21 that Pfeifer swam to finish second at last year’s NCAAs. The two embraced immediately after, and Pfeifer became emotional, having completed the final swim of a decorated, five-year career at Texas.

Sullivan and Pfeifer will likely end up placing among the top handful of finishers in the race, but two swimmers competing in the final heat, Tennessee’s Kristen Stege and Louisville’s Liberty Williams, have posted quicker times than Sullivan’s mark earlier in the season. Swimming in the previous heat, Virginia’s Maddie Donahoe recorded a mark of 15:55.14 for the third-best time of the afternoon, and Ohio State’s Maya Geringer also broke 16:00 with a mark of 15:59.82.

With Texas in a tight battle with Stanford for second place in the team competition, Sullivan and Pfeifer moving up in the standings will make the competition even tighter. Following prelims, Stanford was projected to finish ahead of Texas by just 11 points for second place, but the miles will cut into that margin even further.