NCAA Women’s Championships: Regan Smith Explodes Late to Run Down Foes For 200 Backstroke Title (VIDEO)

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NCAA Women’s Championships: Regan Smith Explodes Late to Run Down Foes For 200 Backstroke Title

The day Regan Smith committed to Stanford University, the countdown toward her NCAA success began. But there was a delay in the process, as the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed Tokyo Olympiad led Smith to defer her enrollment to the Pac-12 school.

On Saturday night, Smith’s wait for an individual collegiate title ended when she won the 200 backstroke at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta. And it was a title that came with flair and drama.

Jumpstarting a grueling final-session double, Smith used phenomenal turns at the 150- and 175-marks and notched a time of 1:47.76 to prevail over Wisconsin’s Phoebe Bacon, the defending champion. Bacon touched in 1:49.29 while Alabama’s Rhyan White was third in 1:49.36. Bacon and White were Olympic teammates of Smith’s in Tokyo.

Smith sat fourth at the midway point of the race and was a half-second behind White with 50 yards to go. But Smith was untouchable down the stretch and closed in 26.72, which was more than anyone else in the field. Additionally, Smith covered the back half of the race in 54.25.

Smith’s choice to remain in Minnesota and push back the start of her Stanford career paid dividends. Although Smith missed qualifying for the Olympic Games in the 200 backstroke at the U.S. Trials, she earned invitations to Tokyo in the 100 backstroke and 200 butterfly. Each of those events yielded a podium finish, with Smith taking bronze in the backstroke and silver in the fly. She also earned a silver medal as the leadoff leg o the United States’ 400 medley relay.

Now, she is getting the chance to represent Stanford, and is fulfilling the expectations that were attached to her commitment.

“It’s definitely hard sometimes, and something I have been struggling with,” Smith said of the pressure she faces. “But I’m thankful to have a great team behind me and that has my back. I just go out there and do what I know how to do. People told me that (NCAAs) is just different, and I didn’t know what that meant until I got here. This meet has been different than any meet I’ve ever been to, but it’s been so much fun.”

Ahead of the NCAA Championships, Smith had several options for her program. At the Pac-12 Championships, she doubled in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke on the third day of the meet. But for the NCAA Championships, she went with a more demanding ask, racing a pair of 200-yard races in a tight timeframe. It was a decision made in the best interest of her squad, and one Smith’s training could support.

After the 200 backstroke, Smith returned for the 200 butterfly. For the majority of the race, it looked like Smith would finish eighth, or near the bottom of the field. But Smith once again tapped into her closing speed and guts and gradually picked off most of the opposition, eventually tying Michigan’s Olivia Carter for second place. Virginia’s Alex Walsh won the race for her third title of the meet.

Smith’s first NCAA meet had been an up-and-down competition since Day One, when the freshman missed a turn on the leadoff leg of the 200 medley relay, but impressively rebounded an hour later to help the Cardinal to a title in the 800 freestyle relay. She also added a third-place finish in the 100 backstroke, an event in which North Carolina State’s Katharine Berkoff set an American record and became the first woman to crack the 49-second barrier in the event.

“Going into today, morale was low, honestly,” Smith said. “I was trying my very best to be as positive as I could. I knew it was my big day. I haven’t had the meet I wanted to have. How was this day going to go? I really leaned on my teammates and coaches…If I didn’t have that support, I would have crashed and burned. I owe it all to my teammates and coaches.”

 

 Event 16  Women 200 Yard Backstroke
=========================================================================
         NCAA: N 1:47.24  3/23/2019 Beata Nelson, Wisconsin
         Meet: M 1:47.24  3/23/2019 Beata Nelson, Wisconsin
     American: A 1:47.16  3/10/2019 Regan Smith, Riptide
      US Open: O 1:47.16  3/10/2019 Regan Smith, Riptide
         Pool: P 1:49.22  3/19/2022 Regan Smith, Stanford-PC
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
=========================================================================
                       === Championship Final ===                        
 
  1 Smith, Regan           FR Stanford          1:49.22    1:47.76P  20  
    r:+0.55  25.89        53.51 (27.62)
        1:21.04 (27.53)     1:47.76 (26.72)
  2 Bacon, Phoebe          SO Wisconsin         1:50.08    1:49.29   17  
    r:+0.71  25.87        53.53 (27.66)
        1:21.40 (27.87)     1:49.29 (27.89)
  3 White, Rhyan           SR Alabama           1:50.36    1:49.36   16  
    r:+0.64  25.48        52.91 (27.43)
        1:20.61 (27.70)     1:49.36 (28.75)
  4 Stadden, Isabelle      SO California        1:49.94    1:49.45   15  
    r:+0.65  25.71        53.09 (27.38)
        1:21.20 (28.11)     1:49.45 (28.25)
  5 Tiltmann, Reilly       FR Virginia          1:50.34    1:49.63   14  
    r:+0.69  25.98        53.76 (27.78)
        1:21.88 (28.12)     1:49.63 (27.75)
  6 Atkinson, Emma         SO VT                1:50.34    1:49.86   13  
    r:+0.62  26.03        53.43 (27.40)
        1:21.38 (27.95)     1:49.86 (28.48)
  7 Muzzy, Emma            SR NCSU              1:51.06    1:51.18   12  
    r:+0.73  26.32        54.54 (28.22)
        1:23.15 (28.61)     1:51.18 (28.03)
  8 Nordmann, Lucie        JR Stanford          1:51.20    1:52.28   11  
    r:+0.65  25.73        53.89 (28.16)
        1:22.82 (28.93)     1:52.28 (29.46)