Texas Invitational: USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler, Minna Abraham Shake Up Rankings Friday Night

Kaitlyn Dobler -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Texas Invitational: USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler, Minna Abraham Shake Up Rankings Friday Night

The third day of the Texas Invitational saw swimmers post top-three national times in five out of 10 individual events, and the University of Southern California women were among the primary forces behind the strong times as Kaitlyn Dobler returned to 56-second territory in the 100 breaststroke while freshman Minna Abraham had an explosive breakout effort in the 200 freestyle.

Meanwhile, a pair of Indiana-native Texas freshmen, Berit Berglund and Will Modglin, took huge steps forward in their careers in the 100 backstroke while a down-to-the-wire race in the women’s 400 IM saw the top-three women all swim best times and show their capabilities in the national picture.

Here’s what happened in Friday’s events:

Women’s 100 Butterfly

Emma Sticklen, last year’s NCAA champion in the 200 butterfly, got the win in her home pool over 100 yards, but it did not come easily as Sticklen had to hold off a pair of charging teammates. Kelly Pash, fresh off a brilliant performance Thursday that included a 200 IM win and a blazing medley relay anchor split, was a half-second down entering the last length, but Pash surged home.

Sticklen, though, had barely enough, getting to the wall in 50.36, one hundredth clear of Pash’s 50.37. Another Longhorn, Olivia Bray, touched third in 50.47, with all three Texas swimmers posting NCAA A-final-worthy times (although it’s worth noting that of the trio, only Sticklen is sure to swim the event at the end of the season, with Pash and Bray each having other race options).

Men’s 100 Butterfly

Stanford went 1-3 in the men’s 100 fly as Rafael Gu went wire-to-wire to secure the win in 45.08. His teammate Aaron Sequeira surged home and nearly caught Texas’ Sam Artmann, but Artmann held on to get to the wall in 45.94, one hundredth ahead of Sequeira (45.95).

Women’s 400 IM

In a stunning finish in the women’s 400 IM, two swimmers tied for the top spot with a third competitor less than one-quarter of a second behind as all three beat the third-place time from last season’s NCAA Championships. The lead for almost the entire race belonged to Lucy Bell, a Stanford sophomore who won silver in the 400-meter IM at the Pan American Games last month. She led by six tenths over teammate Caroline Bricker entering the freestyle leg, but USC’s Justina Kozan put together a sizzling 53.16 closing 100 yards to surge forward and catch Bell.

Bell and Kozan each touched in 4:03.25, with Bricker finishing in 4:03.49. Last season, only the Virginia duo of Alex Walsh and Ella Nelson beat those times at the NCAA Championships, and in this season’s rankings, only Florida’s Bella Sims has been faster with the 4:01.47 she swam Friday at the Georgia Invite. This trio all edged out times posted around the country by Nelson (4:03.61) and 400-meter IM Olympic silver medalist Emma Weyant (4:03.65).

Men’s 400 IM

Following his come-from-behind win in the 500 free Thursday evening, Rex Maurer could not be stopped in the 400 IM. The Stanford freshman swam neck-and-neck with Wisconsin’s Doninik Mark Torek for most of the race, turning for freestyle three hundredths adrift before blasting a 50.36 split to finish off the race and pull away for a three-second win. Maurer touched in 3:41.27, followed by Torek in 3:44.52. Texas’ Spencer Aurnou-Rhees grabbed third in 3:46.80.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

No swimmer went 1:41 in the 200 free at last year’s NCAA Championships, but after Gretchen Walsh blasted a time of 1:41.32 amid a brilliant performance at the Tennessee Invite, USC’s Minna Abraham has followed with another scorcher in Texas. Abraham, a freshman from Budapest, Hungary, easily dispatched with Texas freshman Erin Gemmell, a member of the U.S. women’s 800-meter free relay team that secured a World Championships silver medal this year.

In the process, Abraham swam a time of 1:41.38, becoming the 13th-fastest performer in history in the event. She was just under one second quicker than the 1:42.36 that Taylor Ruck swam to top the standings at NCAAs last year. Meanwhile, Gemmell took second in 1:43.09, fending off a strong back half from Stanford’s Kayla Wilson (1:43.21). Another Trojan, sprint specialist Vasilissa Buinaia, was in second place for most of the race before falling back, but she held off Stanford’s Aurora Roghair for fourth, 1:44.18 to 1:44.25.

Men’s 200 Freestyle

The top-three finisher in the men’s 200 free have all earned World Championships medals for Team USA in the 800-meter free relay, with Texas’ Luke Hobson (finals) and Stanford’s Henry McFadden (prelims) helping in a silver-medal effort this year while Texas’ Coby Carrozza swam in prelims in the gold-medal 800 free relay squad last year. Hobson has emerged as the country’s top 200 freestyler, and he held on to claim the win against strong competition here.

Hobson finished in 1:32.36, four tenths clear of the field. The Texas junior ranks tied for fourth all-time at 1:29.63, with only Dean FarrisTownley Haas and Kieran Smith having every been faster and Blake Pieroni owning the exact same best time. McFadden closed well to overtake Carrozza and place second in 1:32.78, with Carrozza hanging on for third (1:33.41).

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

A race between national-title contenders in the 100 breaststroke turned into a blowout as USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler crushed Texas’ Anna Elendt by three-quarters of a second. Dobler, the 2022 NCAA champion in the event, led wire-to-wire and turned in a time of 56.99, quicker than the 57.03 in which Lydia Jacoby won last year’s national crown. Dobler ranks second nationally behind the 56.87 that Mona McSharry swam at the Tennessee Invite.

Elendt placed second in 57.75, and well back in third was Wisconsin’s Hazal Ozkan in 59.53. Ozkan overtook Texas’ Channing Haley, who ended up as the only other woman to break 1:00 (59.64).

Men’s 100 Breaststroke

USC’s Chris O’Grady turned in a dominant effort in the men’s 100 breast, winning by 84-hundredths while UNLV’s Danny Beji came out of on top of a tight race for second place. O’Grady touched in 51.53, while Beji’s time of 52.37 left him a tenth ahead of Texas’ Will Scholtz (52.47). Also in the mix were the Trojans’ Ben Dillard (52.58) and Texas’ Nate Germonprez (52.64).

Women’s 100 Backstroke

Berit Berglund looks like she will make a huge impact right away for the national-title-contending Texas Longhorns as the highly-touted swimmer out of Carmel Swim Club and Carmel High School is already winning key races just month into her college career. Here, she easily topped veteran Phoebe Bacon for a 100 back win, turning in a lifetime best of 50.85 to finish almost six tenths clear of Bacon’s 51.43, with USC’s Caroline Famous third (51.96).

The time by Berglund is already an NCAA A-final-worthy mark and second-ranked in the country behind defending national titlist Gretchen Walsh.

Men’s 100 Backstroke

The reigning National High School Swimmer of the Year needed to make a quick jump in order to contend for a national title as a freshman. Well, Will Modglin has done just that as he broke into 44-second territory in the 100 backstroke Friday evening, dominating the field from start to finish. Modglin blasted a time of 44.49, which is the third-best time in the country this season behind ASU’s Hubert Kos and NC State’s Kacper Stokowski.

Chris O’Connor placed second for the Longhorns in 45.74, while Stanford’s Aaron Sequeira was third in 46.45.

Women’s 200 Freestyle Relay

Grace Cooper set the tone for Texas in this sprint relay, going out with a 21.66 leadoff split that beat every other team by at least four tenths. From there, Ava LongiEmma Sticklen and Kelly Pash all did their job with 21-mid splits, helping Texas hold on to win by three-quarters of a second in 1:26.31.

USC took second in 1:27.07 with Vasilissa BuinaiaAnicka DelgadoKaitlyn Dobler and Minna Abaham, with Abraham, fresh off a 1:41-effort in the 200 free, coming home in 21.30. Wisconsin’s Hailey TierneySophie FiskeAbby Wanezek and Phoebe Bacon placed third in 1:28.74.

Men’s 200 Freestyle Relay

The Stanford men finished off the night with a convincing relay win. Rafael Gu, the 100 fly winner earlier in the session, had the fastest split at 19.03, while Jonathan Tan led off and Avery Voss and Luke Maurer put the finishing touches on a time of 1:16.75. Wisconsin finished second with Taiko Torepe-OrmsbyBen WiegandAndrew Benson and Chris Morris going 1:17.30, while Texas’ Will ModglinNate GermonprezCamden Taylor and Luke Hobson placed third in 1:17.62.


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