The Star Power of These NCAA Swimming Championships is Unprecedented

Photo Courtesy: David Bernal Photography

By Alec Scott Swimming World College Intern

The women’s NCAA Division I championships this week feature some of the biggest stars in our sport. I’m only 24 years old, but I can’t remember a year where the meet was so deep and loaded with top-end talent that some of the best swimmers in the country have flown a bit under the radar.

The competition is highlighted by the top swimmer on the planet in Katie Ledecky and fellow Olympic gold medalists Simone Manuel, Lilly King, Kathleen Baker, Olivia Smoliga, Abbey Weitzeil, Leah Smith and Cierra Runge as well as silver medalists Lia Neal and Chantal Van Landeghem.

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Photo Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports

The meet is so deep that American-record holders like Ella Eastin and Ally Howe aren’t even the biggest names on their own team. Studs like Mallory Comerford, Madisyn Cox, Sydney Pickrem and Smith could swim jaw dropping times and leave without winning an individual title.

Looking at the 100 butterfly, one of the few events without an Olympic medalist, the depth is astonishing. At the 2014 women’s NCAA Championships, Felicia Lee won the 100 butterfly in 50.89, Kelsi Worrell was the only other swimmer in the field to dip under the 51 second barrier and she did it in the prelims. There are nine women seeded with a time below 51 seconds at the 2017 NCAA Championships led by Stanford’s Janet Hu at 50.38. Lee’s 2014 winning time would be seeded eighth just behind North Carolina’s Hellen Moffitt, who comes into this year’s meet with a 50.86.

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Ally Howe, Photo Courtesy: David Farr

Howe’s 49.69 American-record in the 100 backstroke is so fast that it will be an upset if either of the U.S. Olympians, Baker or Smoliga, touch the wall ahead of her in the event.

Ledecky has taken the 500 and mile to such an absurd level that no matter how fast Smith swims behind her, it may be lost on the crowd. Smith could easily become the second fastest performer in history in both and finish second by some distance, but these accomplishments should be judged on their own merit.

Comerford is one of the most promising young freestylers in America, but she will most likely have to go through Olympic champions Ledecky or Manuel to win an individual title this year.

2016.03.18 2016 Womens NCAA Swimming Championships_Louisville Mallory Comerford

Mallory Comerford, Photo Courtesy: Reagan Lunn/Georgia Tech Athletics

This week, let’s take the time to appreciate the greatness we are about to witness. This is inarguably going to be one of, if not the premiere championship events in swimming this year. When the world’s best swimmer and three other individual Olympic medalists opt to remain amateur to participate in this season and more specifically this meet, it shows just how much the top athletes value this competition. Let’s show them how much we value what they do for our sport.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. Pat Kennedy

    Best of luck to all of the swimmers. Have a great meet and I can’t wait to see the amazing young ladies put up some incredible swims.

Author: Alec Scott

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Alec Scott is a senior at the University of Alabama majoring in journalism and minoring in computer science. He currently coaches Crimson Tide Masters swimming and is a fifth year assistant with the Alabama program. He swam at Alabama from 2014-2016 and previously at Indian River State College from 2012-2014.

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