Women’s NCAA Division I Championships: “That’s Why We Swim the Meet”

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Commentary by Jeff Commings

Only three things were certain for this year’s Women’s NCAA Division I Championships: Missy Franklin would bring her megawatt smile, P.A. announcer Sam Kendricks would continue to demonstrate why he’s the best in the business and my predictions for the top 10 places would not hold up by meet’s end.

What is never certain is the outcome of the team race. That was evident after the first day of prelims, when Georgia made a big statement. But California responded well in the remaining five sessions to earn the victory, while Stanford simply could not match the depth California and Georgia had this year. While I am proud of correctly predicting the top three, I’m even prouder of teams such as Louisville, Virginia and Texas for stepping up their games and swimming much better than I – and even they, for that matter – believed was possible. If the meet had turned out as many had predicted, the Louisville Cardinals would have had a so-so meet, the Longhorns would have been just another top-ten team and the Virginia Cavaliers would have pretty much just been happy with one win from Leah Smith.

Southern California was quietly having a great meet, which could not have been easy with the absence of vital performer Jasmine Tosky, who retired from the sport halfway through the Pac 12 championships three weeks ago. She was sorely missed on relays, where she would have helped the Trojans place much higher in a couple of races.

Below are my predictions for the top 10 performances, with the actual rankings following.

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Talking points:
• Minnesota showed why relays are vital at the NCAA championships. The Gophers only scored in two of the relays (ninth in 400 free relay and 16th in 800 free relay), which didn’t help back up the superb swimming going on for the team in individual events. Brooke Zeiger didn’t perform as well as I thought she would in her first NCAA championships, not scoring in the 200 back and “only” finishing fifth in the 400 IM. Kierra Smith winning the 200 breast was the major highlight for Minnesota, and though she is now done with her collegiate career, she’ll likely give Minnesota momentum to get back into the top 10 next year.

• Virginia had the best meet of any team outside of the top three. In his second season with the Cavaliers, Augie Busch has molded a team that relied on more than stars Courtney Bartholomew and Leah Smith. Though having those stalwarts helped a great deal (especially in the 400 medley relay), it was the efforts of Laura Simon (top four in both breaststrokes) that helped Virginia turn some heads. Butterflyer Ellen Williamson is the only scorer not to return next year, so look for Virginia to hold its first team trophy next year. But which spot in the top four will it be?

• California will not have Missy Franklin next year. Stanford will have Katie Ledecky next year. Transfer the 60 points that Franklin scored in individual events to Stanford (Ledecky is almost assured of three wins) and the 2016 team title will be a bit closer. Georgia is the wild card. If they perform as well in 2016 as they were expected to do in 2015, it’s going to be an exciting meet next year.

7 comments

  1. avatar
    Swammer15

    Nothing about Texas A&M, and the fact that they came from 5th to 4th coming down to the final relay. Let alone, winning hardware by just .01 of a second? Gig Em

  2. avatar
    Gigem1

    Not a single comment about A&M freshmen stepping up after losing three national champions? Come on… Had one more freshman go what she did at SECs it wouldn’t have even been that close. I think those shoes were filled this year and cant wait to see what next year holds.

  3. avatar
    IUalum

    Indiana 10th with one(!) scoring relay! Just saying

  4. avatar
    David Rieder

    Interesting, your comment about Ledecky, Jeff. I’ve personally been wondering whether she would delay college for a year to continue training with Bruce Gemmell for the Olympics. I specifically asked Greg Meehan last night about Katie, and he said he did not know, and it wouldn’t offend or upset him if she chose to defer enrollment. He said the decision was in the hands of Katie, her parents, and Bruce, and he didn’t really know when it will come.

    And splitting needles, but I would be interested to see Simone vs. Katie in the 200. Not sure the 200 SCY is long enough for Katie, but it would be quite the clash.

  5. Bob Perkins

    there’s still time to change your picks for next wknd…
    TEXAS MEN will win NCAAs !

  6. avatar
    Jeff Commings

    I could write a short novel about the teams that exceeded my (and their own) expectations in Greensboro. From Indiana, Texas A&M and Texas doing very well to the first swimmer to score for UMBC, there was lots of great swimming all around!

    Re: Katie Ledecky, I was making a prediction based on the current situation, which is that she is swimming for Stanford in the fall. If it changes, the atmosphere changes dramatically next year.

    And it is too late to change my picks for the men’s meet. They’re already etched into the February issue of Swimming World Magazine! I stand by the picks, even if it means my alma mater (Texas) finishes second.

  7. avatar
    flutterby

    Abbey Weitzei will be swimming for Cal next year. That should make up for some of the points.