By Emily Sampl//Contributor | Tuesday, March 13, 2018
With the 2018 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships just a day away, here are the top teams and swimmers to keep an eye on in what figures to be another record-breaking meet March 14-17 at Ohio State University.
Stanford (CSCAA Rank: 1st; 2017 NCAA Finish: 1st)
Stanford looks poised to bring home its second straight NCAA title, as the Cardinal bring a loaded roster to this week’s meet that includes the likes of Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel and Ella Eastin, just to name a few. All three swimmers have individual national titles to defend, as Manuel will look to win her third title in both the 50 free and 100 free and Ledecky enters as the defending champion in both the 500 free and 1650 free. The 400 IM is shaping up to be one of the hottest events of the meet, as newly-minted American and NCAA record holder Ledecky faces off against teammate and three-time defending champion Eastin for the top prize. Eastin will also swim the 200 IM and 200 fly; she won the 200 fly last year and broke the American and NCAA record in that event at last month’s Pac-12 Championships, and is also the current American and NCAA record holder in the 200 IM.
California (CSCAA Rank: 2nd; 2017 NCAA Finish: 2nd)
After finishing second last year, Cal will look to get back on top and win its first team title since 2015. Junior Kathleen Baker leads the way for the Bears, as she enters the meet as a three-time defending champion in the 200 IM, 100 back and 200 back. Sophomore Olympian Abbey Weitzeil should make a huge splash in the sprint free events, with the fourth-best time in the 50 free and second-best in the 100 free and a major role in the relays. Keep an eye on Canadian butterfly specialist Noemie Thomas, as well. Cal’s major weaknesses are in distance free and breaststroke, but their relays add a huge boost as they enter the meet with the top seed times in the 200 free relay, 200 medley relay and 400 free relay; they’ll be seeded second in the 800 free relay and 400 medley relay.
Texas A&M (CSCAA Rank: 3rd; 2017 NCAA Finish: 3rd)
Texas A&M and head coach Steve Bultman could be in the mix to win the school’s first-ever NCAA swimming and diving title with several swimmers poised to make a huge impact. Junior Sydney Pickrem, a Canadian Olympian and world championship medalist, could emerge as one of the meet’s highest scoring swimmers, as she’s seeded first in the 200 IM and 200 breast, and third in the 400 IM. Senior Bethany Galat will join Pickrem in all three events and is part of the Aggies’ strong breaststroke corps that also includes Anna Belousova, Esther Gonzalez Medina and Jorie Caneta. Texas A&M will have to move up significantly in the relays to challenge for the team title.
Texas (CSCAA Rank: 4th; 2017 NCAA Finish: 5th)
The Texas Longhorns are on the rise and hope to improve upon their fifth-place performance last season, the team’s first top five finish since 2009. They’ll be led by junior Joanna Evans, who’s ranked in the top eight in the 500 free and 1650 free and holds the school record in each of those events. Claire Adams should be a scoring threat in multiple events as well, with times seeded to make the consolation final in the 100 free and 100 back. Sprinter Rebecca Millard will look to move up into the top heat of the 50 and 100 free and will be a huge factor on the Longhorn relays. Freshman Evie Pfeifer, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Meet, along with Quinn Carrozza and Kennedy Lohman, has a chance to make individual finals as well.
Michigan (CSCAA Rank: 5th; 2017 NCAA Finish: 11th)
Michigan may be the most improved team from last season’s meet. After finishing in 11th in 2017, they could be on the cusp of a top five team finish. Several swimmers are seeded to make a run at top eight spots, with Siobhan Haughey leading the way. Haughey, an Olympian from Hong Kong, enters the meet with the third-best time in the 200 free and sixth-best in the 200 IM and 100 free. Teammate Miranda Tucker, a transfer from Indiana who did not compete last season, will look to duplicate her finishes from two years ago where she placed second in the 200 breast and third in the 100 breast as a freshman. Clara Smiddy (100 and 200 back), Rose Bi (500 free), Gabby Deloof (200 free), Catie Deloof (200 free) and Vanessa Krause (200 fly) can also score big points for the Wolverines.
Others to Watch: Mallory Comerford, Louisville (100 free/200 free/500 free), Erika Brown, Tennessee (50 free/100 fly/100 free), Lilly King, Indiana (100 breast/200 breast), Beata Nelson, Wisconsin (200 IM/100 back/200 back)