By Amy Padilla//Contributor | Tuesday, March 19, 2019The 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships will soon be underway, taking place March 20-23 at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin, Texas. The top five ranked women’s teams this year according to the final CSCAA poll include Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Michigan, North Carolina State University, and the University of Virginia.
1. Stanford University
Stanford University is currently ranked first according to the CSCAA poll. The top team from the last two NCAA Championships, the Cardinal is renowned for its superior swimmers and excellent coaching staff. Former Stanford swimmer Katie Ledecky, who turned professional in March of last year, helped lead the Cardinal to two consecutive NCAA titles during her college swimming career. Other notable Olympic medalists from Stanford in recent years include Simone Manuel, Maya DiRado, and Lia Neal.
Stanford will send 18 swimmers to the NCAA Championships, the largest number of any team in the competition. Cardinal swimmers qualified for 51 individual races, the maximum roster allowed by the NCAA.
Senior swimmer Ella Eastin is a principal contender for the NCAA Championships this year, especially after earning her second individual title at the Pac-12 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships on March 1. Eastin finished her 400 IM with the fastest time in the country at 3:57.75. Eastin entered the 2018-2019 season as a three-time defending national champion after winning the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 fly at last year’s NCAA championship meet. She also made the Pan Pacific team last year in the 200 IM before the start of the college season. Eastin qualified in the 200 IM, 200 fly, and the 400 IM for this year’s NCAAs.
Another Stanford standout is sophomore Brooke Forde, who qualified in the 400 IM at 4:00.27. Forde completed her freshman year at Stanford as an NCAA champion in 800 free relay. This year, she qualified for the 200 fly, 400 IM and 500 free.
Junior Katie Drabot is another top Cardinal swimmer. She helped win two relay titles at last year’s NCAA Championships and finished second in the 500 free and 200 fly. In both races, she finished just behind her teammates – Ledecky and Eastin. Drabot will race the 200 free and 200 fly at NCAAs this year.
2. University of Texas
The Texas Longhorns will be strong contenders this year against Stanford in their home pool. Ten Longhorn swimmers qualified in 20 events, which includes the five relays. Texas recently won its seventh-straight Big 12 title on March 3, its 17th Big 12 title overall.
Senior Joanna Evans, sophomore Evie Pfeifer, and freshman Grace Ariola hold the most cuts in individual events with three each. Evans, who represented the Bahamas at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, will race the 200, 500, and 1650 free this week. She was a gold medalist at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, as well as a silver and bronze medalist in the World University Games.
Pfeifer, also a distance swimmer, will join Evans in the 500 and 1650 free events, and will swim her signature 400 IM which she won at the Big 12 Championships. Pfeifer is a two-time All-American and was the 2017-18 All-Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Longhorn sprinter Ariola will get her feet wet in the NCAAs for the first time in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 back. Ariola is already off to a fast start, tying with Rebecca Millard for the school and Big 12 record in the 50 free, and becoming an official member of the 2018-19 U.S. National team.
3. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan will send 14 athletes (12 swimmers and two divers) to the NCAA Championships.
The 12 Wolverine swimmers each have individual qualifying berths and are entitled to compete in all five relays. One of Michigan’s star swimmers is senior Siobhan Haughey, who qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 100 free, the 200 IM, and the 200 free. Haughey, a native of Hong Kong, represented her country in the 2016 Olympic Gamres. She finished second in the 200 free at NCAAs in 2018 and is a contender for the title this year.
Senior distance freestyler Yirong Bi qualified for the 200, 500 and 1650 free. She won the 500 free and claimed second in the 1,650 free at this year’s Big Ten Championships. Senior Catie DeLoof is another accomplished Wolverine athlete, qualifying for the NCAA in the 50 free, 100 free and 200 free.
Freshman swimmer Margaret (Maggie) Macneil is one to watch out for, making the cut in the 50 free, 100 fly, and 100 back. She is the only freshman swimmer to qualify for three events from Michigan. Macneil has already been named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and is a four-time Big Ten champion.
4. University of California (Cal)
Although the final CSCAA poll ranks the North Carolina State Wolfpack as No. 4, the University of California (Cal) should move up after its second-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships, where they won nine of the 18 swimming events. Cal has finished among the top three at the NCAA Championships each of the past ten years.
Cal will send 12 swimmers to the NCAA championships, including 12 independent qualifiers and all five relays. Last year, Olympic Abbey Weitzeil garnered a Pac-12 title in the 100 free, and then finished third in the same event at the NCAAs. Weitzeil will be a favorite in the sprint events (50 free, 100 free and 200 free) at this year’s championships.
Senior Katie McLaughlin is a strong candidate to help bring an NCAA title home for Cal. McLaughlin took fourth in the 200 fly, sixth in the 100 fly and eighth in the 200 free in the 2018 NCAAs. This year, she will compete in the 100 fly, 200 free and 200 fly.
Senior Amy Bilquist entered the season ranked among Cal’s all-time top ten in the 50 free, 100 free, 100 back and 200 back. Bilquist had a strong finish in three events in the 2018 NCAA meet, and scored in three individual events at the 2018 Pac-12 Championships. Bilquist will race the 50 free, 100 free and 100 back at nationals.
5. North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack women is tied with Cal for 12 individual qualifiers for this year’s NCAAs, the most in program history.
The Wolfpack swimmers recently attained their second conference title in three years at the 2019 ACC Championships. NC State won a total of 11 event titles at ACCs, setting the program record for the most single-season conference titles.
Freshman Sophie Hansson and sophomore Kate Moore both finalized berths in three events at the 2019 NCAA’s. Hansson competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio for Sweden, and medaled twice at the 2017 European championships. She will swim the 100 breast, 200 IM, and 200 breast at this meet.
Last year, Moore placed fourth in the 400 IM at the ACC Championships, and holds the second-fastest time in program history in that same event. Moore was a 2018 NCAA qualifier in the 400 IM as well. She will race the 200 back, 400 IM and 500 free at NCAAs.Other teams in the hunt: The University of Virginia, Auburn University, the University of Florida, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Arizona were all ranked in the top 10 of the College Swimming Coaches Association’s final 2019 poll in February.
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