2023 NCAA WOMEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
In 2022, USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler out-touched Virginia’s Alexis Wenger by four-hundredths to claim the NCAA title in 56.93. That swim was her first time sub-57 and made her the sixth-fastest performer all-time. It was also USC’s first NCAA title in the event since Rebecca Soni in 2009.
At midseason, Dobler blasted 56.94 at the Art Adamson Invitational, which is just a hundredth off her lifetime best. That sets the tone for what it will take to win this race in Knoxville and it still stands as the top time in the NCAA this season.
Dobler didn’t match that at PAC-12s, though there wasn’t really any reason for her to show all her cards; she won by almost three seconds in 57.10. Repeating is possible for Dobler, but even though Wenger and Sophie Hansson have graduated, the path hasn’t gotten much easier. She’ll have to fend off perhaps the best pure breaststroke duo in the NCAA.
Heading into her freshman year, the narrative about Lydia Jacoby was that her yards times didn’t match what she’s capable of in meters. She retired that storyline at the Minnesota Invitational, breaking the girls’ 17-18 NAG in the 100 breast with a 57.54. Since then, she’s broken that record two more times, lowering it to the 57.29 that she swam at Big-12s. Riding that kind of momentum heading into NCAAs isn’t a small thing, and it’s exciting to think about what a fully tapered Jacoby can throw down. As with any freshman, it’s important to factor in how they will handle nerves and perhaps more so with Jacoby, who says that it will be her first “really competitive short course meet.”
Last year in prelims, Anna Elendt blazed a 56.88, becoming the fifth fastest performer all-time. She couldn’t match that time in the finals and ended up fifth, but if she’d matched it she would have won the title. If she manages her energy better this year, she and Jacoby have a very good chance of going 1-2 for the Longhorns with either her or Jacoby earning the title. This season, Elendt’s best came at the Minnesota Invitational with a 57.48, and she was about a tenth-off that at Big-12s, where she likely wasn’t very rested at all.
With Dobler, Jacoby, and Elendt all in the field it’s possible that we see a top three where all the swimmers go sub-57.
Returning 2022 ‘A’ Finalists
Three other ‘A’ finalists return from last year’s meet: Mona McSharry (4th), Hannah Bach (5th), and Tara Vovk (8th). McSharry, an Irish Olympian, will racing in her home pool. In addition to the home-pool advantage, she’s also had a strong year. At SECs, she scared her own conference record with a meet record of 57.25. She set the SEC record at 57.18 last year and she was one of the few Vols swimmers who dropped time from SECs to NCAAs. With NCAAs reportedly being more of a focus for Tennessee than years past, look for that trend to continue for McSharry.
After not competing for the fall semester, Hannah Bach was back in action for the Buckeyes for the second half of the regular season. She’s raced the 100 breast five times since her return, bringing her season best all the way down to the 58.19 she went to win Big Tens.
After competing for Northwestern, Vovk is using her fifth-year of eligibility at Miami (FL). She has a personal best of 58.01 from 2022 NCAA prelims, but hasn’t gotten close to it yet this season. Her season-best is the 58.89 she swam at midseason invitational and it looks like it will be an uphill battle for her to get back in the ‘A’ final.
Eyeing the ‘A’ Final
Bach’s Ohio State teammate Josie Panitz and NC State’s Heather MacCausland have both had breakouts in the 100 breast this season. Last year, Maccausland finished 19th and Panitz finished 38th; now, they’re seeded 5th and 7th, respectively.
MacCausland has cut over a second off her best time this season, hitting 58.16 at NC State’s midseason invite. She was just off that time in both her ACC swims, and looks poised to make the ‘A’ final with another potential drop.
Panitz has dropped almost as much time as MacCausland, going from a 59.05 to 58.29 at Big Tens. That was a big swim for her as she had been posting times in the 59 to 1:00-low pretty consistently over the last year. Like with MacCausland, it will be interesting to see if she has another time drop in her for NCAAs. Last year, it took 59.18 to make it back for the ‘A’ final, but with two of the top three finishers graduated, the qualifying time might be a bit slower this year.
Avery Wiseman swam a lifetime best of 57.79 at the 2021 Tennessee Invitational, which was just her fourth 100 breast in an Alabama cap. She hasn’t been under 58 since, winning last year’s ‘B’ final as a freshman in 58.19. This season, she comes into the meet seeded 11th, with the 58.69 she swam for third at SECs. This meet would be an excellent moment for her to break through that barrier again: holding her seed will put her safely in the ‘B’ final, but ‘A’ final points would be huge for Alabama as they look to minimize their fall down the standings.
After making the ‘A’ final in 2021 then swimming in the ‘B’ final in 2022, both Zoie Hartman and Andrea Podmaníková aim to make it back into the championship heat this year. Hartman’s best time is 57.40 (from 2021), which would likely put her right in the middle of the action in the ‘A’ final. However, something to keep in mind is that she’s added time from SECs to NCAAs each of the last two season. NC State’s Podmankiova has followed the same pattern, and both will need to break that trend to get back into the ‘A’ final. The good news for Podmanikova is that she’s already been faster this season than she was at NCAAs last year.
Dark Horse: Joleigh Crye (Cincinnati) — A freshman, Crye is the first swimmer from the University of Cincinnati to make women’s NCAAs since 2017. Since arriving on campus, she’s cut 2.24 seconds off her lifetime best and holds down the 16th seed in 59.07–an AAC record. While she won’t be in contention for the title, 59.07 would have earned her a spot in the ‘B’ final last year. If she has another time drop in her, she could shake things up.