Arizona swimming back in action for NCAA Championships
After finishing fourth in the final standings of the Pac-12 Championships behind Stanford, USC and Cal, Arizona’s women swimmers are back in action this week in the NCAA Championships at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind.
During the Pac-12 Championships, the Wildcats’ relay team earned three titles in the 200-yard freestyle relay, 200y-medley relay and 400y-medley relay.
“I was really proud of our performances,” head coach Eric Hansen said. “I think they prepared us well, moving forward into NCAA’s.”
Seniors Lauren Smart, Ellyn Baumgardner and Megan Lafferty and junior Margo Geer made up the “A” team for the 400y-medley relay and swam their way to a title, compiling a time of 3:28.91 and narrowly missing the American record of 3:28.31. Nonetheless, their time went down as the fastest national time for the event this year.
Drew Gyorke / Arizona Daily Wildcat Nimrod Shapria-Or swimming the 200 yard butterfly. Nimrod was one of the 11 honored for senior day at the beginning of the meet.
The “B” team, made up by senior Chelsey Salli, juniors Kait Flederbach and Ashley Evans and freshman Bonnie Brandon, went on to earn first place and an NCAA “A” cut time of 3:34.51.
“We had really strong swims and performed well,” Flederbach said. “People stepped up when not everyone was shaved and we capitalized on our opportunities. I can’t wait for NCAA relays; they are a strong core feature of Arizona swimming, and I think those relays will propel us towards the finals.”
The 200y-freestyle relay title was captured by the team of Geer, Flederbach, Lafferty and Alana Pazevic, who earned gold with a time of 1:27.93.
The team of Smart, Baumgardner, Lafferty, and Geer also acquired a title in the 200y-medley relay with a time of 1:36.22.
Geer acquired the only individual championships for the women in the 50y and 100y-freestyle events, posting times of 21.78 and 47.59, respectively. She became the first Arizona swimmer to win the 50y-freestyle event since Lara Jackson in 2009 and the first to win the 100y-freestyle event since Lacey Nymeyer in 2008.
“I was really happy with myself,” Geer said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but it turned into the best-case scenario. I’m looking forward to the whole environment of NCAA’s. We worked the whole season for this one meet, and I can’t wait to see some fast swimming.”
Brandon made a splash during her first appearance in the Pac-12 and contributed in the first place effort of the 400y-medley “B” team. She placed fourth in the 800y-freestyle relay and qualified first in the preliminaries of the 500y-freestyle event. In the finals of the 500y-free she placed second, falling only to USC’s Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson.
“I was really pleased with how I did for my first Pac-12’s,” Brandon said. “Hopefully, I can improve on my times and do some damage at NCAA’s. My personal goals are to be in the top eight in the 200 back and 500 free. I’m looking forward to just having fun with the team and enjoying my first NC’s.”
In the upcoming week, Arizona swimmers will be pitted against the nation’s fastest and most decorated swimmers as they look to finish the year off strong.
“I think there are a handful of teams that have a shot to win,” Hansen said. “I’d like to think that we are capable of being there to win. It would have to be a perfect meet for us, but at the same time, we don’t train every day to not have a perfect meet. We’re looking forward to seeing what our best is, and we have been saving it for this meet.”