Swimming World Presents – The 2021 Women’s NCAA Championships Review

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The Women’s 2021 NCAA Championships Review

By Dan D’Addona and John Lohn
Photos By NCAA Media

A NEW NO. 1
For the first time in the history of the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships—since 1982—the University of Virginia finished first. It was also the first time it cracked the top 5 with its previous highest finish sixth in 2019.

VIRGINIA’S ROAD TO HISTORY
It was a long time coming for both the University of Virginia and the ACC, leading to a first-time NCAA championship for the school and the conference.

Virginia’s youth movement tipped the balance of power in swimming to the ACC for the first time as the Cavaliers became the first NCAA champion ever from the conference.

Coach Todd DeSorbo’s team thought it was going to happen last year, but the pandemic forced a year’s delay. “Having it taken away last year was pretty heartbreaking,” said Virginia senior Paige Madden. “At the same time, it fueled a fire in all of us, and that is what led to our success this year. We had a point to prove, and I think we did that, which is exciting.”

Virginia led the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, March 17-20, at Greensboro, N.C. from start to finish. The Cavaliers scored 491 points, a 137-point margin of victory over runner-up North Carolina State (354). The goal was clear all season, and the Cavaliers did everything they could to make it happen. “It is just such a great feeling,” said Virginia’s Kate Douglass. “I feel like we have all been waiting for this to happen for a long time.

TOTAL DOMINANCE
The dominance started with the 800 yard freestyle relay win on opening night (6:52.56 with Kyla Valls, Madden, Ella Nelson and Alex Walsh). It was a promising start, but only the beginning.

On Day 2, the Cavaliers made a statement as Madden won the 500 free (4:33.61), Walsh won the 200 IM (1:54.62) and Douglass won the 50 free (21.13). Madden won the 200 free (1:42.35) on Day 3 when the Cavaliers made their depth show, building a 103-point lead over NC State without winning any other event.

On the final night, Madden won the 1650 (15:41.86), and the Cavaliers continued their high rankings in the relays. After their opening-night win in the 800 free relay, Virginia put together four straight second-place finishes.

“It is so sweet. I am really excited,” Madden said. “I teared up on the last relay. It was just really special having the entire team here with us. It is incredible and hasn’t hit me yet fully, but it is amazing. “We had to load the van, and a lot of girls had trouble loading the trophies in our suitcases, so we had to load them in Panera bags. I really just wanted to have fun, and this is the cherry on top.”
(To read more about Virginia women’s win, and NC State’s and Maggie MacNeil’s amazing performances, click here to download the full May issue)


NC STATE ADDS TO ACC DOMINANCE

The Atlantic Coast Conference never had a school win the women’s NCAA Division I team title. But Virginia took care of that. So, it goes without saying that the ACC never had any of its member schools finish 1-2 at the meet. But that all changed in 2021 when North Carolina State placed runner-up to help supplant the Pac-12 Conference as the current women’s swimming powerhouse.

Prior to this season, teams from the Pac-12 (previously Pac-10 through 2011) had placed either first or second in 29 of the 38 meets since the NCAA first held its championships in 1982. And it boasted five 1-2 finishes, including the previous three years with Stanford and Cal.

ALL IN THE FAMILY
This year’s Wolfpack squad was led by some familiar names in the sport of swimming, as new contenders in extremely talented swimming families made their mark on the national stage—specifically, Katharine Berkoff and Sophie Hansson.

While being a part of elite families can cast a shadow and provide added stress, both Berkoff and Hansson said they don’t feel any pressure from within the family. Instead, they use the support of their fast families to strive for bigger goals. Berkoff’s father, David, was an NCAA champion in the 100 backstroke for Harvard in 1987 and 1989, sandwiched around a year in which he was a member of the U.S. Olympic team, while Hansson is the younger sister of former USC swimmer, Louise, a multi-NCAA champion who had previously set the NCAA record in the 100 butterfly in 2019. Both sisters competed for Sweden at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Katherine, a sophomore in her first NCAA Championships, won the 100 yard backstroke in 49.74 to become the fourth-fastest performer in history, and Sophie won the 100 breaststroke in 57.23, tying for third fastest all-time with Breeja Larson, behind Lilly King and Molly Hannis. She also won the 200 breast (2:03.86).


THE TALK OF THE MEET

Barrier-breaking performances are long remembered in the sport. Sure, some are recalled with greater prestige than others, notably Jim Montgomery cracking the 50-second mark in the 100 meter freestyle and Natalie Coughlin becoming the first woman to go sub-minute in the 100 meter backstroke.  But anytime an athlete breaches a numerical threshold, the effort is special.

So, when Maggie MacNeil used her considerable talent to go where no woman had gone before in the 100 yard butterfly, there was plenty of appreciation for the achievement.

Representing the University of Michigan at the women’s NCAAs, MacNeil was the showstopper of the competition. She claimed individual titles in the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle and was the runner-up in the 50 freestyle. Not surprising, she was named CSCAA Division I Swimmer of the Year.

Yet, what she did in the 100 fly was the talk of the meet.

A DELAYED OPPORTUNITY
In early 2020, hype was brewing about the impending NCAA showdown between MacNeil, USC’s Louise Hansson and Tennessee’s Erika Brown in the 100 fly. There was considerable speculation that one of those women—and perhaps all—would dip under 49 seconds. Of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that much-anticipated clash was canceled.

While Hansson and Brown moved on from the collegiate ranks, MacNeil took advantage of another opportunity. On the third night of this year’s Championships, MacNeil blasted a time of 48.89 to etch herself as the inaugural female member of the sub-49 club. Coupled with her 49.76 clocking in the 100 backstroke as part of Michigan’s 400 medley relay, MacNeil joined rising American star Regan Smith as the only women to own sub-50 performances in both the 100 fly and 100 back.

“I was definitely not (expecting to go that fast),” MacNeil said. “It has been a goal of mine for a while, so it was amazing to achieve that, especially at NCAAs. Not having NCAAs (last year) kind of fueled the fire in me.”

In addition to her barrier-busting butterfly, MacNeil won the 100 freestyle in 46.02 to just miss becoming the third female in history to go 45-point. She added silver in the 50 free in 21.17, just 4-hundredths shy of the winning time produced by Kate Douglass of Virginia. Douglass was the runner-up to MacNeil in the 100 fly and 100 free, and their three-round tussle was a highlight of the meet.

 

To read more about the Virginia women’s historic win, plus NC State’s and Maggie MacNeil’s amazing performances,
Click here to download the full May 2021 issue of Swimming World Magazine, available now!

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[PHOTO CREDIT: ISHOF ARCHIVE]


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FEATURES

014 WOMEN’S NCAAs: A NEW NO. 1
For the first time in the history of the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships—since 1982—the University of Virginia finished first. It was also the first time it cracked the top 5 with its previous highest finish sixth in 2019.

  • VIRGINIA’S ROAD TO HISTORY
    by Dan D’Addona
  • NC STATE ADDS TO ACC DOMINANCE
    by Dan D’Addona
  • THE TALK OF THE MEET: MAGGIE MacNEIL
    by John Lohn

018 MEN’S NCAAs: THE PERFECT RETIREMENT GIFT
Days before their coach, Eddie Reese, officially announced his retirement from coaching after 43 years, the Texas men’s team won their 15th men’s NCAA national team championship.

  • THIS ONE’S FOR EDDIE!
    by Andy Ross
  • SCINTILLATING PERFORMANCES: SHAINE CASAS & RYAN HOFFER
    by John Lohn
  • PATIENCE REWARDED: MAX McHUGH & NICK ALBIERO
    by Andy Ross

022 NCAA D-II CHAMPS: SOME THINGS NEVER SEEM TO CHANGE
by Andy Ross
A year into the pandemic that has completely changed our world, Queens University of Charlotte brought about some stability to the 2021 NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships by sweeping their sixth straight women’s and men’s team titles.

023 NO LIMITS!
by David Rieder
Claire Curzan has been swimming fast since she was a young age grouper and has continued to do so in high school. Last March, she came within 13-hundredths of the American record in the short course 100 fly, and in April, she found herself within 22-hundredths of the long course U.S. best. She’s versatile, she’s coachable, she has international experience, and she’s moved from a fringe Olympic contender to an Olympic favorite. Curzan is only 16, and her promising future couldn’t be brighter.

026 TAKEOFF TO TOKYO: WHEN IRISH EYES WEREN’T SMILING
by John Lohn
Ireland’s Michelle Smith—a four-time Olympic medalist in 1996 who received a four-year ban from the sport in 1998 for tampering with a doping sample—has been defined as being a poster girl for cheating, and by her willingness to cut corners and take advantage of performance-enhancing drug use to make the leap from an athlete of very-good skill to one of elite status.

029 50 SWIMMERS, 6 MEDALS
by Dan D’Addona
The Tokyo Olympics will mark the fourth occasion that open water swimming will be contested on the Olympic level, and even a 10-kilometer marathon race can bring exciting moments and dramatic finishes.

030 JOSH MATHENY: RISING STAR
by Matthew De George
From a middle-schooler newly committed to swimming full-time in 2016, the future looks encouraging for 18-year-old Josh Matheny, who approaches the U.S. Olympic Trials for Tokyo in June as a dark horse to make the team in men’s breaststroke.

032 ISHOF: THE ART OF SWIMMING
by Bruce Wigo
This is the story of Hero and Leander, Lord Byron and the birth of open water swimming.

035 NUTRITION: HYDRATION—BEYOND THIRST!
by Dawn Weatherwax
Hydration truly has a daily importance for all kinds of swimmers from age groupers to Olympians to Masters swimmers, but it tends to get more notoriety when the weather gets warmer.

COACHING

012 THE POWER OF POSITIVE COACHING
by Michael J. Stott
Relationships built upon honesty, trust and communication go a long way toward cementing a bond between coach and athlete. Coupling that with knowledge of the individual first and athlete second produces a positive working relationship that can last for a lifetime.

038 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: MAXIMIZING SWIMMING VELOCITY (Part 1)—STROKE RATE vs. STROKE LENGTH
by Rod Havriluk
Swimming velocity is the criterion measure for swimming performance and is the product of stroke length and stroke rate. This article explains how stroke length and stroke rate vary and how stroke time provides insight into maximizing swimming velocity.

042 Q&A WITH COACH STEVE HAUFLER
by Michael J. Stott

044 HOW THEY TRAIN CHARLOTTE SHAMIA
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

037 DRYSIDE TRAINING: THE IM DRYLAND CIRCUIT
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

047 UP & COMERS: TEAGAN O’DELL
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

011 DID YOU KNOW: ABOUT THE MOREHOUSE TIGER SHARKS?

046 THE OFFICIAL WORD

048 GUTTERTALK

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