Georgia repeats as NCAA champion
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Georgia Bulldogs didn't flinch after losing top performers from last year's NCAA women's swimming and diving championship team.
After graduating swimmers Megan Romano and Allison Schmitt, the Bulldogs scored 528 points on Saturday to defend their NCAA title and earn their first back-to-back crowns since 2000-2001.
Donned in NCAA championship hats and shirts, the Bulldogs' contingent of 17 qualifiers sang their fight song, took the ceremonial dive into the pool and coaxed their coaches to do the same.
"They loved the people that left the team," Bulldogs senior associate head coach Harvey Humphries said as he was still wet from his dive.
"But when they left they wanted to let everybody know that they could do it too. They really pulled together and sacrificed a lot."
Without head coach Jack Bauerle in Minneapolis, Humphries led the Bulldogs to a wire-to-wire victory as they led the field after each day of the three-day event.
Olympian Brittany MacLean, selected as the swimmer of the year, broke the NCAA record in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 15:27.84, besting the previous record of 15:37.06 set in 2012 by UNC's Stephanie Peacock.
Georgia's men's and women's coach Bauerle was initially suspended three months ago regarding an academic eligibility issue with men's swimmer Chase Khalisz, who has since been reinstated. Bauerle's status has not changed.
"We were used to going to meets since December and doing our job and Jack was used to having to work with it that way," Humphries said. "Personally it was real sad, because Jack and I had been side-by-side for every NCAA meet there ever was."
MacLean capped her second season at Georgia with another championship as she also set the NCAA record in the 500-yard freestyle on Thursday with a time of 4 minutes, 32.53 seconds.
"It was really special for us to turn around after losing arguably the two best girls on the team," MacLean said. "We never focused on being national champions, just focused on getting better."
Bulldogs seniors Shannon Vreeland and Melanie Margalis led Georgia to a fourth-place finish in the final event of the championships, the 400-yard freestyle relay, which second-place Stanford won with Olympian Felicia Lee and senior Maya DiRado leading the charge.
The Cardinal, despite having just 10 individual qualifying swimmers, upset Cal which finished third behind Stanford by 16.5 points. Stanford won four of the five relay events in the championships and beat out Cal's team that included Olympian Missy Franklin in the final 400 relay on Saturday.
Franklin, a freshman and four-time Olympian gold medalist, finished her first NCAA championships with two titles, both during Friday's 200-yard freestyle and 800-yard freestyle relay. But her accolades were not enough to lift an otherwise disappointing Golden Bears team over the surging Cardinal.
Indiana sophomore Brooklynn Snodgrass became the second Hoosier in program history to win the 200-yard backstroke (1:50.22) when she edged Cal's defending champion and record holder Elizabeth Pelton (1:50.55) by 0.03 of a second. Cal took another hit when Olympian gold medalist Rachel Bootsma, an Eden Prairie, Minn. native, failed to qualify for the 200-yard butterfly in prelims.
Stanford coach Greg Meehan was selected as the swimming coach of the year after lifting his Cardinal squad from eighth place last year to a second-place finish.
"It's pretty rewarding, especially because our seniors for them to go out like this in second place, finish and on top of four of the five relays is really special," Meehan said. "I don't know it's a tangible thing I can put my finger on, but it's a special group."
Bulldogs diver Laura Ryan, an Elk River, Minn., native, was selected as the diver of the year after she won two of the three diving titles. Her coach Dan Laak was selected as the diving coach of the year.
Notre Dame junior Emma Reaney broke her own NCAA, U.S. Open and American records in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:04.06) by 0.28 of a second on Saturday to give her the top two times in the event's history. Reaney's NCAA title is the first in the Notre Dame program history.
Texas A&M senior Breeja Larson ended her NCAA career tying for second in the event with Cardinal junior Katie Olsen, both finished with a time of 2:05.88.
The Aggies finished in fourth place with 336 points.