2012 NCAA Preview Showdown

Everyone is familiar with a typical meet preview write-up. Someone gives you their opinion of who to watch for in the race and predicts who will win. It’s been done. Heck, I’ve done it within the last month. This, however, is NCAAs and for that, we needed to step it up a notch. We needed to change the game. As Ricky Bobby once said “If you ain’t first, you’re last” and this is the approach we took.

Participants are members of the D3 Staff:

 

Jake Taber

 

 

Stephen Clendenin

 

 

Josh Pfau

 

We made our picks and then took turns defending them. Sometimes it was a consensus, other times it was not.

 

 

Here we go:

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 500 Al Weik Al Weik Al Weik

Jake’s take:

The defending champ is back (Ryan Lichtenfels – Amherst) and over a second and a half ahead of any other returner wasn’t picked to win, the top seed (Andrew Chevalier – Kenyon) through the qualifying period is also neglected in these so called ‘expert’ picks… so what’s going on?  I can’t speak for Josh and Stephen, but I, for one, am on the Al Weik bandwagon.  Perhaps it’s because I’m still in awe of the 1,650 that he put together last year in Knoxville but nevertheless, in my mind, he’s the man to beat.  He may have to come down to the 500 and show more speed than last year to do it but at the end of the day, he’s who I expect to be standing on the top of the podium.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 500 Caroline Wilson Caroline Wilson Alyssa Swanson

Josh’s judgment:

Looks like Stephen decided to take the longshot. Looks like Stephen wants to lose. Caroline Wilson leads all returning swimmers by more than 4 seconds. You can carve this outcome into a piece of hard wood.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 2IM Paul Dyrkacz Paul Dyrkacz Paul Dyrkacz

Stephen’s supposition:

Paul Dyrkacz will take both the IM’s this year. No question. While he is not the strongest in all the strokes, he is good enough in all of them to be a lean, mean, IM machine. Any competitor who is behind before the breaststroke, hasn’t got a chance. With so many competitors hovering around the 1:50 mark, it will be close, but Dyrkacz will edge them out in the end.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 2IM Logan Todhunter Logan Todhunter Anna Kokensparger

Jake’s take:

Logan Todhunter is a good swimmer.  Some naysayers may question why two of the three of us picked the girl that’s seeded 24th at a modest 2:07.45.  Well, last year she led this race from start to finish and won by over a second and a half.  And last year she came in as the 36th seed at a 2:09.29.  The depth of this event is impressive as 18 of the top 21 finishers from last year’s meet return, I’m just not sure any of them will be able to catch Todhunter.

 

M 50 Zach Turk Zach Turk Zach Turk
Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick

Josh’s judgment:

Real original guys. None of us even gave David Somers a chance? He’s been under 20 already this year after Turk took last year off because he heard Argentina had better food than the Kenyon caf. That said, the guy knows how to get his hand to the wall first. Turk by a fingertip.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 50 Kellie Pennington Mary Pavlak Mary Pavlak

Stephen’s supposition:

While I admit Kellie Pennington has looked good this year, I am giving this race to Pavlak. Not only is she a hardened veteran of the event, she has been edging out her competition for most of the season. She is definitely a power sprinter, and at this level of competition, that’s what’s going to matter, who can get off their walls the fastest. Needless to say, Pavlak will not be lacking in pop. I predict someone in this race going under 23.00.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 200 medley relay Kenyon MIT Emory

Jake’s take:

Man, this one will be fun!  Three of us each picked a different school here and Denison isn’t represented.  Look out!  Relays tend to create the most excitement at big meets when teams that travel well and have a lot of athletes on deck, this one will not disappoint.  I don’t even know where to start.  MIT is the trendy sleeper pick, blazing out of the gates back in the fall, qualified early and focused.  They’re young and they are talented and this could be a celebration for the Engineers.  Spock’s dirty underwaters and O’Brien’s speed could open things up for Emory but most of their flyers are 200 specialists (I say that and am fully aware that they have a few 49 flyers on their team…but next to Ubellacker’s nasty split that may not be enough).  Denison addressed their biggest need and found a freshman A cut breaststroker on their roster and then there’s Kenyon.  While they may not have the traditional 100 yard strokers in every event what they do have is speed and good Lord they have an abundance of it.  Something tells me that we may not have seen Kenyon’s 200 medley relay in its entirety together at the same time yet this year.  Look for Steen to pull out all the stops and showcase the short speed that he has more of than anyone else in the country.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 200 medley relay Denison Emory Emory

Josh’s judgment:

Emory is the returning champion, Denison the runnerup. Denison holds the record from ’99. Both lose their breastroker from last year’s relay. It should be a great race, but too bad for Big Red, Jake picking you is just the curse you didn’t want. Emory, with a record no less.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 200 free relay Kenyon Kenyon Kenyon

Stephen’s supposition:

Is there really a contest here? Kenyon’s seed time is a full three seconds faster than the nearest competitor. They have had this race locked up for years. With four swimmers in the top 16 of the 50 free, and the national record holder in there as well, all we can hope for is maybe a close race for second. We will keep our fingers crossed for maybe another national relay record to fall, but that will depend on how their exchanges are going. Irregardless, it’s going to be a fast race.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 200 free relay Denison Emory Emory

Jake’s take:

Two out of three say Emory and I can understand why…they QUALIFIED 5 women in the 50 free (and knowing Emory’s depth they left a couple at home too!).  They also have Mary Pavlak who the same two guys picked to win the 50 (for the record, I picked her in the 100).  But I still think this is Denison’s race.  For me, the bottom line is Morgan Nuess and Alyssa Swanson are the best 1-2 combo out there, whether Parini decides he wants open water or the best bookends in the country, he’s got them and let’s be honest, Denison’s has plenty of depth of their own.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 400 IM Paul Dyrkacz Paul Dyrkacz Paul Dyrkacz

Josh’s judgment:

His name is so fun to say it makes me want to type it. It literally has two animals in one name. You can’t defeat that, you can’t even hope to contain it. Redlands, as a squad, will try to hunt down both the deer and the cat in him, but they won’t, because Mr. Dyrkacz will win. End of story.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 400 IM Caroline Wilson Caroline Wilson Caroline Wilson

Stephen’s supposition:

Caroline Wilson is da bomb. With the endurance of an Alaskan sled dog, once she’s ahead, she will not give up that lead for anything. She’s already got the national record, and if she goes anywhere near that she’s got the race in the bag. Brooke Woodward and Emily Schroeder have been looking good this season, so we may have a good race for a bit, but if it’s even a remotely close race come freestyle you might as well be standing behind Wilson’s lane with the trophy in hand, because she will finish the race in style.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 100 fly Wyatt Ubellacker Wyatt Ubellacker Wyatt Ubellacker

Jake’s take:

MIT’s Wyatt Ubellacker is the consensus pick here among the three of us but that doesn’t mean it was a no brainer.  Ubellacker comes in as the 3rd seed behind Patrick Augustyn – Emory and Sam Gill – Conn College.  There’s also a name a little bit further down the psyche sheet that the field should be weary of… Kenyon’s James Chapman has been 48.5 and is looking for that breakout swim here in 2012.  With top end talent like David Somers, Robert Barry and Ryan Farmer all in the field, one thing is for certain, this is going to be a fun one to watch!

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 100 fly Logan Todhunter Logan Todhunter Logan Todhunter

Josh’s judgment:

Her time from last year’s meet would be 29th in the country right now. Not impressed? You should be. We’re talking Division 1, not 3. She’s even a nice and, clearly, smart person. You should probably hate her, but you can’t and you can’t pick against her here.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 200 free William Dunn Ian Stewart-Bates Tom Veith

Stephen’s supposition:

This will be one of the greatest races of the weekend. I am calling it right now. There is so much talent in the pool, it’s going to be rough to even get into the top 8. While I don’t count out Jordan Degayner since he was sixth last year, Tom Veith has been on fire in the pool this year. To make the jump from 24th last year, to number 3 in the pre-NCAA season, is a feat which I find remarkable. It shows drive, determination, and spirit. While he’s not the quickest off the start, he’s got the talent and technique to rip through the water efficiently, and quickly. It will be a close race the whole way through, but Tom is going to out-touch them all in the end. Who’s coming in second is anyone’s guess.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 200 free Alyssa Swanson Alyssa Swanson Alyssa Swanson

Jake’s take:

There might only be one female swimmer in the country that could score in every distance of freestyle at the NCAA Championships.  That person is Alyssa Swanson (and I think she could FINAL in every distance), she’s got the best range of any freestyler at the meet (man or woman!) and it just so happens that the 200 might be her best distance.  She’ll be pushed by teammate Hilary Callen and a pair of Eagles in Anne Culpepper and Whitley Taylor but when it’s all said and done, this race belongs to Swanson.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 400 medley relay Denison Kenyon Denison

Josh’s judgment:

I picked Kenyon at the beginning of the year and unlike Jake “Romney” Taber, I’m not going to flipflop here. We can all point to last year or we can point to the previous 30 and remember that Kenyon is awfully tough to take down in relays. The difference here: Freestyle. If Turk needs to split a 42 to win it, then Turk will split a 42 to win it.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 400 medley relay Emory Emory Emory

Stephen’s supposition:

No contest here. With Sadie Nenning leading off, and Jen Aronoff following her up, the rest of the field will be playing catch-up and fighting for second the rest of the way. Emory’s level of talent in this race is incredible, and let’s face it, their relays are phenomenal. Granted, it will be a rough time in the butterfly, but come freestyle, the Emory ladies have enough firepower to blow any competitor out of the water.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 200 fly Miller Douglas Patrick Augustyn Patrick Augustyn

Jake’s take:

Maybe I’m a sucker for the hype but I went with Miller Douglas here over the defending National Champion Patrick Augustyn (a man who knocked off the standing national recordholder last year).  Douglas’ lifetimes are tops in the d3 nation and he had a chance to train with Augustyn day in and day out all season long.  That being said, if the Bulldogs came to play you may have a sleeper in Depew.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 200 fly Logan Todhunter Logan Todhunter Logan Todhunter

Josh’s judgment:

With the more than 3 seconds she won by last year, Logan actually had time to get out and study for an upcoming psych quiz. She later got an A… Ok, none of that happened, but it could, because she did win by 3 seconds and that’s a lot of time. She’s also majoring in Psych at Williams, so we wish the best to her on future endeavors. Oh, and she’ll win this year. Duh.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 100 back Robert Barry Ross Spock Robert Barry

Stephen’s supposition:

I find it very illogical that Ross Spock would be considered for this event. While I agree he is an excellent backstroker, Denison has had this event in the bag since last year. Robert Barry is a force to be reckoned with in backstroke, and I fully expect him to win both the 100 and the 200 in record time. The only one who might possibly challenge him is his own teammate, Quinn Bartlett, and even then, I am sure Barry will beat him out. He is a powerhouse backstroker whose walls are flawless. Logic says, the race is in the bag.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 100 back Margaret Rosenbaum Celia Oberholzer Margaret Rosenbaum

Jake’s take:

Sadie Nennig is putting a great year together, but so are Taylor Kitayama, Yuka Suzuka, Lou Moores, Rachel Flinn and so many others.  .  Last year we saw 19(?) ‘A’ cuts and the standards drop, well don’t tell this set of women because they responded with 10 ‘A’ cuts this year.  There are only two seniors in the qualifying field of 18 and none of them in the top 8.  Only 2/3 of a second separates the top 8 seeds so this could be anyone’s game.  I wish I could tell you that I was surprised to see Pfau pick a freshman stud from Kenyon, buuuut I’m not… and for whatever it’s worth, my money (okay that’s a figure of speech) is on Margaret Rosenbaum to find her way to the wall first.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 100 breast Rory Buck Rory Buck Rory Buck

Josh’s judgment:

Rory leads all returning swimmers by 1.3 seconds and he’s been swimming faster this year. He’s also South African so after he wins, he might steal your girlfriend with his accent. Watch out. Also watch out for a record breaking performance. He just missed Buyanov’s record last year and you can bet it’s been on his mind all offseason.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 100 breast Caitlin Lehberger Elizabeth Counsell Caitlin Lehberger

Stephen’s supposition:

After watching Lehberger swim at the PAC conference meet, I am convinced that she is part frog. Minus the croak, this little fireball is a natural amphibian who is also a fierce competitor. She has power, and very good timing in her stroke, so combine that with great efficiency, there is a reason she is already half a second faster than the next person in the field. This race is hers, no question.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 800 free relay Denison Denison Denison

Jake’s take:

Last year Denison had four freshman all go under 1:40.00 in the open 200 free.  One of them didn’t make their 800 Free Relay.  This year they’re even better.  Even though we may see another team go in that 6:34 neighborhood where Big Red won last year, they have a year of improvement and the luxury of going with the hot hand instead of being pigeon hold into only have four potentials that could get them to the promised land.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 800 free relay Denison Emory Emory

Josh’s judgment:

I’m pretty sure Jake has a crush on Denison’s women’s relays. I don’t know if that’s possible to have a crush on relays, but he does. In this case, he’s being foolish. Yes, I know Alyssa Swanson is fast, but have you seen Emory? Have you looked at this team? They are leaving home top 8 swimmers after qualifying more than 133% of allowed team members. They have depth and I like a lack of weakness over a strength every day of the week, especially Friday.

 

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 1650 Al Weik Al Weik Al Weik

Stephen’s supposition:

The only questions in my mind right now are: will Al Weik break his own national record? And, how far will he be ahead of the competition this year? Compared to last year’s 25 second lead finish over everyone else, I am convinced he will continue to hold his 30 second lead over everyone else this year. If he got a cramp, he could possibly get out, stretch, jump back in, and still win this event. I can’t wait to watch his splits this year, and see what he holds through the whole race. That is going to be truly amazing.

 

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 1650 Caroline Wilson Caroline Wilson Hillary Callen

Jake’s take:

Last year Caroline Wilson lapped the top returner in this event.  While freshman are polluting the night heat of this event they’ll all be fighting for second.  Caroline is the best distance swimmer in d3 history, another swim and another win for Wilson, it’s as simple as that.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 100 free Zach Turk Zach Turk Zach Turk

Josh’s judgment:

I won’t deny that I am slightly surprised no one picked against Turk here. We could have picked a teammate, perhaps Somers or ISB. We could have but we didn’t and we didn’t because Turk knows how to win. From the NCAC relay meet to now, Turk has been on a mission and that mission doesn’t including losing this race.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 100 free Claire Pavlak Kellie Pennington Kellie Pennington

Stephen’s supposition:

With Kendra Stern gone, this race just got a little bit more interesting. While I am still a huge Mary Pavlak fan, and I believe she will do well in this event, I am going to have to hand this one to Pennington. You just can’t argue with someone who has already gone 49 this season. She has made huge improvement since last year, and has been strong in this event fairly consistently. It’s going to be tough even getting into the top eight in this event, but in the end Pennington will rise above them all.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 200 bk Quinn Bartlett Quinn Bartlett Robert Barry

Jake’s take:

The hype surrounding Bartlett is two-fold.  First, he broke the national record at last year’s meet.  1:46.3 is pretty good from what I understand, oh yeah, he lowered that mark at midseason too – 1:45.7 is even better.  Second, he put an amazing summer together highlighted (presumably) by a pair of Olympic Trial cuts.  He’s your favorite, plain and simple.  But don’t tell his teammate Robert Barry that this race is only a formality.  Last year Barry closed Bartlett’s gap on the last 50 and less than a half of a second separated the two when it was all said and done.  I also have  REALLY hard time not mentioning a 1:47.1 in this preview.  If someone from the Big Red Machine doesn’t win this event, chances are it will be Michael Brus of Grinnell.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 200 bk Anne Culpepper Sadie Nenning Sadie Nenning

Josh’s judgment:

While we picked different swimmers, we didn’t stray from the Eagles of Emory. Sadie is the right pick because she comes in faster this year and can bank on her freshman year experience to win it all this year.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 200 breast Rory Buck Rory Buck Rory Buck

Stephen’s supposition:

You can’t argue with someone who goes 2:01’s in season. While Dyrkacz does remain a strong favorite, this race is all Rory. He’s got age, experience, and strong consistency. He is a smart guy who knows how to taper as well, so you know something big is gonna come from this guy. I am excited to see how far below 2 minutes he goes this year.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 200 breast Caitlin Lehberger Caitlin Lehberger Caitlin Lehberger

Jake’s take:

Lehberger in a sweep say the experts, this must be as much of a no brainer as the men’s 200 breaststroke then, right?  WRONG.  This will be a great race and Lehberger in fact won’t even be swimming in lane 4 in the morning heats.  In fact, Lehberger’s time in finals from last year would’ve only qualified her fourth coming into this years meet.  This event has some experience as only one freshman qualfied in the top 16 coming into NC’s.  Carissa Risucci is your top returner and your number 2 qualifier, she’s as likely as anyone to win it but on paper sits behind Ithaca’s Carly Jones.  But some reason when it’s said and done we think it’s a mighty little Titan that packs quite the punch and wins it.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
M 400 free relay Kenyon Kenyon Kenyon

Josh’s judgment:

This isn’t so much a race as it is a clinic. The clinic will be free and administered by a collection of freestylers from Kenyon who are not only fast individually but know how to throw down when put together. They’re like the Miami Heat, except they have 4 studs and they don’t choke when the moment gets big, they step up. Look for a filthy time that lights up the record book.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
W 400 free relay Emory Emory Emory

Stephen’s supposition:

No questions about this event either. The Emory women are going to wrap up another National title with this event right here. They have four swimmers in the top 8 of the 100 free event. You can’t argue with that. While the other teams will be fighting for second, I will be watching to see how close Emory gets to their national record. If all those girls are on fire, they have a good shot at it. And needless to say, it will be an exciting race to end what is sure to be a great meet.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
Men’s SOY Al Weik Rory Buck Al Weik

Jake’s take:

This one could’ve gone in any direction and I sure hope the committee tallies the votes twice because I think it’ll be that close.  It’s probably going to come down to Al Weik and Rory Buck but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see records fall in the sprints and 2 fly as well and quite frankly I plan on seeing them come down in the backstrokes as well.  At the end of the day I believe it’s a two man race and if I’m picking today I go with Al Weik and his absolute dominance.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
Women’s SOY Caroline Wilson Logan Todhunter Logan Todhunter

Josh’s judgment:

2 different picks, 1 team. Not bad for coach Kuster, eh? You can’t go wrong if you’re a coach and you’re voting. Both swimmers are great representation of not only swimming ability, but of what it means to swim division 3. You can, however, go wrong if you’re making predictions on who wins and you pick Ms. Wilson. Is she great? Yes. Is she dominant? Yes. Is she as great or as dominant as Logan? No. Nice try to “be different”, Jake, but next time, try to be right.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
Men’s COY Dawn Dill – MIT Jim Steen – Kenyon Gregg Parini – Denison

Stephen’s supposition:

Yes, I am going with what I think to be the fairly obvious choice. It really shows Coach Parini’s fine recruiting skills when you look at his athletes who have qualified for the meet. He has a good spread of swimmers from each class, with the majority of this talent being on the younger side. He has been consistently recruiting great new talent, and obviously has the talent to back up whatever he says. He has been building up his team well, and has been handling the pressure of going for a repeat win very well. His men look good, and if they look as good as they have been all year, Parini is a shoe-in for Coach of the Year.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
Women’s COY Steve Kuster — Williams Jon Howell – Emory Jon Howell – Emory

Jake’s take:

The safe choice here is Jon Howell of Emory.  His women are primed and top to bottom he’s got the best team in the country.  To say that Kuster is doing more with less isn’t exactly true because he has the two best swimmers in the country, in Caroline Wilson and Logan Todhunter, on his roster.  Beyond those two I think Kuster’s crew is going to impress and move up all weekend long.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
Men’s Champ Denison Denison Denison

Josh’s judgment:

While the women’s team battle may be seen as not a contest, despite complete agreement amongst the voters, this one isn’t as cut and dry. Sure, Denison didn’t fully taper for NCACs while Kenyon did and still won by around 100. And sure, Denison wasn’t supposed to win last year, not even thought about by most, and they did. It’s quickly forgotten that every year Kenyon would go in as the probable favorites and dominate from start to finish. They would go above and beyond their predicted margin of victory. The reason I, and my colleagues, don’t believe that happens again is pretty simple: Talent. Denison has more of it. They’re deeper. They have diving. They’re more well-rounded. Kenyon is good and could give Denison a run, but at the end of the day, it’s about depth of talent and that goes to Denison.

 

Event Jake’s pick Josh’s pick Stephen’s pick
Women’s Champ Emory Emory Emory

Stephen’s supposition:

No contest. With 18 women in the meet, the top seed in nearly every relay, and with multiple swimmers in the top 8 of almost every event, the real question here is who’s going to come in second. Denison might give them a run here and there, but overall the Emory Eagles have it by sheer numbers, and volume of talent.

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