What we have here ladies and gentlemen appears to be a duel (minus guns… pending the NRA’s appeal). One on side, you have the defending champion who won as a freshman. On the other, you have the NCAA record holder in the event who posted the fastest midseason time. Last year, no one was within 4 seconds of of this twosome and so far no one is within 4 seconds of Horvat’s midseason taper time and Wilson is seeded 3rd despite not yet tapering. No matter who wins, we all win being able to watch this battle unfold.
Youth seems to be the dominating theme thus far, specifically for the women, but that is not the case here. Only 2 individual qualifiers in the event are freshmen. Part of this may be due to the immense depth we find in the 400 IM. 20 ladies broke the 4:30 barrier while in prelims last year, only half that number could break the barrier.
Last year’s top 16 field featured just 1 senior… 1! And she, Ms. Chalermpalanupap (great name, had to write it), was 15th. When 15 of the top 16, it will be difficult for freshman to break through. It will also come as no surprise that they improve the following year.
Sleeper: Laura Manor. She fits the profile by being a freshman, swimming for a top team (Emory in this case), and putting up her time at midseason. Like I said before, the race for first will likely be a 2 woman battle, but Ms. Manor will be in the fight for 3rd, with several other talented competitors.
Winner: Liz Horvat. It’s hard to say she was “off” last year, but considering where she was the year prior, it’s fair. At the Miami Invite this December she proved that she was back and it wasn’t just the suit by having one of the best midseason meets we’ve seen in some time. This was most prominently displayed with her 4:18 in the 400 IM. She will build on this with a victory here, just missing her own record.