Trojans Win First-Ever NCAA 400 Free Relay Title, Finish 6th Overall|
March 19, 2016
Senior Kasia Wilk, freshman Kirsten Vose and juniors Chelsea Chenault and Anika Apostalon shattered the school record to win USC's first-ever NCAA title in the 400y free relay, putting an exclamation point on the Trojans' final night at the 2016 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta on Saturday (March 19).
USC, coming off its first Pac-12 title in February, finished sixth with 244.5 points. Georgia won the NCAA title with 414 points and was followed in the top 10 by Stanford (395), California (358), Texas A&M (309), Virginia (264), USC, Indiana (228), Louisville (220), North Carolina State (155) and Michigan (150). The Trojans are one of only four teams to have finished in the top 8 in each of the past seven years, joining Georgia, Cal and Stanford.
The Trojans won the relay in a blistering 3:09.69, more than a second under the school record it set in prelims (3:10.97) and just 1.15 off the NCAA record set last year. Wilk, who an hour earlier had finished third in the 100y free in her first career A final, opened with a 47.60 to put USC in second behind Georgia.
Vose, USC's ultra-versatile freshman, closed the gap behind the Bulldogs to 0.54. Chenault narrowed the deficit further, moving the Trojans to within 0.41 of first, setting up Apostalon's furious final 100. The junior's last leg came in at 46.77, fastest of the night, and helped USC to a 1.13 second margin of victory.
"In January that relay was 3:21 against Wisconsin. Obviously we weren't suited up or rested, but we've come a long way with the same four women," USC Coach Dave Salo said. "I don't think anyone thought we'd be faster tonight (than prelims). But we just made an amazing swim -- 3:09 is amazing. This whole meet, and the year, the theme has been about the team. We had some missteps on some individual events, but we never failed on any of the relays. The relays were awesome. That was the final piece of the whole team focus, coming together and winning it."
USC's relay title was just its second overall in NCAA swimming and the first since the 1994 Trojans won the 800y free relay. The Trojans' only other relay crowns came under the AIAW umbrella when USC captured the 1977 200y free relay and the 1976 400y free relay.
"It was an amazing race," Chenault said. "Coming off yesterday, where we were a little disappointed with the swims, to finish it this way tonight was fantastic."
The relay, one of four in which USC set school records this week, was just part of a big night for Wilk, who, in her debut NCAA A final, finished third in the 100 in a personal record 47.35. That lowered the PR she used in prelims (47.44) to qualify for the final. Today punctuated four years of steady progress in the 100y free for Wilk, who was 42nd as a freshman, 24th as a sophomore and 10th as a B finalist last year.
Apostalon joined Wilk in the 100y free A final, her first as well, and finished eighth in 47.72, just 0.07 off her personal best set this morning as well. Apostalon was a two-time B finalist at San Diego State the past two years.
Together, Wilk and Apostalon are the first Trojan duo to reach the 100y free A final since 1985 when Sue Habernigg and Heather Strang did it.
Vose, USC's only double A finalist at this year's NCAAs, finished eighth in the 200y breast in 2:10.42. She earned the second big swim after a 2:07.63 in prelims, just 0.17 off her personal record. Her finish tonight complemented her third in the 200y IM on Thursday.
Said Vose of her huge meet: "I just hoped to make it back each night in my events and just do the best I could and just stay calm. I wasn't really thinking about anything before my swim. (I just had) too much adrenaline. I was just ready to go."
Earlier in the night as well, Chenault turned in her second career scoring swim in the 200y fly, finishing third in the B final and 11th overall with a season-best 1:54.96 after a 1:55.27 in prelims.
Freshman Elizabeth Stinson, the Pac-12 champion in the 1650y free, turned in a scoring swim in her first try at the event at the NCAAs, finishing 13th in 16:06.60. Fellow freshman Allie Wooden was 23rd in the race (16:12.86).
Freshman Hanni Leach, who set a PR in the 100y back Friday, equaled her PR in the 200y back with a 1:54.18 to finish 24th in prelims. Senior Kendyl Stewart was 27th (1:54.49) and senior Joanna Stenkvist was 32nd (1:55.32) -- each in their final college swim -- while sophomore Hannah Weiss was 33rd (1:55.33). Freshman Riley Scott finished 43rd in the 200y breast in 2:12.88.
Freshman Madison Witt finished 28th on platform with 217.85 points.
Tonight was USC's third A final in the 400y free relay in the past five years (2014, 2012) but the previous one before that was 2002.
USC B Finalists
* 200 Free Relay first broken in prelims in 1:27.84
* Tape delayed coverage of the championships will be broadcast on ESPNU at 4 p.m. PT, March 29 for the women's championships and at 4:30 p.m. (PT), April 6, for the men's championships.