Sophomore Katie Radloff didn’t punch her ticket to last year’s NCAA Swimming Championships in Minneapolis until a week before the meet started. She wasted no time earning another trip this year.
p. Less than a month into the season, Radloff swam the 100-yard freestyle in NCAA automatic qualifying time at the Terrapin Cup. The record-breaking performance guaranteed her second-straight bid to the national meet, which began Thursday morning and will continue through tomorrow evening at Ohio State University in Columbus.
p. Similar to last year’s meet, Radloff was scheduled to compete in three sprint freestyle events. Because she earned automatic qualifiers in the 100-freestyle and 50-freestyle this season, Radloff will also swim the 200-freestyle, even though her time in the event was not good enough for her to qualify automatically.
p. In yesterday’s 50-freestyle preliminary race, Radloff finished 34th out of 70 swimmers, a marked improvement over her 63rd-place finish last year. University of California — Berkeley junior Madison Kennedy won the morning heat in 21.87 seconds. Radloff’s time of 22.86 seconds was only .25 seconds slower than the school record, which she broke earlier this month at the CAA championships.
p. “I was pretty pleased,” Head Coach Matt Crispino said of Radloff’s race Thursday. “It was her fastest preliminary ever. She’s never been under 23 seconds in the 50 prelims. All in all, it was a good morning.”
p. The top eight qualifiers advanced to the national title race last night and earned All-American accolades, while the next eight qualifiers swam in the consolation race.
p. In the past 10 years, teams from the BCS conferences have dominated the NCAA women’s meet. Auburn University, a perennial Southeastern Conference power, has won five of the last six national championships, while Stanford University and the University of Texas consistently rank in the top five each year. On the other hand, Radloff is only the second Tribe swimmer to advance to the NCAA Championships in school history and the first in two different years. She also joins Drexel University diver Kate Hynes as the only other participant from the CAA this year.
p. “It’s kind of intimidating to swim at NCAAs. I don’t have a team behind me,” Radloff said. “I definitely feel like an underdog, but I could come up from nowhere and take points away from the powerhouses.”
p. During last year’s meet in Minneapolis, Radloff improved her standings in each successive event. After finishing 63rd in the 50-free on the first day of competition, she was 47th in the 200-free and 32nd in the 100-free. She hopes to continue the upward trend at Columbus this weekend.
p. “If I improve my finishes from last year, I will be impressed,” Radloff said. “This year, the meet is a lot faster and getting a higher seed would be more exciting.”
p. In total, 485 bids were awarded to the 2008 Championships in 18 different events. Only nine swimmers and one relay team, two percent of the competitors, made it to the Championships without an automatic qualifying time, making this year one of the fastest meets in NCAA history.
p. Radloff, who admitted she was nerve-wracked by the high level of competition her freshman year, will race in the 200-freestyle preliminaries today and 100-freestyle preliminary tomorrow morning.
p. “With the 200-free, I get nervous because I’m in the pool for so long. I probably won’t make it to finals,” Radloff said. “The 100-free is definitely my focus for the rest of the meet. It’s my fastest event, but it will be hard, since there’s a lot of super-fast competition.”