It's finally here.
Spanning from the first weekend in October to early March (even longer if anyone qualifies for Nationals), the swimming and diving season is the longest of any of UB's teams. This week it comes to an end for the UB women with the MAC Swimming and Diving Championships, hosted in Ypsilanti, MI.
Beyond the lineup sheet with seed times, there's not a whole lot I can do for a preview, especially given that teams have spent the bulk of February training specifically for this meet, and you'll likely see most competitors hit season bests this week. I will note that unlike what you usually see in track, where seed times are a bit aspirational, these numbers reflect (for UB at least) real times that the swimmer hit during the season.
But, if you haven't been following the team meet-by-meet and want to know a few key names for the Bulls, I can help with that. Let's go by discipline.
By far UB's strongest area in this meet. Megan Burns is the top seed in the conference in both the 50 and 100 free and has not lost all year in either event*. As you'd expect from the shortest and fastest events, her advantage isn't much, but she'll rack up a ton of points in both events. Akron's Hannah Rasopovich will look to defend her 2014 title in the 50, but departed UB star Brittney Kuras is the reigning champ in the 100, and Burns seems a larger favorite there.
*but for a scrimmage against Cornell that apparently we don't talk about because the Ivy League wouldn't let Cornell call it a real competition too early in the season
UB has a great shot to get three into the final of the 200 free. Burns is the 10th seed, but is firmly in the middle of a group, all within a second, that extends from fifth to 14th. Fellow freshman Hannah Miller sits seventh, but Spencer Rodriguez is the name to know here. I'll be mentioning her a ton, and in this event she's the top seed by a hair.
In the longer freestyle races, Jess Powers is the name to know, along with Rodriguez. She's only seeded 14th right now, but is the reigning MAC champion in the 500 free with a time five seconds faster than anyone in the field. Miller sits 22nd and will hopefully earn some points.
It's the same story in the 1650 meters, where Powers is the reigning champion, Rodriguez the second seed, and Miller with a great shot at a top-eight finish. Powers' championship time from last year a full 25 seconds faster than anyone's seed this week.
And that's it. It is totally feasible that Burns takes two, Rodriguez another, and Powers two more to give UB a sweep of the individual freestyle events. Add in a pair of potential further finalists in the 200, Rodriguez (final) and Miller (consolation) in the 100, and both in the final of the 1650, and Buffalo has a real chance at the sweep plus a ton of further points.
I'm less optimistic about the breaststroke. UB's best bet in the 100 is Alexis Valedon (seeded 19th), and in the 200 Valedon and Cristina Czyrka are seeded in the mid-teens. Hopefully Valedon can get points in the 100 and maybe she or Czyrka can get into the final of the 200.
Similar story here, with a few threats to get into the consolation finals but no one I'd put full confidence in points on. Nicole Rodriguez and Emily Nelson are seeded in the mid-20s in the 100 back, while Claudia Casale (16th) has a solid shot at points in the 200. Rodriguez and Kelli Valedon are also in the mid-20s there.
After the freestyle, butterfly is likely UB's second-strongest discipline. In the 100, senior Taylor Steffl might not win, but as the fifth seed has a great shot at lots of points. Rachel Bertini is seeded 15th here and could add some points. In the 200, Saoirse Palu-Benson is a strong finals candidate, seeded eighth.
Spencer Rodriguez hasn't competed much in the 200 IM this year and is seeded 24th, but her personal best would be the top seed in this year's championships. In the 400 IM, it's Rodriguez again. She holds the school record in this, her marquee event, and will likely defend her 2014 title. Brittany Walters has a great shot at the final and both Victoria Butler and Claudia Casale could earn points.
200 Medley: UB is seeded third, about a second behind defending champs Akron
400 Medley: UB is seeded seventh, seeded well behind the sixth seed
200 Free: UB is the sixth seed in an evenly spread draw
800 Free: UB is the top seed by a large margin, returning three of four of last year's championship foursome
There's no seed scores provided for roughly of the divers here, so I don't know how how much we can get. UB's best bets are Mackenzie Moss, Abbey Croce and Valerie Lortie, who would be on the cusp of the top-eight in the 1-meter given the scores that are listed and a bit lower in the 3-meter.
It's the mark of a good coach when your team is in top shape and hits personal bests in the meets that matter most. You don't have to spend much time browsing the roster pages to see that nearly every UB personal best was set at a MAC Championship meet, and there's no reason not to expect everyone to throw down their best times this week.
I don't have a good way of projecting UB chances in this meet. By dual results, it would seem that the Bulls are in a cluster with Akron and Bowling Green that as a group trails Miami, but I don't know how valuable that information is.
I'll be posting daily with wrapups and standings, starting tonight with the Championship Heats of the 200 Medley and 800 Free relays. The final three days will feature preliminaries at 11:00 AM and finals at 7:00 PM.