7 things we learned at NCAA women’s swimming/diving championships

By Cannon Lane Lee, Grady Sports Bureau

Powered by strong performances from Olivia Smoliga and Brittany MacLean, Georgia captured the NCAA swimming and diving national championship at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center on Saturday.

“This one is special because it was unexpected,” Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said.

Here are the seven things we learned:

1. Georgia coach Jack Bauerle named coach of the year: Georgia won its third national title in four years. With a score of 414, the Bulldogs topped Stanford (395), California (358) and Texas A&M (309).

2. Still one behind: Stanford still holds the most NCAA titles with eight. Georgia is tied with Texas for the second-most with seven. In addition to seven NCAA titles, the Bulldogs have been runner-up eight times. Over the past 18 seasons with Bauerle, Georgia has placed first or second 15 times.

3. Surprise, surprise: It was a surprise win for Georgia after the Bulldogs placed third in the 2016 SEC championships. It was the first time in six years that the Bulldogs did not win the conference title. SEC champion Texas A&M was a favorite coming into this NCAA championship but finished fourth.

4. Swimmer of the year: Indiana's freshman Lilly King broke her second NCAA record for the week in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:03.59. King's time also broke the American and U.S. open record previously held by Emma Reaney.

5. Smoliga shines: Georgia's Olivia Smoliga won her second NCAA title of the week with a time of 46.70 in the 100-yard freestyle. "Her 100 freestyle was a game-changer for us," Bauerle said. Her time broke the UGA school record and placed her as the fifth-fastest performer in NCAA history. On Thursday, Smoliga shattered the NCAA record in the 50-yard freestyle with a 21.21, making her the second-fastest NCAA performer of all time in that event.

6. Small, but mighty group: Georgia has a very small senior class. The Bulldogs will only lose three seniors: Brittany MacLean, Annie Zhu and Hali Flickinger.

7. Olympic hopefuls: Four Georgia swimmers will look to have a chance to make the 2016 Summer Olympic team. Chantal Van Landeghem and MacLean will travel to Toronto, Ontario for the Canadian Olympic trials held April 5-10. Smoliga and Flickinger have more time to prepare as the U.S. Olympic trials will take place in Omaha, Nebraska, June 26-July 3.