By Matt Bradshaw —
If you haven’t been following women’s swimming and diving, it’s about that time to make your approach. The Cardinals were already elites on campus, but they just upped the ante with a historic finish at the national level.
Louisville finished fourth overall at the 2019 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, marking the highest finish in program history. The team combined for 235 points, five All-American finishes, four record-breaking finishes, three medals and two national titles.
“We battled so many different things this season, but this group continued to find different ways to perform,” head coach Arthur Albiero said. “The fact that 11 years ago, we went to this meet and we scored one point and now 11 years later, to be standing here with the elite of the elite is incredible. I’m honored to be a part of this, it has been an incredible journey.”
Mallory Comerford stole the show and cemented herself as one of the most decorated student-athletes in school history. The senior won gold medals in the 200 freestyle and 100 freestyle, along with bronze in the 50 freestyle.
With her third consecutive NCAA title in the 200 free, Comerford becomes the first three-time NCAA champion in a single event in school history. And with four NCAA titles across her career, Comerford steps on level ground with Olympian and former Cardinal Kelsi Worrell Dahlia for the most NCAA titles won by a U of L swimmer.
“I’m proud of this group, and obviously Mallory,” Albiero said. “Winning a title never gets old. As a matter of fact, this is the eighth consecutive year winning an NCAA individual title. It says a lot about the program and the support we have that goes with it.”
Comerford shined at the NCAA Championships, and she was not the sole Cardinal to do so. Several performances are worthy of loud recognition, in addition to the team as a whole that topped its fifth-place finish from last year’s NCAA Championships.
800 freestyle relay
Senior Sophie Cattermole, Comerford, sophomore Arina Openysheva and freshman Alena Kraus combined for sixth place in the 800 free relay. The group earned All-American honors, tied the best NCAA finish in program history in the event and posted the second-fastest 800 free relay in Louisville history (6:56.07).
“This meet is different. It’s unlike any other meet, it’s a meet where you come to compete,” Albiero said. “I think that’s where I’m most proud of this group, to be able to come in and complete with a freshmen in there on the anchor leg. We put (Kraus) in a tough position, but she handled it well.”
400 medley relay
Senior Alina Kendzior, sophomore Mariia Astashkina, junior Grace Oglesby and Comerford combined for fifth place in the 400 medley relay.
Kendzior’s leg of the relay set a new school record, along with beating her own mark set at last year’s NCAA Championships.
200 medley relay
Kendzior, freshman Kaylee Wheeler, Oglesby and junior Lainey Visscher placed fifth in the 200 medley relay, posting the fourth-fastest time in school history.
“We battled hard to put ourselves in a position for success,” Albiero said. “We were seeded 22nd, nowhere to be found. To qualify for the final and hold on for fifth overall was exciting.”
200 freestyle relay
Another relay came with a record conquered and All-American honors earned.
Visscher, Comerford, junior Avery Braunecker and junior Casey Fanz placed fourth in the 200 free relay for the best finish in school history. The group also broke the record for fastest time in school history (1:26.71).
“That was our best finish in the 200 free relay. I think it says a lot,” Albiero said. “This is the NCAA Championships, you just have to keep finding ways to score and put yourself in that position.”
With 12th place on the platform, junior Molly Fears became the first diver in school history to earn Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Oglesby posted the first top-three NCAA finish of her career with third place in the 200 fly. The junior’s bronze medal time solidified her as the fifth-fastest performer in history.
400 freestyle relay
The team of Comerford, Openysheva, Fanz and Visscher capped Louisville’s successful showing with fifth place in the 400 free relay.
After finishing second at the ACC Championships, and ninth at last year’s national championship, men’s swimming and diving competes at the 2019 NCAA Championships from March 27-30 in Austin, Texas.
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Photo courtesy / Justin Casterline