Home > NCAA Women's Day 3: 100 Breast
Expectations were high for the Women’s 100 Breast on Day 3 of the NCAA Women's D1 Finals, as Lily King, Indiana’s defending champion and record holder, swam the fastest breaststroke relay split ever in the 400-medley relay the night before, with a 56.02.
King was a clear favourite to win the event, but was joined by tough competitors in the final: Michigan’s Miranda Tucker, Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky, EMU’s Delaney Duncan - the first EMU swimmer to make finals, ever! As well as Texas A&M’s Anna Belousova, ASU’s Silja Kansakoski, Hawaii’s Franziska Weidner, and Purdue’s Jinq en Phee were all competing for a podium finish.
Unsurprisingly, King registered the fastest stroking speed and splits in every lap. Though she wasn't taking the most efficient strokes, with her stroke index and DPS landing in the middle to mid-high range of the field, she did maintain a consistently fast stroke rate, logging the highest average stroke rate across the field. Her strategy of taking shorter, faster, but still strong strokes is also seen in other breaststroke champions, like Adam Peaty. Not everyone can do this, most lose significant DPS when increasing stroke rate. However those that can master it, like Lilly and Adam, go on to achieve pretty amazing things - like breaking her own NCAA and American record here. Now, if she could keep that stroke rate through that last lap, she may have been able to break the 56 mark - which was ultimately her goal in this race.
Conversely, another strategy we saw further down the pool in Belousova was going for highest efficiency. She held the highest stroke index in the first two laps, and produced the highest DPS for most of the race. Although her strokes were highly efficient, it didn’t translate to a win, because she also produced the slowest stroke rate in the heat. This is a frequent observation, and why champions like King above, as well as Ledecky and Peaty - among others, choose to trade a little efficiency in favour of a faster rate. If Belousova could cover more ground within her stroke, and minimize her recovery/glide time, it would limit deceleration. This would help her keep a higher stroke rate while maintaining her DPS. It would be slightly less efficient, but the uptake in her stroke rate may be enough to shave crucial time of her race.
While King was moving farther ahead, splitting under American Record pace, Tucker and Kozelsky put up a strong fight. Interestingly enough, they employed opposite strategies, but remained neck-and-neck throughout the entire race, with Tucker trailing slightly behind. Overall, Tucker’s strategy was to take fewer strokes, with a higher DPS, and slower stroke rate, while Kozelsky swam with faster strokes, and a lower DPS.
Kozelsky’s early stroke rate kept her a tenth of a second ahead of Tucker through the 75-mark. But by maintaining some energy through a more efficient stroke, Tucker was able to produce a final burst of energy, increasing her stroke rate to overtake the lead, while Kozelsky lost a bit of steam, slowing in the last lap. If Kozelsky were to maintain or ramp her faster stroke rate right through to the end, without dropping her efficiency, she could have finished this race with the lead she held up until the 75y.
There were a few key takeaways in this race. The first is that race strategy is critical, even in sprint events. Finding the optimal combination of stroke rate and stroke index makes all the difference. To benefit from a high stroke index, it needs to be supplemented with a fast enough stroke rate, and vice versa.
Another is how important consistency is across the duration of the race. Balancing output at the beginning while reserving enough power for the push at the end, has the potential to make or break a finishing position in a race.
Our final key takeaway is the importance of quick turns, especially in short course sprints. While Kozelsky generally swam at a faster speed than Tucker, Tucker's faster turns ensured she didn’t lag too far behind. On the first turn, Tucker transitioned off the wall in 0.16 seconds less time than Kozelsky, who then turned a hundredth of a second faster going into the third lap. Tucker once again turned 0.09 seconds faster before pushing off into the final stretch. This helped Tucker further close the gap off the pullout, before increasing her strokes to finally overtake Kozelsky, out-touching her by two-tenths of a second to win silver.
To dive into the numbers for each athlete yourself, use the interactive board below to see exactly how they performed across all metrics.
Competitive energies are still high as we head into the final day of competition at the 2018 Women’s NCAA Championships. One more race analysis coming your way tomorrow!