Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
The first ever ACC vs. B1G challenge will be this weekend in West Lafayette, Indiana, as the best swimmers from the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten Conference will face off on the campus of Purdue University.
This will be the first time this has happened in the pool as it has been an exciting part of the college basketball season since 1999 where teams will face off against non-conference opponents for a few days in the beginning of December.
Each team will have at least two swimmers or divers representing them this weekend in West Lafayette as the rosters can be read in full here.
This will be a big meet in the college season as some of the nation’s best are in both conferences. The swimmers will be putting on suits, many for the first time this year. The divers are also strong in each conference, and it should be a very competitive meet. Below are five storylines that Swimming World will be keeping an eye on.
Mallory Comerford vs. Siobhan Haughey
Louisville’s Mallory Comerford is the two-time defending champion in the 200 free, but lurking behind her is fellow senior Siobhan Haughey of Michigan. Those two will be the favorites to win the 100 and 200 free events this season at the NCAA Championships in March.
But before they meet in Austin, they will (most likely) square off as members of their respective conferences in November. Haughey has yet to put a suit on this season, but she is third in the nation in the 100 free and second in the 200 while Comerford leads the nation in both events.
Indiana vs. NC State
The Hoosiers and Wolfpack were in the top four at NCAA’s a year ago on the men’s side with Indiana placing third and NC State placing fourth. Both those teams return a lot of points this season including Ian Finnerty for Indiana and Justin Ress for NC State.
Although Indiana and NC State won’t be facing off this weekend, it will be a good chance to see how the swimmers from each team look in November as we approach the mid-season invitationals. Indiana will be sending a talented team with Zach Apple, Vini Lanza and Finnerty representing the Big Ten, while NC State will have reigning national champions Andreas Vazaios, Coleman Stewart and Ress.
Those two teams will be in the running for a top four finish when we get to Austin in March, and this meet will be a good gauge where the teams are.
How will the new freshmen fare?
Some of the conference’s best young talent will be in action this weekend including Duke’s Easop Lee, Minnesota’s Max McHugh and Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil. They have been on their respective campuses for about three months now will get their first chance to put on suits this season. MacNeil has the number one time in the country this season in the 100 fly and many people will be keeping an eye on what she can do with a racing suit on.
McHugh broke the National High School Record in the 100 breast last year, but only held it for a couple of hours before Reece Whitley got it back. He is 10th in the nation so far this year in the 100 breast.
How will the breakout swimmers translate to SCY?
Louisville’s Zach Harting is coming off a great summer season where he made the Pan Pac team after having an incredible 200 fly at US Nationals. How will he be able to translate that long course success into short course for his last year of college swimming? He has the number one time in the country this season in the 100 fly as he is just ahead of Indiana’s Vini Lanza who he will face off against this weekend. He has yet to reach an A-Final in the 200 fly at NCAA’s, despite reaching the A-Final at the last three US National meets in long course.
Elise Haan, Justin Ress and Zach Apple are also coming off strong summer seasons and the swimming community will get a chance to see how they fare in short course this year. Ress and Apple both made the Pan Pac team and are both searching for their first individual NCAA title in their senior seasons.
Will this become a thing?
The ACC vs. B1G Challenge will be held in November 2019 at Georgia Tech, but will this catch on after that? Will the Pac-12 take on the SEC? Will Division II get in on it? Division III? The Big Ten teamed up in 2016 to take on select stars from USA Swimming while the Pac-12 did the same in 2017, but that meet didn’t quite last.
USA Swimming has done the Duel in the Pool with Australia three times in the 2000’s. They also took on some of the European all-stars in a Ryder Cup-esque meet four times this decade, but that meet has not been swum since 2015.
Will this meet be successful? Can it sustain? It could be a fun addition to the college season and a good way for the swimmers to get to know other people in their conference. The USA College Challenge didn’t quite last, but this meet makes more sense. The best swimmers from the ACC competing against the best of the Big Ten will make a very competitive meet, and hopefully a regular part of the swimming calendar.