In the history of college swimming, the 50-second barrier in the women’s 100-yard backstroke has been broken just 10 times — including four times by UW-Madison junior Beata Nelson.
It happened most recently on Nov. 30, at the Texas Hall of Fame Swimming Invitational in Austin, when the former Verona Area/Mount Horeb High School swimmer clocked a 49.67 — setting new American, NCAA and U.S. open records. That makes Nelson the event’s fastest-ever woman.
While in Texas, Nelson also recorded best-in-the-nation times in the 200-yard backstroke (1:40.10) and the 200-yard individual medley (1:53.08). And she now holds UW records in the 100 back, 200 back, 100 butterfly and 200 IM.
At VAMH, Nelson was 12-time state champion and Swimming World’s 2016 High School Swimmer of the Year. She broke national public high school records in the 100 butterfly, as well as nine state records.
Then came the disastrous 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., where Nelson placed no higher than 96th in any of her four events, and the struggles continued into her freshman year at Wisconsin. Now, Nelson is the favorite to win the national title in the 100 back at the NCAA Championships in March.
But she wasn’t the only Badger who had a big meet in Texas. Megan Doty swam the second-fastest 200 butterfly in UW women’s history (1:56.49), Kelsi Artim moved up to third place on UW’s list of top times in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.49), and Madison Edgewood alum Jenna Silvestri posted a personal best in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:15.92).
On the men’s side, MJ Mao moved into second place on UW’s list of all-time fastest men in the 100 breaststroke (53.26) and 200 breaststroke (1:55.14), and former Madison Memorial state champion Justin Temprano recorded a personal best in the 200 IM (1:48.63).
Wisconsin, under new head coach Yuri Suguiyama — a former assistant at perennial powerhouse Cal — is peaking as the Badgers prepare to travel to the University of Hawaii for a Jan. 4 meet.
“The mentality of the team is very positive,” Nelson told the swimming news website SwimSwam.com at the Texas Invitational. “We try and make it about everybody. When you swim, you aren’t swimming for just yourself; you’re swimming for your whole team. The morale is really high, and… I’m super-excited for the rest of the year.”