W. Swimming: Card clean up at Pac-10s

March 1, 2010, 12:49 a.m.

As the Stanford women’s swimming and diving team took its undefeated dual-meet record to Long Beach, Calif. for the Pac-10 Championship, there was uncertainty over whether it would be able to translate its regular season dominance into postseason success.

Last weekend, the No. 1 Cardinal (9-0, 5-0 Pac-10) showed that it is indeed the class of the Pac-10, winning its first Pac-10 team title since 2005. Stanford dominated its competition, scoring a total of 1,489 team points – well ahead of its nearest rival, No. 5 California, which scored 1,341 points.

Out of 21 events, Stanford took home first place in 10 events and second place in an additional five. Indeed, there was only one event, the 100-yard breaststroke, in which the Card did not have a swimmer or a relay team in the top four.

W. Swimming: Card clean up at Pac-10s
The Stanford women's swimming and diving team dominated the competition on its way to a Pac-10 championship. Senior Julia Smit, who won three individual and six total events, was recognized as the Swimmer of the Meet. (The Pac-10 Conference)

Unlike in years past, Stanford was able to emerge as the Pac-10’s top dual-meet team as well as its tournament champion. Last year, despite an undefeated record in Pac-10 competition, Stanford only managed to finish third at Pac-10s.

The tournament started on Wednesday, Feb. 24 with two relay events – the 200-yard medley relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay. The Cardinal finished second in both events, just behind No. 4 Arizona in the 200 medley and No. 9 Southern California in the 800 free. The first day ended with Stanford in third place, four points behind Cal and Arizona.

On Feb. 25, Stanford began to dominate the conference competition, with three wins in five events. The Cardinal scored victories in the 50-yard freestyle, the 200 free relay and the 200 IM. In the 50 free, sophomore Betsy Webb won her first Pac-10 title by a slim margin of .05 seconds over Cal’s Liv Jensen and .11 seconds over USC’s Presley Bard. Stanford’s relay team of Webb, sophomore Sam Woodward, junior Kate Dwelley and senior Julia Smit also took the 200 free relay over Cal’s top team, replicating their success from the Big Meet two weeks ago.

Smit was the real star of Stanford’s efforts. In the 200 IM finals, Smit took the event by more than three seconds over Olympic medalist Katinka Hosszu of USC. Her time of 1:52.31 was a new American, NCAA, Pac-10 and Stanford record.

Those two wins were just the first of many victories for Smit at the Championships. The next day, Smit returned for the 400 IM and set another American record with a time of 3:58.23. She defeated her closest competitor, Hosszu, by over six seconds.

Stanford as a whole had a very strong third day of competition, winning four events out of seven. In addition to Smit’s win, the Cardinal took home the 100-yard butterfly (courtesy of senior Elaine Breeden), the 200 free (Dwelley) and the 400 medley relay. Also, Webb took second place in the 100-yard backstroke, setting a Stanford record in the process. Breeden finishes her Pac-10 career with five conference titles.
Stanford completed the tournament on Saturday with another strong showing. It won three more titles – the 200-yard backstroke, the 200 breast and the 400 free relay. In the 200 back, Smit won her third individual title and broke her third Stanford record in as many days with a one-second margin of victory over USC’s Bard. Junior Liz Smith, the Cardinal’s top breaststroke swimmer, took the 200 breast by two seconds. The last event of the championships, the 400 free relay, was won by Smit, Webb, Dwelley and freshman Andi Murez, though by that point Stanford had already secured its title.

“I definitely knew that I had a lot of potential leading up to the race,” Smith said. “I never go into finals expecting to win, because no one is ever going to hand you a race – it’s always a fight. It was a great race and I am excited to see what I can do once I am fully rested for NCAAs.”

At the end, Smit had won three individual titles and six championships, including relays, in the final conference meet of her Stanford career. She was the unanimous choice for the Swimmer of the Meet. Her final tally includes eight individual conference titles over her four years swimming for the Cardinal.

While Stanford’s swimming team dominated, its diving team had mixed success at the Pac-10 Championships in Federal Way, Wash. Junior Meg Hostage took fourth in the one-meter springboard, while senior Carmen Stellar won fourth in both the three-meter springboard and platform diving.

Only one event remains on the Cardinal’s schedule – the NCAA Championships next month. The Cardinal will carry its No. 1 national ranking into the tournament, and will be one of two favorites. Its top competition will come from Georgia, which shares the top ranking with the Card.

“Looking forward to NCAAs, I think that our team definitely has a shot at a team title, but there are quite a few quality teams out there who are contenders as well,” Smith said. “Going into the meet, our mindset will be the same as it has been all year – have fun, stay focused on the team and swim fast with lots of heart.”

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.

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