The No. 3 Cardinal women’s swimming team started off the new year with a dramatic flourish, using a strong performance in its final relay to win a nail-biting dual meet over No. 8 Texas, 154-146.
Saturday’s victory in Austin demonstrated that the team had effectively utilized winter training over the break, as the Cardinal now remains undefeated in early season dual-meet action.
“It was fun to race a strong Texas team today,” head coach Greg Meehan told GoStanford.com after the meet. “Coming off our training camp, we didn’t get out to a good start through the front half of the meet, but we rebounded really well. Meets in early January are more about toughness than going fast, and I thought both teams worked through that today.”
It was the second consecutive year in which the dual meet between Stanford and Texas came down to the final relay. In last year’s matchup between the two swimming powers, the Longhorns used a late push to come out on top as they eked out a three-point victory.
This year, however, the Cardinal’s 400-yard freestyle relay quartet — junior Maddy Schaefer, senior Felicia Lee, sophomore Julia Anderson and freshman Lia Neal — ensured that Stanford would be the team going home happy.
Because the Cardinal held a three-point edge going into the final relay, the 11 points awarded to the winning team would have been enough to clinch the meet for either squad, with the six combined points for second-place and third-place finishes being irrelevant as to deciding the victor of the meet.
Lee, the Pac-12 swimmer of the month for November, led Stanford to a comfortable victory in the relay with her impressive 48.74 split to beat the “A” squad from Texas by over two seconds. Lee continued her strong start to the season with two comfortable individual victories in the 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly and two relay-winning efforts.
Senior Maya DiRado, who gave way to Anderson in the meet-clinching relay, ensured that her presence would be felt in her other events, claiming victories in all three of the individual events in which she participated — the 200-yard butterfly, the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley.
Those individual victories were key, as the Cardinal needed all 10 of its victories out of the 16 events in the meet to squeak past the Longhorns. This was largely due to the fact that Stanford failed to place in several of the events that it lost — Texas took 1-2-3 finishes in the 200-yard freestyle, 1-meter diving and 3-meter diving events.
However, a first-place finish from freshman Lia Neal in the 100-yard freestyle and a pair of solid victories from senior Andie Taylor in the distance events — the 500-yard freestyle and 1000-yard freestyle — ensured that the early Cardinal lead stood as the meet progressed. Aside from brief Longhorn advantages after Stanford’s weak showings in both the diving events, the Cardinal ultimately ensured that those Texas leads were short lived.
The Cardinal will now train for three more weeks before it hosts Arizona and Arizona State at Avery Aquatic Center on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.