The No. 4 Cardinal women’s swimming team (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) will journey into the television spotlight on Friday as it travels south to No. 16 UCLA for a meet that will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.
The showdown with the Bruins at noon is only one of two Stanford women’s swimming dual meets that will be televised this year, with the other one coming against five-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin and Cal in two weeks.
Although the matchup with UCLA (8-1, 5-1) is a rare chance to catch the Cardinal in action away from Avery Aquatics Center, it sets up as a likely win for Stanford. The Cardinal has fended off the Bruins by identical 30-point margins in each of the teams’ last two meetings, and UCLA has no swimmers with top-20 times in any of the freestyle or individual medley (IM) events, two of Stanford’s strongest areas.
The Cardinal’s visit to No. 5 USC (5-0, 4-0) on Sunday, meanwhile, appears much more intriguing. Ten different events boast a top-20 swimmer from each team, with three of those races featuring the swimmers that own the top times in the country in those events. And the competition is toughest in some of Stanford’s best races.
Cardinal junior Maddy Schaefer and freshman Lia Neal will take center stage in two hotly contested freestyle races on which the meet could pivot. That duo will go up against the Trojans’ record-holder in the 50-yard and 100-yard free, Kasey Carlson, who ranks third and first in the nation in those events, respectively. Schaefer’s nation-leading 50 free time of 21.78 seconds is just ahead of Carlson’s 21.90, while Carlson’s No. 1 mark in the 100 free (47.22) gives her the advantage on paper, at least, against the fourth-ranked Neal (47.48).
In the IM, meanwhile, Stanford’s Maya DiRado will duke it out against another senior, USC’s Stina Gardell. DiRado holds a two-second edge in the 200 IM — her time of 1:53.50 is the best in the country — and an edge of nearly three seconds in the 400 IM, but Gardell ranks in the top 10 in both races and will be the toughest competition DiRado has faced all season.
Stanford may be able to find some separation in the relays, as it has posted the best 400-yard and 800-yard freestyle relay times in the country this season and boasts a multi-second advantage over the Trojans in each event.
Friday’s meet against UCLA and Sunday’s against USC both begin at noon.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.