Ledecky headlines star-studded Big Swim as No. 1 Cardinal complete perfect season

Feb. 14, 2017, 4:06 a.m.

The most highly anticipated dual meet of the year did not disappoint, as No. 1 Stanford women’s swimming out-dueled No. 2 Cal 177-123 at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley on Saturday. A frenzied, full-capacity crowd saw eight pool records fall between both teams, including three from freshman wunderkind Katie Ledecky to help the Cardinal complete its second consecutive undefeated season and enter the postseason a worthy contender for a national title.

Stanford (8-0, 7-0 Pac-12) entered the meet after two weeks off, with its last competition coming in a 202-98 blowout of No. 4 USC. The Cardinal have not been kind to their opponents this season — with an average victory margin of over 50 points, the swimmers have competed largely against themselves and each other. This trend continued on Saturday, starting with 19-year-old Ledecky, who swam to a comfortable 9:20.41 victory in the 1000-yard freestyle, with classmate Megan Byrnes taking second (9:46.47).

While Ledecky’s time set a pool record, it was a whopping 10 seconds off her NCAA record set earlier this year. The five-time Olympic gold medalist was ostensibly saving some of her energy, as she immediately returned to the pool to take on a host of fresh swimmers in the 200-yard freestyle.

Ledecky cruised to her second victory in as many events, touching the wall first in 1:43.09 with teammate Simone Manuel close behind (1:44.04). She would complete a hat trick of pool-bests later in the day, winning the 500-yard freestyle to tally 27 total points for the Cardinal.

Ledecky was far from the only headliner at the star-studded meet, as a total of nine Olympians, including five medal-winners, competed in the 16 events. Perhaps the most exciting of the day was the 100-yard freestyle, which featured Manuel, Stanford senior Lia Neal and Cal freshman Abbey Weitzel, all teammates on the silver-medal winning 4×100-meter freestyle in Rio (Neal competed in preliminary heats, while Manuel and Weitzel both raced in the final).

The Cardinal came out on top, with Manuel (48.17) out-touching Neal (48.49), while Weitzel finished in a close third (48.89). Manuel would get the better of Weitzel again in the 50-yard freestyle, setting a pool record of 21.97.

Stanford swimmer Janet Hu posted another remarkable meet, winning the 100 backstroke (51.61) and 100 butterfly (51.93). Hu has now won multiple events in four consecutive competitions; the junior’s backstroke time was also a Cal facility best, a notable achievement considering the Golden Bears’ legacy of producing elite backstrokers.

In the meet’s most bizarre outcome, Cal senior Olympian Marina Garcia and Stanford sophomore Kim Williams tied for first in both breastroke races, posting the exact same times in the 100 yard (1:01.89) and 200 yard (2:12.16) events.

Diver Kassidy Cook, who also represented the U.S. in the Summer Games, earned 9 points for Stanford in the three-meter diving competition, although her victory was offset by sophomore phenom Phoebe LaMay’s first-place finish in one-meter diving.

Stanford enters the postseason riding the momentum of 15 straight dual meet victories dating back to last season. The team will vie for its first conference title since 2013 in Washington from Feb. 22-25, before competing for its ninth national championship in mid-March.

Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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