Senior Day at Avery Aquatic Center brought seemingly scripted perfection for the No. 2 Stanford women’s swim and dive team (7-0, 7-0 Pac-12) on Saturday, as the Cardinal not only dominated arch rival No. 3 Cal (6-2, 5-2 Pac-12) in a 172-128 victory, but also capped off an undefeated regular season and took over the No. 1 ranking in the country with the victory.
“Obviously, it’s pretty sentimental because it’s our last meet, but to go out with a bang and to beat Cal was a pretty good feeling,” said senior Sarah Haase. “I’m just really happy for all the seniors right now.”
This marks the 17th time in program history that Stanford has finished with an undefeated dual record in the regular season and the first time since two seasons ago, when the Cardinal went on to take second at both Pac-12s and NCAAs.
Although the meet was expected to be tightly contested between the similarly-ranked No. 2 Cardinal and No. 3 Bears, Stanford proved to be the better-conditioned and deeper team in front of an energized crowd at Avery. The Cardinal took first place in 11 of the 16 events, including sweeps of both the diving and relay events.
Even on Senior Day, with nine upperclassmen being honored for their contributions to the Stanford program, it was freshman Ella Eastin who stole the show. The former No. 6 overall swimming recruit in the nation led the way with three individual victories in the 200 fly (1:54.60), 500 free (4:46.89) and the 200 IM (1:58.23) to pace the field.
Haase also put forth a tremendous effort on her Senior Day, as she swept the breaststroke events with a 1:00.25 in the 100 breast (a season-high) to finish 2.5 seconds ahead of the field and a 2:12.18 finish in the 200 to finish four seconds ahead of second-place finisher Kim Williams of Stanford.
She also swam the breaststroke leg of the 200 medley relay to open the meet in just 27.23 to give Stanford’s A team a two-second lead that it maintained through the butterfly and freestyle legs, starting off the meet with a big relay victory.
“Always on Senior Day, it’s fun to see [the seniors] really rise above and help lead our team,” said head coach Greg Meehan.
Junior sprint specialist Lia Neal also continued her dominance by anchoring both the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay, while also sweeping the 100 and 200 free in comfortable margins (48.47, 1:45.39) as she sets her sight on improving on her back-to-back NCAA runner-up finishes in the 100 free with a peak showing this season.
Sophomore Gracia Leydon-Mahoney and senior Alex Clay swept 1-2 finishes in the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events to further pad Stanford’s lead in team points as the Cardinal won seven of the last nine events of the meet to run away with the victory.
Saturday’s Senior Day celebrations marked the end of the home careers of Julia Ama, Julia Anderson, Allison Brown, Alex Clay, Sarah Haase, Kelly Markle, KC Moss, Jaynie Pulte and Lilly Hinrichs.
Stanford will now finish its taper before it heads to Federal Way, Washington from Feb. 24-27 for the Pac-12 Championship meets. The Cardinal have finished in second to Cal at Pac-12s in each of the last two seasons and will hope that this dominant dual performance is an indication of things to come, even if the dual and championship formats are extremely different.
The Cardinal will be seeking their first Pac-12 title since 2013.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at email@example.com.