By Kit Ramgopal
No. 2 Stanford women’s swimming and diving ended their home schedule with a trio of pool records and a 202-98 annihilation of No. 4 USC on Saturday. For celebrated seniors Bridget Boushka, Tara Halsted, Lia Neal and Nicole Stafford, this victory marks just another installment in the Cardinal’s 14 dual-meet win streak dating back to 2014. Boushka, Halsted, Neal and Stafford’s time on the Farm has also been marked by Cardinal dominance in the NCAAs, including four consecutive top-three victories.
In a fitting end to an explosive college swimming career, Neal tapped the Avery wall for the final time to set a pool record in the 400-yard freestyle relay. Neal, junior Simone Manuel, freshman Katie Ledecky and junior Janet Hu combined to nail a time of 3:15.05. Neal shined throughout the day, coming in first in the 100-meter freestyle (41.18) and second in the 50-meter freestyle (22.53), ceding just .4 seconds to fellow Olympian Manuel.
Avery Aquatic Center continued to pull big crowds on the sunny January afternoon. To the delight of Stanford fans, the Cardinal set two additional pool records on Saturday. Olympian Manuel cracked the 200 freestyle record set just one day earlier by Ledecky with a 1:42:72 finish. Just one event later, Hu outpaced her own personal best in the 100 backstroke with a first-place 51.91 finish. Hu also collected points for Stanford with a 52.05 victory in the 100 fly. Hu has won multiple events in five out of the last six meets.
Over on the diving board, senior Kassidy Cook was victorious on the 1-meter for the second straight weekend, closing with a score of 326.33.
While veterans Hu, Manuel, Cook and Neal continue to set the standards for Cardinal excellence, Stanford’s underclassmen were on fire against the Trojans on Saturday. Freshman Erin Voss edged out junior Ally Howe with a 1:55.42 time in the 200 backstroke. Sophomore Ella Eastin topped both the 200 butterfly (1:55:35) and the 200 individual medley (1:58:11), though freshman Allie Szelkey tailed close behind with a time of 1:59:78.
Unsurprisingly, Ledecky remains a pillar of excellence in the distance events. With a 9:12.32 time, she outpaced her competitors by more than 30 seconds in the 1000 freestyle. In the 500 freestyle, she claimed a 12-second margin of victory with a 4:34.98 time. In both events, Stanford underclassmen swept the podium. In the 1000-meter freestyle, freshman Megan Byrnes claimed second (9:48.68) and sophomore Leah Stevens was third (9:57.14). In the 500, freshman Katie Drabot (4:47.00) nailed second place, with Byrnes returning with a 4:49.32 time to claim third.
The Saturday victory marks an explosive end to the week for Stanford. On Wednesday, the humbling collection of Stanford swimmers and divers were named a Scholar All-America team by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America. Wth a collective GPA of 3.59, Stanford women earned one of the top GPAs in the nation. On Friday, Stanford sunk the No. 19 UCLA Bruins 127-104 at home. Stanford won all but one event on the afternoon meet. Hu and Ledecky led the charge, each nailing two victories.
Stanford heads to Berkeley next weekend for an away dual meet to be featured on the Pac-12 Network at noon.
Contact Kit Ramgopal at kramgopa ‘at’ stanford.edu.