The wait is finally over for No. 1 Stanford women’s swimming, after the team collected its 20th Pac-12 conference crown this weekend in Washington. After three consecutive second-place finishes dating back to 2014, the Cardinal turned in a dominant performance in Federal Way, scoring 1,587 points to blow past No. 2 Cal (1,392) and No. 11 USC (1,250), which rounded out the podium.
Olympians junior Simone Manuel and freshman Katie Ledecky etched their names all over the result sheet, winning a combined five of 13 total individual events as Ledecky earned Swimmer of the Meet honors. However, it was a collective effort that earned Stanford the title, as the team also won all five relay events en route to claiming 15 of 21 total first-place finishes.
The Cardinal women got off to a piping-hot start, sweeping all seven events in the first two days of the four-day event to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the rest of the weekend.
The first event of the meet was arguably the most thrilling, as Stanford edged archrival No. 2 Cal in the 200-yard medley relay to notch its first win. After strong legs from junior Ally Howe, junior Janet Hu and sophomore Kim Williams, the Cardinal found themselves just over two-tenths of a second behind the Bears, before Manuel recorded a scorching 20.78 freestyle split to out-touch Cal’s Farida Osman at the wall by a tenth of a second.
Although relay splits are not counted towards official records, Manuel’s 50-yard sprint was the fastest in swimming history. It was the first of several incredible swims from Manuel, who has established herself as one of the finest sprinters in the world over the past year. The junior took home all three individual freestyle events (50, 100 and 200 yards), notably beating out teammates Ledecky and senior Lia Neal in the 200, who took second and third respectively.
Manuel and Neal would team up with Howe and Hu on Thursday night in the 200-yard freestyle relay in another wire-to-wire race against the Golden Bears, with Stanford again coming out on top — this time by just five-tenths of a second.
Despite dropping a rare race to Manuel, Ledecky displayed her usual brilliance throughout the rest of the meet, most notably in the 500-yard freestyle, where she broke the U.S. and NCAA record with a 4:25.15 finish — a time faster than male Olympian swimmer Ryan Lochte his freshman year of college. Ledecky would also set the college record in the 400 IM with a 3:57.68 finish.
Howe kept records falling with her moment to shine in the pool, setting the American record in the 100-yard backstroke with a 49.69 finish. Howe broke renowned backstroker Natalie Coughlin’s 15-year old record. The duo are the only two Americans to finish the event in under 50 seconds.
Diver senior Kassidy Cook also contributed her share to the Cardinal’s victory, taking first in the one-meter diving final and second in the three-meter.
After conjuring up an undefeated regular season and a maelstrom of a performance in the Pac-12 title meet, the top-ranked Cardinal will vie for their ninth NCAA title in Indianapolis in mid-March.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.