By James Hemker
On Sunday, the women’s swimming and diving team returned to the Farm from its successful campaign at the Ohio State University Invitational. The Cardinal (2-0, Pac-12 2-0) are ranked second in the nation, and they proved it with a convincing win over 10 other schools. Through 21 events Stanford accumulated 2499 points to best No. 13 Notre Dame, which had 2011.5 points and No. 18 Kentucky, which had 1898 points.
Senior Ella Eastin and freshman Taylor Ruck were Stanford’s most impressive stars during the three-day contest. Eastin left Ohio State with three new meet records, while Ruck placed first or second in every event she swam. Each Cardinal swimmer who placed in the top five of their event broke at least the NCAA B-qualifying time.
To no one’s surprise, Eastin out-swam the field in the 200-yard butterfly and the individual medley events. The American record holder in all three races, Eastin first smashed the meet record for the 200 IM in prelims before re-breaking it during finals with a time of 1:53.41. She made short work of the 400 IM (4:00.70) meet record as well, improving on her morning time by seven seconds. Eastin completed the 200 fly in 1:52.07, breaking her third meet record. In all three of her races, Eastin cleared the A-qualifying time, guaranteeing a spot for her at NCAA’s.
The only swimmer near Eastin during the 200 fly was junior Katie Drabot (1:53.08) who followed in second place. Her time was also good enough for an automatic bid to NCAA’s. Drabot (1:45.36) was the fastest in the water during the 200-yard freestyle after Ruck scratched the finals race despite having the best preliminary time.
Ruck had the fastest 50-yard free prelim time as well, and she improved on it to finish first in 22.12, which marked a new personal best. Ruck then entered the 100-yard backstroke as Stanford’s only eligible swimmer after multiple false starts eliminated her teammates. Ruck (51.70), who finished second, was out-touched at the wall by a narrow 0.08 seconds by Kentucky’s Asia Sedt. For the 200-yard backstroke, Ruck (1:51.83) followed Sedt’s wake again as the Kentucky junior smashed the meet record.
Fellow sprinter and freshman Amalie Fackenthal (22.45) found a third place finish in the 50 free. Fackenthal was Stanford’s only swimmer in the 100-yard free, where she claimed second place with a 48.63. Fackenthal (53.07) placed fourth in the 100 fly, where she was again the only swimmer, marking another event that fell prey to Stanford’s problematic false starts.
Junior Megan Byrnes and sophomore Brooke Forde also put up impressive performances throughout the invitational. Forde (4:38.40) and Byrnes (4:40.50) finished one and two in the 500-yard free while Drabot (4:41.06) snagged fourth. Stanford captured seven of the top ten times in the event. Forde placed second behind Eastin in both the 200 IM (1:56.42) and the 400 IM (4:04.89). She also nabbed third place (2:09.54) in a close 200-yard breaststroke race.
On the long distance front, Byrnes (15:55.57) and senior Leah Stevens (16:02.66) claimed one and two in the marathon 1650-free. Byrnes was the second swimmer to break 16:00 this season, and she holds the second fastest collegiate time in the nation.
Stanford’s best breaststroke swimmer is shaping up to be freshman Zoe Bartel. Bartel (1:00.19) narrowly beat out six other swimmers in the 100-yard breaststroke, which was the closest race of the weekend. In the 200-yard breaststroke, Bartel (2:08.65) led a wave of five other teammates, and Stanford swept places two through seven.
On the boards, freshmen Carolina Sculti and Daria Lenz claimed the 1-meter with scores of 286 and 278.9, respectively. Sculti (280) edged out sophomore Mia Paulsen (274.7) for sixth place on the 3-meter, while Paulsen (220.7) in eighth was Stanford’s only top-ten finisher on the platform.
The real highlight of the meet for the Cardinal were the relay teams, which swept the five available relay events. The first event was the 200-yard free relay. The team, which was built from Fackenthal, Ruck, sophomore Lauren Pitzer and Nordmann, scorched runner-up Notre Dame by two seconds when they stopped the clock at 1:27:93. In similar fashion, Ruck, Eastin, Drabot, and Forde made up the 800-yard free team which went sub-7:00 with a 6:59.66. The most impressive win belonged to the 400-yard free relay team of Fackenthal, Eastin, sophomore Ashley Volphenhein and Ruck. They crushed another meet record for the Cardinal in 3:12.08. All three of the teams broke the A-qualifying times.
The all-freshman medley relays were composed of Nordmann, Bartel, Fackenthal and Ruck. They secured gold in both the 200-yard (1:37.26) and 400 yard races (3:32.28), but not without adversity. Going into the Ruck’s anchor leg of both events, the Cardinal were either losing or tied. The young Olympian showcased her freestyle speed and carried the teams to wins that were both a second better than the runners-up times.
Despite the dominant performance, Stanford still showed a mortal side through some costly mental errors. Six swimmers were disqualified over four events due to false starts, leading to underrepresentation in events such as the 100 back and the 100 fly.
The Cardinal come home from the end of their fall season with a two month break ahead of them. Some swimmers will head to North Carolina for Team USA’s Winter Nationals on Nov. 29. The whole team will then take their annual trip to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs over winter break before returning to action at Arizona on Jan. 26 and Arizona State on Jan 27.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu