By James Hemker
The Stanford women’s swimming and diving team (4-0, Pac-12 4-0) will play host for the final time this season against No. 20 UCLA (8-0, 4-0) this afternoon and No. 14 USC (6-0, 4-0) on Saturday. Before Saturday’s meet, the team’s three seniors, Ella Eastin, Leah Stevens and Kim Williams, will be recognized after almost four standout years on the team.
The third-ranked Cardinal drowned the desert last weekend after convincing wins over Arizona and Arizona State. The meets gave the team an opportunity to return to both mental and physical racing form. As a whole, the team experienced little race fatigue on the second day, and many swimmers managed to drop times. This bodes well for the consecutive meets this weekend.
Speaking for the team, Williams said, “Back-to-back weekends are never easy. We hadn’t raced since November before last weekend so I think now we are really in the racing spirit. I think we will be a little more challenged this weekend, and it will make everything that much more exciting.”
UCLA’s last win against Stanford came in 2006, when the conference was just the Pac-10. Against the Bruins, the competition will come on the boards rather than in the pool. The Cardinal divers were just edged out of first place by Bruins senior Eloise Belanger, the reigning Pac-12 Diver of the Year, at the UCLA diving invitational two weeks ago.
The Trojans, who are just four spots behind the Cardinal, will be the highest ranked team to duel Stanford this season. Still, the focus of the afternoon will be on Senior Day and the celebration of the team captains.
“We are a really small class, but we always say ‘Small but Mighty,’” joked Williams.
Mighty is an apt descriptor for these three women, who have helped lead the Cardinal to back-to-back Pac-12 titles and NCAA titles. The three have combined for 19 total All-America honors, and they rank among Stanford’s top 10 times in eight different individual events. Both Williams (3) and Eastin (10) have multiple national titles, and Eastin holds the American record in four events. Keep in mind, these accolades have all come in their first three years, and there is no telling what the ceiling will be for this season.
A testament to their discipline, focus and busy swimming schedules, the reality of Senior Day and all that comes with it has not quite set in for them. Williams admitted that she felt a part of her was in denial about the whole situation. In the moment, however, she thinks that the gravity of the day will rush in on her. “I keep joking about how my last race I’ll probably be crying on the blocks. It will definitely be emotional, and it’s all just gone by so fast.“
But before the celebrations can begin, the Cardinal will have to swim through two teams, each hungry for an upset. Today’s meet against UCLA begins at 2 p.m. PST in Avery. Tomorrow, the Senior Day revelry will start at 11:40 a.m. PST, again in Avery, while swimmers are set to leap from their blocks at noon.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.