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Cardinal defeat Pac-12 competition as seniors say farewell to Avery

Seniors Ella Eastin, Leah Stevens and Kim Williams compete at Avery Aquatics Center for a final time

Seniors Ella Eastin, Leah Stevens, and Kim Williams (left to right above) won their final dual meet in Avery Aquatics Center against the USC Trojans. The seniors have combined for 23 All-America Honors, 11 Pac-12 titles, 4 Scholar All-Americans, and 13 National Titles. (TONY SVENSSON/Trimarket Photos)

During the weekend, the No. 3 Stanford women’s swimming and diving team (6-0, Pac-12 6-0) collected two more convincing wins against ranked opponents. Friday afternoon saw the downfall of No. 20 UCLA (8-2, 4-2), 163-128, while on Senior Day, No. 14 USC (6-2, 4-2) was trounced 187-107.

These meets marked the final time that seniors Ella Eastin, Leah Stevens and Kim Williams competed in Avery Aquatic Center. Over the course of the weekend, Eastin left her mark on Avery by breaking three pool records, one of the few achievements that had eluded her throughout her career. With the victory over USC, the seniors’ final record in Avery is 16-0.

Eastin claimed her first pool record in the 400-yard IM Friday afternoon. Her time of 4:03.23 shattered the previous record of 4:05.14, which had been set back in 2010 by Julia Smit. Eastin was also able to secure the 100-yard breaststroke against the Bruins, stopping the clock at 1:01.40.

The 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard free relay bookended the UCLA meet. The medley relay team (1:39.93) escaped an upset, out-touching the Bruins by four one-hundredths of a second, while the free relay ‘A’ team (1:30.37) ended with a six-second lead.

Junior Katie Drabot was the top long distance swimmer of the meet, claiming both the 1000-yard free (9:39.28) and the 500-yard free (4:45.77). Classmate Erin Voss also secured two first-place finishes for the Cardinal in the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.92) and the 200-yard backstroke (1:54.06).

Sophomore Hannah Kukurugya left the rest of the field in her wake, winning the 200-yard butterfly (1:57.09) by two seconds. Freshman Taylor Ruck nabbed gold in the 100-yard backstroke (52.16) by a similar margin of victory. Classmate Allie Raab picked up another victory for Stanford when she stopped the clock at 2:11.22 in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Freshman Anya Goeders broke her personal best in the 50-yard free (22.33), leading a Cardinal sweep of the event. Goeders said,“It was pretty unexpected. It was my best time by a tenth of a second; I’m pretty excited to see what my race looks like when it’s tapered.”

The Cardinal showed their mortal form to the crowd on Friday, losing their first swimming events of the season. Goeders settled for second in the 100-yard freestyle (50.00), and classmate Lucie Nordmann managed to grab bronze in the 100-yard butterfly (55.89).

On the boards, the Cardinal suffered a similar fate as freshman Carolina Sculti was unable to eclipse UCLA for first in both the one-meter (313.95) and three-meter (312.68) events.

Senior Day against the Trojans was the first glimpse of this team’s potential. Nearly every swimmer raced in their best events, and both the times and score proved it. Before the meet, Eastin, Stevens and Williams were recognized with their families before the crowd, who cheered as their long list of accolades was enumerated.

Later that afternoon, two more records were added to the list by Eastin. After her record-setting Friday, Eastin cracked Janet Hu’s 200-yard backstroke facility record (1:53.18) from last season with her own time of 1:52.35. Eastin was also tops in the 100-yard variant (52.51).

A storybook ending for a storybook career, Eastin set the 200-yard IM pool record, touching the wall at 1:55.36, which bested the record (1:55.87) set in 2016 by Texas’ Madison Cox. The 200 IM was Eastin’s final individual race at Avery.

“We have a record board in our locker room, and I look at it every day. I noticed my name wasn’t on the side for pool records, and I thought it would be pretty cool to get my name up there at least once.” Staying humble, Eastin said,  “I’m just pleased I’m performing well, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

After the opening ceremony, Eastin and Williams shed their coats and were joined by freshmen Ruck and Amalie Fackenthal for the 200-yard medley relay. The four led the whole race, finishing in 1:37.76.

Stevens (9:53.23) then rounded out a sweep of the 1000-yard freestyle, which was headed by junior Megan Byrnes (9:44.14) and freshman Morgan Tankersley (9:49.15). Sophomore Brooke Forde was first in the 500-yard freestyle (4:43.97) against an all-USC field.

Ruck continued her freestyle dominance, winning the 200-yard free (1:44.52) and 100-yard free (48.10). Both of those times stand as season-bests for the team. Sophomore Lauren Pitzer followed just behind Ruck in both events, but she was able to claim the 50-yard free (22.45) for herself.

The Cardinal reclaimed their top spot on the boards behind the efforts of junior Haley Farnsworth on the one meter (288.75) and freshman Daria Lenz on the three-meter (341.40).

Drabot won the 200-yard butterfly (1:53.49) by five seconds, while junior Allie Szekely paced the all-Trojan field in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:10.69). Raab was tops in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.83).

Fackenthal (53.18) was unable to overcome USC’s Louise Hansson, the reigning national champion, in the 100-yard butterfly.

The meet concluded with the a thrilling 200-yard free relay. The Cardinal ‘A’ team of Fackenthal, Ruck, Pitzer and sophomore Ashley Volpenhein (1:29.83) managed to stave off USC’s ‘A’ team. However, when the race finished the team swarmed not them but the ‘C’ team, which was made of Kukurugya and the three seniors.

The three team captains finished their racing careers at Avery together, united just as they have been for the past three-and-a-half years.

“It’s really surreal being at this moment,” said Stevens. “It’s all gone by so fast since freshman year. It’s very bittersweet.”

Eastin added, “It almost didn’t feel real to me. It has felt like I just adjusted and just figured it all out. It’s crazy that we already onto the next stage. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or two better girls to share it with.”

But now is not the time for the Cardinal to smell the roses. They travel across the Bay to face No. 4 California (7-1, 6-0) on Feb. 16 to end the duel meet season. After that, the team will compete at Pac-12’s before moving on to NCAA’s in late March.

 

Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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