For the fourth consecutive year, the Stanford women’s swimming and diving team (7-0, 7-0 Pac-12) ended its dual meet season undefeated after a dominant 192-107 victory against No. 6 California (7-2, 6-1). The top-ranked Cardinal advanced their win streak to 30 consecutive dual meet victories.
As predicted, the Golden Bears pushed Stanford more than any other opponent thus far, picking up six wins across the relay and sprint events. Stanford’s depth was key as seven podium sweeps gave them a comfortable scoring margin in the win.
Berkeley celebrated their senior class before competition, but Stanford senior Ella Eastin spoiled their fun by breaking three pool records in as many individual events. Along with her performance two weeks ago in Avery, Eastin holds six pool records between the two Bay Area pools.
“We went hard all week, and they looked tired at the end of Friday’s practice,” Stanford head coach Greg Meehan said. “I wasn’t quite sure what we would get today, but it’s just indicative of the run that Ella has been on and the training she’s put in and the confidence she has in herself.”
Eastin (1:52.13) led a Stanford sweep in the 200-yard butterfly ahead of junior Katie Drabot (1:53.54) and sophomore Brooke Forde (1:55.85). Three events later, she outlasted the field in the 200-yard backstroke (1:52.01). In the 200-yard IM, the final individual event, Eastin stopped the clock at (1:53.86) while Forde (1:57.24) and Szekeley (1:58.16) turned the podium shades of Cardinal.
“I knew I was doing pretty well as I was gauging off of the other swimmers in the race,” Eastin said. Staying humble she added, “I knew it would be a hard one today, and I was just excited to get some good points for the team.”
The strong ending to the meet was dually impressive since the Golden Bears opened the day by winning three of the first four events before the Cardinal resurgence.
The 200-yard medley relay began close, but the Cal ‘A’ team pulled away from Stanford and won the race outright. A rare mistake costed the top Cardinal relay after freshman Taylor Ruck was disqualified for early takeoff.
Lacking any real distance swimmers, Berkeley entered just a single swimmer in the 1,000-yard free. Stanford’s long distance core of junior Megan Byrnes (9:45.83), freshman Morgan Tankersley (9:47.19) and senior Leah Stevens (9:47.71) swept without issue.
Forde (1:45.59) settled for second in the 200-yard free after being out-touched by three one-hundredths of a second. In the 100-yard backstroke Ruck (52.58) was unable to close the gap to first.
The Cardinal returned to form in the 100-yard breaststroke as freshman Allie Raab (1:01.33) picked up the win with sophomore Grace Zhao (1:01.49) close behind.
Cal junior Abbey Weitzeil, who took home two medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, terrorized the sprints. Weitzeil (21.99) finished over half a second before sophomore Lauren Pitzer (22.53) during the ultra-fast 50-yard free. Following the 15-minute intermission, Weitzel set a pool record (48.06) in the 100-yard free, narrowly outlasting Ruck (48.44).
When the meet turned away from shorter events, the Cardinal ran up the score by securing back-to-back 1-2-3s. Zhao (2:10.52) surprised the field from lane two in the 200-yard breaststroke. Two seconds later, Raab (2:12.50) and classmate Zoe Bartel (2:12.50) tied. In the 500-yard free, Pitzer (4:41.68) secured a similar margin of victory over Drabot (4:43.25) and junior Erin Voss (4:44.24).
The almost excessive number of sweeps was thanks to team’s incredibly deep roster. “Our depth has continued to blossom as the year has gone on,” said Coach Meehan. “The freshmen are getting more comfortable, and our sophomores have taken that next step to the level of where we want our juniors and seniors.”
The boards were squarely Cardinal territory as well. Freshman Carolina Sculti won both the one-meter (323.55) and three-meter (340.80) diving events. Sculti was at the top of a Stanford sweep in both events.
Cal picked up their final win in the 100-yard butterfly as freshman Amalie Fackenthal (53.20) took silver.
Even though the score suggested the meet was all but over, the 400-yard free relay proved to be the most exciting race of the meet. Both ‘A’ relay teams refused to surrender a large lead, and the race entered the anchor leg with Stanford having only half a body-length advantage. In a battle of Olympic medalists, Ruck atoned for her earlier relay miscue and outlasted Weitzeil for first place (3:13.24).
According to Meehan, the competition was much closer than the score suggested, and since the Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships are just ten days away, he is now looking to tie up any loose ends.
“We had the relay disqualification early, and we had a couple races where we got touched out,” he said. “Today wasn’t the worst day to have those mistakes, and we learned from them. I credited Taylor [Ruck] because she had the early take off, but then she came back and anchored the free relay and held off a really great swimmer in Weitzeil.”
Even with a critical eye, the seniors’ dual meet career on the Farm can only be described as perfect. Eastin said, “To finish this last one with Kim [Williams] and Leah [Stevens] was awesome and finishing our four years without a loss is definitely pretty special and something that we are proud of.”
The women will begin their postseason competition at the Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Wash., on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.