Today begins the No. 1 women’s swimming and diving (7-0, 7-0 Pac-12) quest for the Pac-12 conference title. The conference championships will run through Saturday night when the team who has accumulated the most points will be crowned Pac-12 champion, a title previously bestowed upon the Cardinal a record 21 times.
The Pac-12 is one of the most competitive conferences in women’s swimming with Stanford ranked as the best team in the nation, and No. 6 Cal and No. 10 Arizona rounding out the top ten. No. 15 USC and No. 18 Arizona State make five of the nine teams in the conference ranked in the top twenty. UCLA, Washington State, Utah and Oregon State are all unranked. Washington, Colorado and Oregon do not have programs.
Historically, Stanford and Cal have controlled the conference, with either program winning the title for the past nine years. The Cardinal are going to be looking for the first three-peat in the conference since 2008. During head coach Greg Meehan’s six-year tenure, the team has won the title three times, finishing second in the other years. Last year’s 1776.5 point victory was the second largest victory in conference history.
Showing their discipline, the team knows that scores should not be their concern and that a win will only come from solid swimming. “I think our primary goal is to put together the best swims possible,” said senior Leah Stevens. “This year the Pac-12 title will be a tight race, but if we focus on doing our best and racing for each other, I think it will work out in the end.”
Each swimmer will look to lower times to improve their chances at swimming at NCAA’s. The Cardinal already have multiple swimmers who have made B-cut times in each event. This mark means that their top times will be put into a pool of all B-cut times in the country. The fastest times from there are then allowed to swim. Thus, the lower the B-cut time, the better the chance to compete.
If a swimmer breaks the A-cut time, they are automatically given a spot in the NCAA championship. Currently, Stanford has three relays that have made the A-cut (200, 400 and 800-yard free relays). Individually, senior Ella Eastin has already surpassed the A mark in the 200-yard and 400-yard IMs. Both she and junior Katie Drabot have made the cut in the 200-yard butterfly as well.
There is a very high chance that most, if not all, women will significantly drop time. For Pac-12’s, the swimmers will be in racing suits, which are high-tech compression suits that extend from the knees to the shoulders. “In our dual meets we normally wear practice suits and at this meet we will wear race suits which help keep compression and make you swim a little faster,” explained Stevens. “That will give us a good physical and mental edge to hit closer to our best times.”
This meet will be the largest collegiate invitational for the freshmen. On top of having the ability to drop time, the championship will be hyped up as the team faces all of its conference rivals at once.
“This meet is a lot more fun and exciting than earlier invitationals because now is the time to really go fast,” said Stevens. “My freshman year, I had never experienced a meet like this before, just because of how excited people get. [Head coach] Greg gets everyone pumped up with his reactions to everyone’s fast times. This meet definitely has more emotion put in it.”
At the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington, the tournament will run from Wednesday night to Saturday night. The invitational format will feature preliminary races in the morning at 10:30 a.m. and finals races in the evening at 6 p.m.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.