Two days into the Pac-12 tournament, the women’s swimming and diving team sits comfortably in first place. The meet began predictably on Wednesday night, with the Cardinal relays finishing second to Cal. Thursday night featured the team’s first win by senior Ella Eastin in the 500-yard free. Eastin was also named the Pac-12 Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar Athlete of the Year on Thursday morning.
The 200-yard medley relay kicked off the championship meet. The team of Eastin, sophomore Grace Zhao, and freshmen Amalie Fackenthal and Taylor Ruck touched the wall at 1:35.51, earning an NCAA A-cut. The Golden Bears won in the home stretch with a time of 1:35.31, overcoming an early Cardinal lead.
The 800-yard free relay was purely Stanford and Cal, with third place finishing three seconds after the Cardinal. Ruck gave her team a huge early lead, completing her opening leg in 1:42.80, the fourth-fastest 200-yard time in school history. Eastin, junior Katie Drabot and sophomore Brooke Forde closed out the race for a total time of 6:51.69. Despite dropping eight seconds off of their seed time, the squad could not overcome Cal, who finished at 6:50.63.
“I was excited that we had a good start to the meet on Wednesday,” Eastin said. “The 800 relay did really well, especially since we have been throwing together different teams, so everyone is really happy with that.”
At the end of Wednesday, the Golden Bears led the Cardinal 128-112, which was identical to the start of the 2018 Pac-12 Championships, which Stanford ultimately won.
Thursday morning’s preliminary races signalled that Stanford was reaching its stride. Half of the top eight times in the 500-yard free went to the Cardinal, with sophomore Lauren Pitzer (4:36.18) out-touching Eastin (4:36.28) for first. Freshman Morgan Tankersley (4:38.68) and junior Erin Voss (4:38.69) finished on top of each other for places fifth and sixth, respectively.
Freshman Allie Raab (1:55.75) held the second best time coming out of the 200-yard IM prelims. Forde (1:55.93) followed right behind her, and Drabot (1:56.69) secured spot number six.
Ruck was the only eligible Cardinal to place in the finals for the splash-and-dash 50-yard free. Her time of 22.10 was good for fifth overall. Already swimming the maximum number of individual events, Pitzer was entered as an exhibition swimmer. She swam a personal best 22.02, which is the seventh fastest all-time by a Cardinal.
“I was surprised by my 50 race, since it was a personal best by four-tenths of a second,” said Pitzer. “I didn’t think I would go that far under my best time, so I was very happy with it and it gave me some things to work on for the relay.”
Stanford’s best race thus far came in the 500 free finals. The team secured four of the top six spots, with Eastin (4:32.89) and Pitzer (4:34.30) going one and two. The two girls’ times rank second- and third-fastest, respectively, in Stanford history, beaten only by Katie Ledecky. Tankersley (4:37.00, sixth-fastest all-time) finished fourth while Voss (4:38.29, 10th-fastest all-time) grabbed sixth.
“I was going in expecting it to be a challenge,” Eastin said of the 500 free. “It’s not an event I swim all the time, so I was hoping I could pull something out. I was felt good after prelims because I swam four seconds faster than prelims last year, so I knew I could go faster than I had in the past if I put together a good race.”
Forde was the first Cardinal to finish in the 200 IM, touching the wall at 1:55.11, which was good for fourth. Raab (1:55.97) took home sixth place, while Drabot (1:57.29) rounded out the top eight.
As the lone Stanford swimmer in the 50 free, Ruck (22.24) faced a competitive field, in which she ultimately finished sixth. The race let her get one more 50-yard run in before the 200-yard free relay at the end of the night.
The young relay team of Fackenthal, Ruck, Pitzer and freshman Anya Goeders (1:27.42) claimed the third Cardinal silver in the relays. Again, Cal (1:26.00) took gold.
Pitzer summarized the relays saying, “I don’t think it was unexpected for the relays to get second because some of us don’t taper as much as other teams for Pac-12’s. We are just working to be better for NCAAs. Here we were trying to get the best swim we could for this point in the season.”
On the boards, Stanford placed more divers into the one-meter final than any other school. Freshman Carolina Sculti found the podium, scoring third with 313.10. Classmate Daria Lenz’s 278.60 was good for fifth place, and junior Haley Farnsworth captured seventh place at 258.30.
“I think everyone is pretty excited even though we are still getting into the meet,” said Eastin. “I think Wednesday and Thursday was a pretty good start, and it’s just going to keep getting harder.”
At the end of day two, the Cardinal scored 583.5 points, while California trailed in second with 455.5 points. The teams will be back in the pool starting at 10:30 am today for the largest day of the meet. Finals races will start at 6 p.m. again.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.