NCAA swimming: Stanford's 19-year title drought is over

Stanford claimed its first women's swimming and diving national title since 1998 on Saturday.

The Cardinal had 13 different All-Americans combine for 47 All-America honors, eight individual national championships and two relay titles during the four-day NCAA championship meet inside IUPUI Natatorium.

Simone Manuel
This is Stanford's ninth NCAA women's swimming title and 10th overall, the most in the nation. The Cardinal also earned its 37th straight top-eight finish (every year the NCAA has sponsored a championship meet) and that includes 11 runner-up finishes.

Stanford’s 526.5 points were the most since the Cardinal totaled 649.5 in 1993. Cal was second with 366 points. It is the largest margin of victory at the NCAA championships since 2003 (Auburn defeated Georgia, 536-373).

“We have an amazing group, and we were inspired by our seniors day-in and day-out,” said fifth-year head coach Greg Meehan. “It takes a lot of people to make this happen. I have the best coaching staff, an amazing alumni group, and incredible parents.”

The 1998 team won with 422 points and featured swimmers like Olympic gold medalists Misty Hyman and Catherine Fox and Olympian Siobhan Cropper.

In 2010, it came down to the final relay, when Florida finished fourth to win it, 382-379 1/2.

In 2001, Georgia edged Stanford, 389-387 1/2, and last year, the Bulldogs outscored the Cardinal, 414-395.

Four of Stanford’s 10 national titles came on the final day. Junior Simone Manuel was the highlight as the first woman to break 46 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle.

Manuel obliterated her own American and NCAA records, previously at 46.09, with a finish of 45.56. She finished the first 50 yards in 21.90 and won by nearly a full second. It was her second individual national title of the meet and her second career victory in the event.

Sophomore Ella Eastin also won her second individual NCAA title of the meet on Saturday. She stormed to a first-place finish of 1:51.35 in the 200 butterfly. The victory came one day after Eastin clinched back-to-back national championships in the 400 individual medley.

Freshman Katie Ledecky clinched her third individual national title on Saturday with another record-setting swim in the 1,650-yard freestyle.

During the race, the Bethesda, Maryland, native broke her NCAA record in the 1,000 free with a split of 9:06.90. Then 650 yards later, she touched the wall at 15:07.70 to set the pool and meet records.

“I’ve had a lot of fun this whole year,” Ledecky said. “It’s been a blast. I’m really proud of my teammates for everything they’ve done, both in the pool and in school. We’ve been on this journey together all year, and we wanted to finish strong.”

Ledecky is the first Stanford swimmer to win the NCAA title in the event since 1992, and just the third Cardinal overall, joining three-time winner Marybeth Linzmeier (1982-84) and two-time champion Janet Evans (1991-92).

Behind Manuel and Ledecky, Stanford won every individual freestyle event. Manuel won the 50 and 100, while Ledecky won the 200 free and 500 free earlier this week. The pair also helped Stanford to the 400 and 800 free relay titles.

One of those relay titles was the final event of the meet, and Stanford ended it in fitting fashion. The Cardinal broke its own American and NCAA records in the 400 free relay. Manuel, Ledecky, Hu and Neal combined to finish in 3:07.61.

Neal was the anchor leg in that relay that put an exclamation point on an illustrious career. It was her seventh All-America performance of the meet, and the 26th of her career, tied for fifth-most in school history.

Stanford dominated the 1,650 free. In addition to Ledecky's victory, freshman Megan Byrnes finished third at 15:50.87 and Leah Stevens finished fourth.

Stevens won heat five of six with a personal-best finish of 15:52.36 -- a time that topped all but three in the final heat. Byrnes and Stevens also rank third and fourth all-time at Stanford in the event.

In all, Stanford scored a whopping 51 points in the 1,650 free. To put that in perspective, Stanford would have outscored all but 18 teams at the NCAA championships with just that event.

Junior Janet Hu earned her seventh All-America honor of the meet when she qualified for the consolation finals of the 200 backstroke. She finished seventh in the final and 15th overall with a finish of 1:52.13.

Sophomore Kim Williams was the 25th seed but jumped into the finals of the 200 breaststroke with a personal-best effort of 2:09.07 in the prelims. She topped that performance with a finish of 2:08.84 in the consolation finals to place 15th place.

Three Cardinal were just outside the finals in the 200 back as Allie Szekely (1:53.11) was 20th, Ally Howe (1:53.29) was 23rd and Erin Voss (1:53.37) was 24th.

Senior Nicole Stafford finished her Cardinal career in the 200 fly with a 29th-place finish of 1:56.99, while junior Lindsey Engel was 23rd in the 200 fly at 1:56.42.

Freshman Katie Drabot placed 26th with a career-best time of 16:10.99 in her NCAA debut 1650 free.

Several Cardinal swimmers look to return to Indianapolis to compete at the U.S. World Championships Trials, June 28-July 2.

Those that qualify will head to the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, where Meehan will serve as head coach for Team USA, July 14-30.

— Eric Dolan/Stanford Athletics


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