The day after the Arizona Wildcats women pulled off a big win over the defending National Champs Cal, they welcomed the Stanford Cardinal in to the Hillenbrand Aquatics Center. This time, though, it was the Cardinal who came out on top in a score of 169-131.
Swimming the same schedule of events as the day before, the Wildcats were just a little bit off after a big emotional win over Cal. They again started the meet with a win in the 200 medley, but this time were just a 1:39.05 (six-tenths slower than the day before). Margo Geer did anchor in another 21.6, though for the rest of the meet, she too would look a bit flatter than the day before.
Stanford, meanwhile, who switched-up their entries quite a bit from the day before against Arizona State, brought their A-game to this meet. Stanford senior Andi Murez took the Cardinal’s first win of the meet in the women’s 200 free with a 1:46.79. She stepped on the gas on the last 50 yards to pull away from a 1:47.78 from Geer, the runner-up.
Lauren Smart was another early bright spot for the Wildcats, though, in the meet’s 4th event as they took a big early lead. She dipped under 54 seconds to win the 100 back in 53.83 and followed that up with a win later in the meet in the 100 fly in 54.15: her second straight in the event. In both races, she topped Stanford’s Felicia Lee, who is working her way back from shoulder surgery in this meet. Lee swam 54.2′s in both events; though historically those won’t rank as great swims for her, even given the timing, they’re good enough to have confidence that she’s healthy again.
Arizona had taken a majority of the wins to this point of the meet, but it was time for the Cardinal to really kick things into gear from there-out. That included a fantastic win in the 50 free from Maddy Schaefer in 22.56: winning by nearly a second. That’s not a margin one usually sees at a meet of this caliber, but is great for the Cardinal as they count on Schaefer to carry a depleted sprint group in March. Maya DiRado added a win in the 200 backstroke in 1:56.26, followed by Annemarie Thayer in 1:58.16. Thayer has been having a breakout season in the backstrokes and could be another individual scorer at NCAA’s for the Cardinal.
Meanwhile, World’s silver medalist Bonnie Brandon was only 4th in that 200 back, her best event internationally; so good was she in the distance freestyles on Friday, that she got to swim them again on Saturday with great success. First, she won the 1000 in 9:53.53: a two second drop from the day before. She followed that with a 4:49.87 in the 500, another improvement, to sweep the two races. She was one of the few top Wildcats to drop time from Tucson to Tempe.
Stanford would close the meet and wrap the victory with a win in the 400 free relay in 3:18.31, where Schaefer had to chase-down Monica Drake for a half-a-second victory.
Overall, Arizona actually won more races than Stanford did (9-7), but the Cardinal displayed a much greater level of depth. In races where the Cardinal won, they often took a few of the top 3 spots; whereas in Arizona wins, Stanford would still come in 2-3 or sometimes even 2-3-4. This should leave Stanford in a good position still at the Pac-12 Championships, but the edge will slip away at NCAA’s, where the Cardinal will have to be more reliant on their very top-tier swimmers. These two teams could see another very good battle within that 3rd-5th place range at NCAA’s.