Amanda Smith, a former USC Trojan swimmer beginning her quest toward graduate school, is working our coverage of the Pac 12 Women’s Championship this week.
While the times may not be as fast as last week, the team race is definitely the highlight of the Women’s PAC-12 Swimming & Diving Championships.
Most swim fans will remember that legendary IM’er Katinka Hosszu decided to swim the 200 free versus the 400 IM at last years PAC-12s. Caitlin Leverenz shined and controlled the field, but this year was a different story. Almost the same race strategy of a very strong final 100 freestyle was used by Stanford’s Maya Dirado to take the title tonight by .01 over Leverenz.
Dirado finished at 4:00.58 to Leverenz 4:00.59. Leverenz split a 1:06 on the breaststroke and had a 1.5 second lead on Dirado, but Dirado hammered home in 55-low freestyle split to take the race.
USC finished 3-4-5-6, led by the 2012 NCAA duo of Stina Gardell, 4:05.05 and Meghan Hawthorne, 4:06.76. Distance specialist Haley Anderson continued to shows her versatility finished 5th, 4:10.97, and Jessie Schmitt was 6th, 4:11.31.
And it’s hard to believe that she is just a freshman. USC’s Kendyl Stewart had a phenomenal swim tonight, breaking USC’s school record and taking the top spot tonight and also in the country with a time of 51.32. Her time tonight would have won the NCAA Championship last March. and the top two swimmers in the country this year (Louisville’s Kelsi Worrell is the other) are now both freshmen.
Yet another freshman, Cal’s Rachel Bootsma finished second to Stewart, also sub-52 in 51.78. Defending backstroke NCAA champion, Cindy Tran, finished third, 52.05. Megan Lafferty from Arizona was fourth, also under the A standard at 52.10.
Tight race from top to bottom, and great to see all eight A finalist swam faster tonight. This could shake up to be a highly anticipated race at the NCAA Championships in three weeks.
Utah started off a very good night with this 100 fly, where freshman Petra Soininen won the C-Final in 54.1. The Finnish swimmer has good international potential as well, swimming a 1:01.3 in the long course 100 fly in 2011.
Another freshman topped the field in the 200 freestyle, with Cal’s Rachael Acker besting Stanford’s senior Andi Murez by just about .1. Andi’s time from prelims would have won tonight, but she finished at 1:44.72 (1:44.42 prelims) to Acker’s 1:44.66. Cal also took the 3rd (Caroline Piehl), 7th (Camille Cheng) & 8th (Catherine Breed) place in the final.
Outside of the A final, senior from Arizona Monica Drake topped the B final in 1:46.45 (tie with USC’s Lynette Lim). She’s had a tough year, but it was great to see her able to fight her way up in this event.
With no A finalist, USC had to rely on great performance by Lim (tied for 9th) and senior Kate Shumway, 11th in the B final, and Kasia Wilk, topping the C final for team points.
Kasey Carlson was a bit off her sub-59 swim this morning, but she still took top honors in the event tonight. This is her first PAC-12 individual title. Carlson had a bumpy year last season with battling illnesses, and she seemed poised to have a great NCAAs in a few weeks.
Like we said this morning, it was a three way battle from three different teams, and Arizona’s Ellyn Baumgardner improved her morning swim by a second to finish second in 59.52. Another great performance by a freshman was by Stanford’s Sarah Haase finishing third, 59.54. Those women were the only three under the minute mark tonight.
Big time drop by ASU’s junior Alex Popa, cutting over a second off her preliminary time to top the B final, 1:00.49.
Lots of women did the “dirty” 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke double tonight. Finishing second in the 100 butterfly maybe gave her some fire, and Rachel Bootsma beat out her teammate and the defending champion Cindy Tran.
Bootsma finished in 50.64, .01 under the PAC-12 meet record, and just .3 behind her teammates winning time from last year NCAAs. Tran doesn’t seem to have her signature speed right now, so we’ll see how she fairs in a few weeks with some rest. Both swimmers have been faster than their times here this season, and between those two and Liz Pelton, Cal holds the 8 best swims in the country this season.
Felicia Lee has become a backstroke standout now that she’s healthy, finishing third and also going sub-52, in 51.63. Her two teammates Annemarie Thayer and Maddy Schaefer finished 7th and 8th.
Cal really was impressive in this event, finishing 1-2, and also 4-5 with Hoi Shun Au, 51.92 and Melanie Klaren, 52.17.
While it seemed like a Bear vs. Cardinal heat, Arizona’s Lauren Smart was able to break it up finishing 6th. USC once again with no A finalist swimmers, led a 9-10-11-12 place sweep in the B final, including Stewart finishing 10th.
ASU claimed their first title of the meet with diver Morgan Weller. Duke transfer Haley Ishimatsu and sister to legendary PAC-12 diver Tory Ishimatsu, did very well and may be following in her sisters footsteps on the springboards finishing second over last night’s 3m runner-up Arizona’s Samantha Pickens. Utah Sophomore Kersten Merry led the highest place for the Utes thus far in the championships with a 4th place finish.
Stanford had 3 A finalists, 2 B finalists and 1 C finalist contribute to over 100 points alone in diving.
400 Medley Relay
The 400 medley seemed that it may go more in the Bears’ favor, but Arizona topped the field with an impressive 46.49 anchor leg by Margo Geer.
Arizona, Cal and USC were all even after 300 yards, all around 2:42’s, but Margo really did ‘GO’ for her team, falling just a bit short of the meet and conference record. Besides Geer, the relay had teammates Lauren Smart, Ellyn Baumgardner (58.57 split) and Megan Lafferty (split a great 51.1 butterfly leg). Their time of 3:28.91 is already faster than their NCAA runner-up time from last year, and a new Arizona school record.
Cal finished 3:30.18 with Tran, Leverenz, Bootsma, and Acker. Leverenz was 58.60 and Bootsma was 51.35. If Tran can get her speed going, this relay should be very good in a few weeks.
Trojan’s were third in 3:30.57. Senior Yumi So led off in 53.24, but Carlson’s split of 57.95 got the Trojans back in the race. Stewart may had some fatigue by this point and split a 51.42, and Wilk finished strong sub-48 in 47.96.
Stanford finished fourth, two seconds back of USC.
What a night. After the IM’s, USC took a small marginal lead over Stanford. The Trojans built it a bit after the 100 butterfly, but with impressive depth in the mid-distance freestyle Cal emerged back in the game up to second place, only ten points behind the Trojans. And that was only halfway through the session.
After the breaststroke, backstroke, diving, and relay, Stanford emerged back as the leaders. They hold a small margin on the Trojans of only 8 points. Cal rebounded well today, but it seems as if they have locked themselves into third place being 70 points back from Stanford.
Tomorrow is the final day, and the individual events in the morning will be the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly and the 1650 freestyle in the afternoon. Should be an exciting morning, locking up “big”, “little”, and “little little” swims.
Team Standings after 3 days
1. Stanford University 953.5
2. University of Southern Califor 945.5
3. University of CA – Berkeley 883.5
4. University of Arizona 775
5. University of CA – Los Angeles 614.5
6. Arizona State University 572
7. The University of Utah 232
8. Oregon State 212
9. Washington State University 128