Senior Julia Smit of Stanford on Friday accomplished what no American, NCAA, or Pac-10 woman has done in the history of swimming. Smit shattered the illustrious 4-minute mark in the championship final of the 400 individual medley to open the third evening of competition at the Pac-10 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, Calif.
Smit didn’t traipse lightly into uncharted water. By touching the wall tonight in 3:58.23 Smit obliterated her previous American-best 4:00.56, which she set in the process of being crowned 2009 NCAA champion in the 400 I.M. The crowd of 1,000 elicited a tremendous roar as they willed Smit to get to the wall under 4:00. The excitement, it turned out, would not cease for the duration of the evening’s swims.
As the contenders approached the start blocks for the 400 I.M., the fans knew they were in store for a strong race. Seeded to the right of Smit was USC’s Katinka Hosszu, world champion in the 400-meter variety of the I.M. and runner-up to Smit in Thursday’s 200 I.M. Two lanes to Smit’s left was Cardinal teammate and 200 I.M. fourth place finisher Liz Smith. Also in the mix was U.S. National Team member and California freshman Caitlin Leverenz.
Through the butterfly and backstroke legs Smit and Hosszu were neck-and-neck. The Stanford captain held less than a .70-second advantage over the Trojan. But during the breaststroke leg it became a one-woman show to the finish. Smit unleashed a split that was 1.5 seconds quicker than the heat’s next-fastest breaststroker. She repeated the difference on the freestyle leg. Smit’s time of 3:58.23 trumped her rivals by more than six seconds. The Pac-10 title is Smit’s third in the event.
Hosszu (4:04.86), Leverenz (4:06.61), and Smith (4:07.16) followed Smit to the wall, respectively. All four women notched NCAA automatic qualifying times. Leverenz broke her own California school record her third place effort of 4:06.61.
In the 100 butterfly the California-Stanford-USC punch swung again. This time the players were Hannah Wilson (CAL), 2009 Pac-10 champion Elaine Breeden (STAN), and Lyndsay DePaul (USC). Wilson and DePaul both carry credits as World University Games medalists, while Breeden earned a silver medal for the 400-meter medley relay at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The morning’s preliminary seedings held true in the evening contest. Breeden defended her title from last year in 51.24. Wilson finished runner-up (51.79) and DePaul was third (51.86). All three marks beat the NCAA qualifying standard.
The 200 freestyle was a wake-up call for Arizona State. Sun Devil freshman Paige Schultz swam to a second place finish in the bonus final which warmed the waters for teammate Rebecca Ejdervik in the following event, the 100 breaststroke. It has been five years since a member of the Arizona State squad claimed individual victory in a Pac-10 Championship event. Ejdervik ended the drought. She bested stiff competition from Arizona’s Annie Chandler (1:00.13) and Brittany Beauchan (1:00.84) of the Bruins to collect the 100 breaststroke crown by .07 of a second. A Swedish National Team member, Ejdervik’s 1:00.06 was just shy of breaking the minute-mark.
“We’re thrilled for Rebecca and thrilled for the program,” said ASU head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. “Each day we’re getting a little bit stronger at this meet. Rebecca’s win is further impetus for the progression of our program.”
Presenting Ejdervik’s championship award for the 100 breaststroke was another Rebecca, international breaststroke sensation Rebecca Soni. A 2009 graduate of USC, Soni won gold in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is a world champion, and four times won the breaststroke competitions at the NCAA and Pac-10 Championships. She is the current NCAA record-holder.
In the 200 freestyle grand final Stanford’s Kate Dwelley won back the title she won in 2008, posting a season-best 1:44.20, four tenths in front of Sara Isakovic (1:44.55) of the Golden Bears. A freshman up-and-comer for the Cardinal collected third place in Andi Murez (1:46.02).
Junior Presley Bard won the Trojans’ first conference title in the 100 backstroke. Bard, a former All-American at Indiana in her first year of competition for the Trojans, won the 100 back in 51.92, just off the school record but well ahead of runner-up Betsy Webb of Stanford. Webb’s 52.46 broke Catherine Fox’s 1999 record of 52.47 by one-hundreth of a second. Finishing off the podium was Arizona’s Ana Agy in third, the event’s defending champion.
The Cardinal finished off the day winning the 400 medley relay, as breaststroker Liz Smith took over the lead before handing it off to two conference champions, Breeden (fly) and Dwelley (freestyle) for the final two 100-yard legs. Breeden extended the lead, as did Dwelley, as the quartet finished with a time of 3:31.87. Unlike in other Pac-10 relays, the 400 medley has seen four institutions win the event in the past five years. But California and Arizona asserted their relay prowess by nabbing second and third place, respectively. California’s 3:32.76 fell just off the NCAA automatic time of 3:32.56. Arizona was another second behind in 3:33.65.
“We were a little flat this morning, but tonight we’re swimming like the team we’ve been all season. I don’t know where we’ll finish in the meet, but I couldn’t be prouder [of our team],” said Stanford volunteer assistant coach Erik Maurer.
Women’s Team Rankings Through Day 3 (of 4):
1. Stanford, 988
2. California, 921
3. USC, 842.5
4. Arizona, 809
5. UCLA, 644.5
6. Arizona State, 424
7. Oregon State, 317
8. Washington State, 237
The above article is a press release from Pac 10 Swimming and Diving. The contents of the article have not been edited.