Former USC swimmer Amanda Smith is leading our coverage on the women’s Pac 12 Championship meet.
The PAC-12 Championship falls only three weeks before “the big dance” of NCAAs. With that timing, we may not see the big times like we did last week at the mega SEC meet, but the women of the PAC-12 did not disappoint on the first full day of events.
Two time defending PAC-12 champion, PAC-12 record holder and reigning NCAA champion Haley Anderson wasn’t going to give up her chance to three-peat in the 500 freestyle easily tonight. She was challenged wire-to-wire by a freshman, Arizona’s Bonnie Brandon, and thanks to a .5 margin lead into the final 50, Anderson was able to hold off Brandon’s charging final 26.77 50 split. Anderson took the 500 in 4:38.79 to Brandon’s 4:38.93.
ASU’s Cassie Morrice was able to finish third, besting a 5th place finish last year in her final season for the Sundevils. Cal’s Catherine Breed was runner-up to Anderson last year, but finished 4th this year (4:42.10), which may show how her ACL injury has been affecting her. Her freshman teammate Lauren Driscoll followed her in 5th (4:42.12).
While Jasmine Tosky from USC had a “rough” swim in prelims with a 4:51.15, she was able to drop nearly six seconds and also carry teammate and fellow freshman Henriette Stenkvist to a 1-2 C final finish at 4:45.35 and 4:45.69 respectfully.
I am guessing we won’t see Tosky swim the 500 at NCAA. It does show that she was willing to help out her team in another event towards the team points.
Caitlin Leverenz has finished second to Katinka Hosszu for the past few years at the PAC-12 level, and this year she fell second again but to her own freshman teammate Elizabeth Pelton. Pelton claimed her first conference title of probably many in her years to come at Cal in 1:54.29.
Pelton had the lead at the halfway mark, but Leverenz threw down a 32.0 split on the breaststroke leg, but Pelton came charging back with a 26.6 last 50 versus 27.7 from Leverenz.
Leverenz was 1:52.43 at this meet last year and was about two second slower this year at 1:54.31 tonight. Interesting to see what a few more weeks of rest will do for her.
2012 NCAA All American’s Stina Gardell (USC-1:55.04), Maya Dirado (Stanford-1:55.44), and Meghan Hawthorne (USC-1:56.94) finished 3-4-5.
Margo Geer finished second to Liv Jensen at PAC-12 and NCAA last season, so her win tonight may foreshadow a great performance for her in a few weeks. She finished a tenth faster than this morning, and again the only sub-22 swimmer in the field at 21.78.
Maddy Schaefer finished second at 22.12. USC’s Kasey Carlson and Cal’s Kaylin Bing tied for third at 22.22. Bing dropped over .5 in this event, so maybe the Bears can look to her to fill some of holes from the loss of Jensen.
Stanford senior Andi Murez is having a great final season, finishing 5th in 22.25, bettering even her preliminary swim time at NCAAs last year.
Outside the typical perennial sprinting powers of Arizona, Cal and Stanford-Utah amidst all the coaching drama had a top 16th finish with junior Traycie Swartz. And Washington State had junior Emma Johansson dip under 23 at 22.97 for a 19th place finish.
3 Meter Diving
Last year, Stanford’s Stephanie Phipps finished 5th while Arizona’s Samantha Pickens finished 4th. This year Phipps had a great finals session of dives and beat out Pickens by just .6 of a point.
Within the top 24, Stanford had six divers score while USC had seven.
200 Freestyle Relay
Arizona came out as the champions tonight; led by the 50 free individual champion Geer, Kait Flederbach, Megan Lafferty, and Alana Pazevic finished in 1:27.93-with sub 22 splits from the middle two girls.
If we couldn’t say it enough, USC sprinting has come a long way in a year, they broke their own school record and finished second, bettering a sixth place finish last year. Carlson, Tosky, Kendyl Stewart, and Kasia Wilk teamed together with the front three all 22.2 or better, and Wilk solely dipping under 22, at 21.78.
Stanford and Cal were NCAA champs and runner-ups last year in this relay event, but had to settle for a 4th and 3rd place finishes tonight. Their sprint relays may be hurting from graduation of some seniors – two for the Cardinal and three for the Bears.
With great depth in all the individual events plus diving tonight, the Stanford Cardinal pulled ahead of the field, at 491.5 points. 37 points behind the Cardinal are the USC Trojan’s, and 47 points behind USC are the Arizona Wildcats. The defending PAC-12 and NCAA Champions Cal seem to be out of the race this year, almost 100 points back from Stanford in 4th.
The meet continues tomorrow morning with the 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, and 100 backstroke. The Stanford women really are looking exceptional, and if they continue with the meet they are having, it will be a great first year for Greg Meehan and staff.