Sports

Stanford women hope to make waves at NCAA swimming

The Stanford women's swimming and diving team takes some of the top times in the nation to the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championships this week in Minneapolis, Minn.

Action begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

The Cardinal will look to improve its run of 32 straight finishes within the NCAA's top eight, a streak that has spanned every year of the national meet's existence. Stanford was eighth last season. It's best finish in recent years was second in 2010.

"I'm as excited about this group of young women as I have been with any team I've ever been a part of," said head coach Greg Meehan. "They have worked so hard to put themselves in a position to be successful this week; and as a coach, that's all you can ask for. Their consistency day in and day was impressive. Now they can go enjoy being in the moment of racing for Stanford and helping our team achieve its goals."

Stanford has 11 times that fall in the country's top 10, including three from seniors Maya DiRado and Felicia Lee. Those two also have helped the Cardinal become one of the top relay teams in the nation, as all five relay squads have qualified with top-four marks.

DiRado, a 15-time All-American, is poised for another outstanding NCAA meet. She finished second in the 400 IM, third in 200 IM, fifth in 200 back at the 2013 championships and has qualified second in both the 200 IM and 200 fly and third in the 400 IM this season. It will be the final meet in her storied Cardinal career that includes seven Pac-12 titles and eight appearances in Stanford's record book for all-time top-five times.

The versatile Lee won a pair of Pac-12 titles (100 fly, 200 medley relay) two weeks ago and will look to add to her resume filled with 12 All-American performances. She swam all five relays last season at the NCAA meet, helping Stanford to four top-five finishes and another seventh-place showing. This season, Lee has qualified ninth in the 200 IM, third in the 100 fly and 100 back and will once again be a large part of the relay effort.

The Cardinal has a pair of strong freestyle swimmers looking to make the NCAA finals. Lia Neal is ranked fourth in the 100 and 200 free and Maddy Schaefer is sixth in the 50 and ninth in the 100. Neal also comes in 22nd in the 200 free and Schaefer is 17th on the 100 back list.

Katie Olsen could make a bid for the finals in both breaststroke events. She ranks seventh in the 100 and 13th in the 200 after winning each event at the Pac-12 meet.

Other Stanford swimmers making the trip are Julia Anderson (200 free, 20th), Sarah Haase (100 breast, 24th), Mackenzie Stein (200fly, 27th), Nicole Stafford (relays), Andie Taylor (500 free, 34th; 400 IM, 22nd) and Annemarie Thayer (200 back, 13th).

Stanford's swimmers will be joined by Alex Clay, the sole diving representative for the Cardinal. Clay qualified for the NCAA meet by finishing second in the 1-meter diving competition at Zones.

"She just had an amazing three weeks," diving coach Dr. Rick Schavone said. "She had a great conference meet, a good week of practice and then a great day (at Zones). Again, the only word I can think of is amazing."

Cal, meanwhile, has 16 swimmers and one diver entered this week -- including sophomore Rachael Acker from Gunn High. She was ninth in the 200 free at nationals last season.

The Bears, who will be seeking their fourth national crown since 2009, enter the meet with confidence following their Pac-12 championship at the beginning of the month. Of those traveling, 10 are returning All-Americans from 2013.

Cal freshman Missy Franklin makes her first appearance at the NCAA Championships after earning Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet honors two weeks ago when she captured all three of her events -- 100, 200 and 500 free -- in meet-record times and helped three relays to victories.

As a team, Cal has placed among the top five at the NCAA meet each of the last eight years, including championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Last season, the Bears were second overall, while they were third in 2010.

ESPN3 will stream the championship finals sessions on Friday and Saturday. Thursday's sessions, along with the morning sessions on Friday and Saturday, will be streamed live via gophersports.com. Coverage of the championships will also be broadcast on ESPNU at 6 p.m. (PT), Wednesday, April 2.

— Stanford Athletics

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