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Stanford's Manuel wins 50 free to open NCAA swim finals

 

Stanford freshman Simone Manuel won the 50-yard freestyle and anchored the 400 medley relay to an American record at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on Thursday in Greensboro, N.C.

The 50 free time of 21.32 is a Stanford record and the second-fastest mark in history to Lara Jackson's 21.27 in 2009.

Manuel also clocked the fastest 100 free split (45.45) in history on the final leg of the 400 medley relay that stopped the clocks in 3:26.41. That broke the existing American, NCAA, U.S. Open, meet and school marks previously set by Stanford last year.

Manuel entered the water more than two seconds after Virginia's Ellen Thomas, but caught up to win by .01 while also holding off Cal's Missy Franklin. The Cardinal (3:26.41), Cavaliers (3:26.42) and Bears (3:27.17) clocked the three fastest times in history in the event.

"I think for starters, congrats to Virginia and to Cal because they had two great relays and it wasn't easy to get a win there," said Stanford head coach Greg Meehan. "It was a very impressive performance by both of those squads. Simone's teammates put her in that position to do what she's capable of. She's capable of doing some pretty crazy things. To get her hand on the wall first was an amazing thing for our program and for our fans to celebrate that."

Freshman Ally Howe from Sacred Heart Prep led off with a 52.00 in the 100 back and was followed by senior Katie Olsen, freshman Janet Hu and Manuel. Olsen was a member of last year's record-setting squad.

"I'm pretty excited," Manuel said after her 50 free. "(My) first individual event at NCAAs, so I'm really excited for the rest of the week.

"I was a little nervous (before the race). I made a couple mistakes on my relay swim, so I just tried to focus on some of the things my coach was telling me. At the same time, you don't want to think too much because you might mess up something else. So I really just tried to go out there and have as much fun as I could."

Manuel started the finals by leading off the 200 free relay team. She clocked 21.68 as Stanford, the defending champ, finished second to Cal. The Bears, featuring Olympic champion Missy Franklin, won in 1:26.41 with the Cardinal next in 1:26.52.

Stanford's team included sophomore Lia Neal, Hu and Howe.

"We had three freshman on that relay and it's usually hard to rely on freshman for their first NCAA time," Meehan said.

Stanford also picked up second-place points from Kassidy Cook in the 1-meter diving. She finished with 340.20 points, just 5.7 points out of the lead.

Despite all the fireworks, Stanford trails two-time defending champion Georgia (172) and rival Cal (162) in the team standings. the Cardinal is third with 111 points.

— Stanford Athletics

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