Four by two theme of the day for Cardinal women swimmers


Junior Lia Neal sprinted to wins in the 50 free and 100 free, one of four Stanford swimmers to capture multiple events, and the second-ranked Cardinal swam past host No. 19 UCLA, 189-118, in a Pac-12 women's meet Friday.

Janet Hu, Sacred Heart Prep grad Ally Howe and freshman Ella Eastin also won twice for Stanford (5-0, 5-0 Pac-12), which swims again Saturday in a dual meet at USC.

Senior Sarah Haase, junior Tara Halsted and freshman Leah Stevens also won events for the Cardinal.

"Our seniors were really good," Stanford coach Greg Meehan said. "Jaynie (Pulte), Sarah and KC (Moss) in particular, really led the group. I'm pleased with the level of effort in our racing and look forward to seeing them get back at it again tomorrow against Southern Cal."

Haase won the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:00.95, Halsted won the 1,000 free in 10:03.31 and Stevens took the 500 free in 4:55.55.

Eastin earned her first victory in the 200 freestyle at 1:48.42, and then broke the two-minute barrier and bested the field in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:59.18.

Hu, who won four events in Stanford's two wins last week, was tops in the 100 back at 52.69 and the 200 back at 1:55.06.

Neal won the 50 free (22.28) and the 100 free (49.26), while Howe edged her Bruins counterpart Katie Grover by seven-tenths of a second in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:59.02, and out-touched Grover by three-tenths of a second in the 100 fly at 54.54.

Stanford bookended the meet with victories in the 200 medley relay (1:42.18) and 200 freestyle relay (1:30.97).

Track and field

Stanford's men's and women's distance medley relay teams ran times among the fastest in collegiate history Friday at the Penn State National indoor track and field invitational and ensured qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships.

The Cardinal men's quartet of Tom Coyle, Jackson Shumway, Justin Brinkley, and Sean McGorty set a school record of 9:27.27, the fifth-fastest in collegiate history, while finishing inches behind winner Penn State on the 200-meter banked Ashenfelter Track. It eclipsed the 9:28.25 run on an oversized track by the 2013 quartet of Tyler Stutzman, Spencer Chase, Luke Lefebure, and Michael Atchoo.

The Cardinal women's team of Claudia Saunders, Kristyn Williams, Olivia Baker, and Rebecca Mehra won its race in 10:54.58, the No. 8 collegiate time ever and the third-fastest by a Stanford team. Saunders, a senior, has been part of all three of those teams.

The DMR is contested in legs of 1,200, 400, 800, and 1,600 meters and is staple of collegiate indoor track and the signature event of the Stanford indoor tradition.

Cardinal teams have combined for six NCAA titles – five by the men and one by the women – and 19 top-five finishes, with the Stanford women finishing second the past two years.

McGorty's reaction to the record?

"I had no idea," he said. "To run that fast and break a school record with the history we've had is definitely exciting. And to do it this early … It's only the start."

The meet was Stanford's second of the season and the first with a DMR. For the men, a time of 9:32 is generally regarded as the cutoff for qualification into the 12-team NCAA field. For the women, 11:06 is the time to shoot for.

Rest assured, both teams will be at nationals March 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama. This will be the seventh consecutive NCAA berth for the Cardinal men's DMR and the fifth for the women's.

While the men's race came down to four high-quality teams, the women's DMR was a straight-up duel between Stanford and Georgetown.

On the opening leg, Saunders stayed on the shoulder of Georgetown's Andrea Keklak for most of their six laps before taking the lead, and losing it almost immediately.

Saunders ran a 1,200 split of 3:22.7 before handing off to Williams, who made up nearly all of a 15-meter deficit while covering 400 in a scorching 52.6.

Baker remained patient on the shoulder of Georgetown's Sabrina Southerland while running a controlled, but fast 2:02.6 split for 800, giving the baton to Mehra, a step behind.

Mehra, a senior and 2014 second-team outdoor All-America in the 1,500, had never anchored any relay at Stanford, much less a DMR, and faced off against Georgetown's Katrina Coogan, a two-time indoor All-America and experienced DMR anchor.

"It was an absolute honor to be able to represent Stanford on that anchor leg, it's been a dream of mine since I was in high school," Mehra wrote in a postrace text message. "I knew it was going to come down to a battle between us and Georgetown, so when I got the baton, I knew I would have to be calm and collected and stick with Katrina."

At the bell, Mehra knew it was her time to make a move and did so "with all I had," with her teammates in mind.

"The whole time, I was thinking, 'Do it for them,'" she wrote. "There really isn't any greater motivation!"

She took the lead, created a gap, and then withstood a final surge by Coogan. Mehra clocked a 4:36.0 split to win, far superior to her mile best of 4:40.46.

Almost just as encouraging for Stanford coach Chris Miltenberg, was the run of the women's DMR 'B' team, which came in third in 11:18.50. The splits were 3:25.5 for Maddy Berkson, 54.9 for Kaitlyn Williams, 2:08.3 for Malika Waschmann, and 4:49.8 for freshman Hannah Long, making her Stanford track debut.

For the men, Coyle burst to a 2:54.5 opening split in a tight group that featured Mississippi and Georgetown, and Penn State. Coyle handed off in third to Shumway, who powered into second with a 46.9 (his 400 personal best is 47.71) and closed hard on leader Ole Miss at the exchange.

Brinkley maintained second during his 1:49.6 leg, but lost ground to Ole Miss while Penn State and Georgetown moved up to his shoulder. That was the situation McGorty found himself in as he took the baton on the anchor, about 12 meters back.

Afterward, McGorty looked back on his run and realized how much he has grown as a runner, even since last year. Here's why:

First, he was faced with a choice: Push hard to close the gap from Ole Miss anchor Sean Tobin, but risk being caught in the dreaded 'no man's land,' or be content in leading a chase pack and staying patient. McGorty chose the former.

"I had eyes on him the whole time," McGorty said. "No second guessing."

McGorty indeed pushed the pace and eventually caught Tobin with about 700 to go. Again he faced a choice: Relax for a moment and save for a kick, or continue to grind laps at a fast pace and see what happens. He chose the latter.

"I have a certain amount of confidence in knowing what I can and can't do," McGorty said. "I wanted to stay in rhythm. There was no point in slowing down and changing gears again for a kick. Once I caught up, I knew I had to be decisive."

Penn State and Georgetown keyed off McGorty, with Nittany Lions' anchor Brannon Kidder passing McGorty and grabbing the inside lane as they approached the final turn.

McGorty refused to lose and bent wide to create a side-by-side sprint to the finish, where Kidder outleaned the Stanford junior at the line, with Penn State running 9:27.20, the No. 4 time in collegiate history.

"Last year, I would have thought, 'I can't catch him,' or settled for second," McGorty said. "I don't really think I can count myself out anymore."

McGorty's 1,600 split was 3:55.8, a time that converts to a 3:57.2 mile, or about a 3:57.4 with a standing start. That far exceeds McGorty's personal best of 3:59.34 (on an oversized indoor track) and indicates a higher level of fitness for McGorty, who placed seventh at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last fall.

"This was another huge step for me," McGorty said. "I had a 1,200 time trial last week at that pace, that made me feel ready. I knew I was in this shape and I can run that rhythm."

After the race, Atchoo, the anchor on that 2013 record team and on the Cardinal DMR that won the 2014 NCAA title, sent a congratulatory text message. Atchoo has been the example to McGorty, as a fellow strength-based runner who knew how to anchor a championship DMR. In other words, McGorty has approached this season and this moment well prepared.

"We all wanted to run fast, we had that 9:32 gold standard in the back of our minds," McGorty said. "But time wasn't really talked about. It was really about competing."

They did, and more.

Women's tennis

No. 8 Stanford dropped a hotly contested 4-3 decision to No. 25 Mississippi on Friday in a neutral-site match for both teams.

The match lasted more than five hours, with Mariha Milutinovic outlasting Kimberly Yee, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5, at the No. 6 spot to clinch the match for Mississippi (3-0).

Leading 3-1, Stanford (1-1) was unable to lock up a fourth point in the singles competition, which saw five of six matches decided in straight sets.

The Cardinal locked up the doubles point for an early 1-0 advantage, despite the No. 1 team of Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle suffering only its second loss in 15 matches.

Krista Hardebeck made it 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Mai El Kamash at the No. 3 spot before Mississippi finally got on the scoreboard thanks to Arianne Hartono's upset of Taylor Davidson at the top spot of the lineup.

Caroline Lampl booked a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Zalina Khairudinova on court five, putting Stanford on the brink of clinching the match.

But the Rebels countered with three straight victories, capped by Milutinovic.

Milutinovic, a senior, jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Yee, one of three Cardinal freshmen, moved in front 4-3. Milutinovic then led 5-4 only to have Yee even the set at 5-5. However, Milutinovic registered another break and held serve to close out the victory.

Stanford faces defending NCAA champion and top-ranked Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Men's volleyball

No. 6 Stanford swept host Cal Baptist, 25-22, 25-21, 25-21, Friday, at the Van Dyne Gym in Riverside.

Stanford (6-1, 4-1 MPSF) hit .405 as a team playing without senior Madison Hayden, who did not dress for the match.

Cal Baptist (3-5, 0-5 MPSF) hit .313. The Cardinal, which has won the opening set in all seven matches this season, earned its third sweep of the year.

Starting for Hayden, senior Alex Stephanus led the team with nine kills, tying his career-high, on .438 hitting.

Senior middle blocker Conrad Kaminski added eight kills on a .538 attack percentage, five blocks and two aces for the Cardinal, while redshirt junior Gabriel Vega finished with eight kills and three blocks.

Senior setter James Shaw directed the offense with 30 assists and was 6-0-6 (1.000) on his attacks.

Freshman Jordan Ewert had his most efficient match as a Cardinal, notching a career-high seven kills on a career-best .385 attack percentage.

Redshirt sophomore Kevin Rakestraw rounded out the balanced attack with six kills on 10 swings with just one error.

Defensively, libero Evan Enriques squared off against a familiar face on the other side of the net. The Punalu'u, Hawai'i native's younger brother, Emmett, is the starting libero for the Lancers.

Evan won the dig battle in their first meeting as opponents, 10-2. It marked the third double-digit dig match of the season for the sophomore.

Stanford completes the weekend Sunday at USC. The Cardinal and Trojans will meet at the Galen Center at 4 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Networks.

— Stanford Athletics

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