Stanford women splash to second at NCAA swim finals


In a wild three-way race for the national title on Saturday at the 2016 Women's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta, Ga., Stanford finished as the national runner-up for the second time in three years.

The Cardinal also earned its 36th straight top-eight finish (every year the NCAA has sponsored a championship meet) and its 12th top-five showing in the last 13 years.

In all, Stanford had 10 different All-Americans combine for 35 All-America honors, three individual national champions and two NCAA relay titles.

It was Stanford's last individual national championship that set up a dramatic final race with the team title at stake.

Stanford, which suffered a disqualification in the 200-yard freestyle relay on Thursday, had stormed back to tie California heading into the diving event on Saturday night. But Stanford still trailed Georgia by 48 points.

Enter sophomore Gracia Leydon-Mahoney, who made up most of that deficit as the first Cardinal diver to win the national title on the platform since 2001. The Newton, Mass., native capped off a sweep of All-America accolades in the three diving events with a score of 346.15. In addition, she was joined on the podium by senior teammate Lilly Hinrichs, who finished sixth with a score of 275.10 and capped her career with back-to-back All-America honors in the event.

That duo pulled Stanford within 15 points of Georgia, and within striking distance entering the 400-yard freestyle relay. But the Cardinal finished fourth and came up just short in its quest for an NCAA record ninth national championship.

As part of the comeback on Saturday, a pair of Cardinal sophomores scored and earned All-America status in the 200-yard backstroke. Janet Hu finished 10th with a time of 1:52.22 in the consolation finals, while Ally Howe finished 15th with a time of 1:52.59 in the same race.

In her final race as a Cardinal, senior Sarah Haase added her 10th career All-America honor -- and fourth of the meet -- with the second-fastest time in school history in the 200-yard breaststroke. She finished fourth at 2:06.50. The Rockville, Md., native also finished her career with three national titles which included the 200 and 400 medley relays this year and the 100-yard breaststroke in 2015.

Freshman Ella Eastin and junior Lia Neal each added to their All-America honors with national runner-up performances in their individual events. Neal, who competed in 14 races at the meet, was second in the 100-yard freestyle (47.00), while Eastin nearly won her third national title of the meet with a big comeback in the 200-yard fly. She was just out-touched by eight-hundreths of a second, but her time of 1:54.06 still ranked among the top five all-time in the event.

In addition to Eastin, Lindsey Engel tacked on nine more crucial points with a win in the 200 fly consolation final (1:54.13).

In the end, Georgia won the team title with 414 points. Stanford finished with 395 and defending champ Cal totaled 358.

The second-place finish capped an impressive 2016 campaign for Stanford, which finished unbeaten (7-0) in the regular season and ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation.

— Stanford Athletics

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