Stanford grad DiRado among the swim stars in Mesa meet


The road to the U.S. Olympic Trials in swimming and a possible trip to 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio continued this past weekend at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa, Ariz. For former Stanford All-American Maya DiRado, the meet was a complete success.

DiRado came away with three victories and a pair of third-place finishes while moving into second place in the scoring.

"I'm in a really good place aerobically with my training," said DiRado, who still trains with Stanford Swimming. "I am just really pleased with how I feel in the water. I'm pretty tired, but to go those times is very encouraging. We came off a great camp in Colorado Springs, and so I'm just trying to ride that momentum through the (Olympic) Trials."

On Saturday's final night, DiRado claimed the women's 200-meter individual medley and 200 backstroke titles within a 20-minute span. She took the 200 IM in 2:11.09 and came back quickly to take the 200 back in 2:08.61. She also won the 100 back on Friday in 1:00.71 and finished third in the 200 free (1:58.64) and 200 fly (2:10.33).

Equally impressive was future Stanford star Katie Ledecky, who is deferring her freshman season on The Farm to train for the Rio Games. The world's greatest distance swimmer won the 800 free in 8:13.20, won the 400 free in 4:02.15 and took the 200 free in 1:55.71. She also was sixth in the 100 free (54.89), which was won by Stanford's Simone Manuel in 53.80.

Ledecky won the 800 by 14 seconds in the second-fastest swim in the world this year to her January world record in Austin. Ledecky was back in the pool about 40 minutes later in the finals of the 100 free.

On a windy Friday night that saw gusts of 25 mph at the outdoor Skyline Aquatic Center, Ledecky's 400 free was the second-fastest time in the world this year, about two and a half seconds slower than her world's best time of 3:59.54, which she swam at last month's Arena Pro Swim Series at Austin.

"It's hard not to feel (the wind), I guess, on my odd 50s, but I tried to forget about it as much as I could," Ledecky said. "You deal with the conditions you're dealt with, and I'm happy with how I swam. It's kind of what (coach) Bruce (Gemmell) expected what I would be tonight. It didn't really affect my splits too much. I just had to work a little harder on the odd 50s."

Other local winners during the meet included B.J. Johnson of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics in the men's 200 breast in 2:14.16.

Manuel, who is redshirting this season at Stanford, finished fourth in the 50 free (24.78) and sixth in the 200 free (1:59.08). Cardinal teammate Lia Neal tied for fourth in the 100 free (54.70) and won the B final of the 50 free (ninth overall) in 25.13.

Stanford freshman Ella Eastin was second in the 200 IM (2:11.35), third in the 400 IM (4:42.11), fourth int he 200 fly (2:12.59) and seventh in the 100 back.

The Arena Pro Swim Series at Mesa is the fourth of seven stops of the 2015-16 Arena Pro Swim Series. As part of USA Swimming's partnership with swimwear leader Arena, the circuit will feature a record $350,000 in overall prize money. Swimmers may earn awards for top-three finishes in all individual Olympic events across the series.

At each meet, $1,000 will be provided for a first-place finish, $600 for second and $200 for third. In addition to the single-event prize money, the overall male and female winners of the season-long Series will earn a $10,000 bonus.

Ledecky leads the women's standings with 55 points with DiRado second with 40 and Manuel fifth with 21.

One of the two final stops on the swim series will be in Santa Clara on June 3-5.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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