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Stanford's DiRado on winning the 400 IM:

 

Katie Ledecky, who begins her college career at Stanford in the fall, established herself as a star Olympic swimmer and world record holder while Cardinal grad Maya DiRado produced NCAA titles and collected All-American honors.

They may never be teammates in college but after each of them won a pair of individual events during the Olympic Trials in Omaha earlier this week, they can do themselves one better by calling themselves United States Olympic swim teammates.

Both swimmers qualified in a pair of parallel events. Ledecky won the 400 free in 3:58.98, .61 seconds off her world record time. DiRado won the 400 IM in 4:33.73.

In the 200 IM, DiRado paced the field with a 2:09.54. Stanford sophomore Ella Eastin was fifth in 2:11.49.

"It's a different way of swimming from how well you do," DiRado said. "It comes down to 'Are you first or are you second?' It's a little bit stressful. Once the race was on, I felt strong."

As she was closing in on her 400 IM victory, there was a moment she could appreciate her accomplishment.

"During the freestyle, I looked down at the bottom of the pool," she said. "I was thinking 'Is this happening right now?' I could see that I was ahead . . . I don't know . . . it was perfect."

Four years ago DiRado had no idea what to expect out of the Olympic trials. Before the meet began Sunday, she felt better prepared.

"I knew I did all the training," DiRado said. "I knew I put together all the pieces."

Winning the 400 helped her win the 200 as well. She could swim her own race.

"I could see where I was at," DiRado said. "It was nice when you don't feel anyone gaining on you. I just put my head down and charged home."

For Ledecky, it was old hat. The owner of Olympic gold medals and world records appeared cool, calm and collected.

"It was hard to sleep getting ready for the first event; having all that excitement there," Ledecky said. "But it's all about racing. That's what it's like on the national stage. You care least about time. I had seven great competitors and friends racing. I knew it would be a dogfight."

Her concentration on maintaining a consistent stroke, a consistent rhythm, kept her focus on the race.

"I could tell I was tightening up a little bit," Ledecky said. "Knowing I had to get my hand to the wall got me through that. I heard the crowd and the announcer saying something. It always helps when the crowd gets into it. You what to put up a good swim, put on a show."

Ledecky and DiRado highlighted an all-around solid effort from past, present and future Cardinal swimmers.

Eastin's strong showing in the 200 IM puts an exclamation point on her freshman year at Stanford. Following in the wake of DiRado, Eastin won both the 200 and 400 IMs at the NCAA championship in helping the Cardinal finish second in the nation.

"I try to take it one race at a time," Eastin said. "I noticed when I pushed off back to breast I didn't feel like myself. It's an old habit, especially when I'm tired. I need to make it more fluid."

Eastin's teammates in the fall will include Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Katie Drabot, Lia Neal, Lindsey Engel, Ally Howe, Janet Hu, Alex Meyers, Kim Williams, Leah Stevens, Nicole Stafford, Mehan Byrnes and Allie Szekely, among others. They all competed in the Olympic trials this week.

Sarah Haase, who finished seventh in the 100 breast in 1:08.01, graduated from Stanford in the spring. She announced her retirement via her Instagram account following the breaststroke.

"That's a wrap on 16 years of swimming . . . always proud and humbled to wear the Stanford 'S' on my cap . . . thanks to everyone who helped me get here," she wrote.

Manuel reached the finals of Thursday night's 100 free, along with Neal and Ledecky. She finished seventh in the 200 free, a good sign for the sprinter.

"The first 100 felt pretty relaxed," she said. "Things look good for the 100 free. I wanted to go out as fast as I could. My coach (Stanford's Greg Meehan) said to use my sprinter's speed. I wanted to hold on at the end and hopefully bring the last 50 back a lot faster."

On the men's side, Stanford sophomore Abrahm DeVine, Stanford grads BJ Johnson, Eugene Godsoe and David Nolan and incoming freshmen Nicholas "True" Sweetser and Grant Shoults all raced in championship finals.

Cardinal grads Bobby Bollier and Drew Cosgarea and Stanford junior Liam Egan each swam in consolation finals.

Cosgarea was a freshman when Bollier was a senior at Stanford.

"It was special, especially my freshman year," Cosgarea said. "For the first time I felt part of something a lot bigger than myself. It was something I wasn't used to."

Cosgarea also said Stanford utilized peer coaching, something he had not encountered before or after.

"That was one of the most unique things," he said. "We'd stay around an extra 20 minutes doing turns and working on dives."

DeVine felt prepared for his first Olympic Trials experience because of the NCAA championship meet.

"It's a bigger stage than I'm used to," DeVine said. "But I think I was well-prepared for it. I was scratched into the finals and swam another best time there. That's all you can ask for."

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