Sophomore Ella Eastin set an American record, and freshman Katie Ledecky won her second individual title to push top-ranked Stanford further into the lead at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships inside IUPUI Natatorium on Friday night.
The Cardinal leads the meet with 374.5 points. Cal is second with 255 points and Texas A&M is third with 209. A national champion will be crowned on Saturday. Stanford has won eight NCAA titles and nine overall, the most in the nation, but has not won since 1998.
Eastin broke Ledecky's American and NCAA records in the 400-yard individual medley with a swim of 3:57.57. She made the turn at 1:53.9 and split at 3:08.41 entering the free.
As the defending champion in the event, Eastin joined Summer Sanders and Julia Smit as the only Cardinal swimmers to win the 400 IM NCAA title in back-to-back years.
"I'm so excited. I honestly didn't expect to see that time on the board when I finished," Eastin said. "I take a lot pride in winning for my team. That is a lot of the reason I was upset last night. I knew getting my hand on the wall first was something I really wanted to do."
Eastin set the tone for Stanford in the first race of the evening session.
"Ella committed to her race plan, and swam in a very confident way," Stanford coach Greg Meehan said. "When she does that, and swims with confidence, she is really tough to beat. For her to get down to 3:57.5 is really impressive."
Eastin said the game plan was to go quick, but smooth. She wanted to be in the lead before the breaststroke.
“I felt really pushed in the first 200, knowing I did need to be ahead," she said. "Once I caught my stride, I think I was pretty confident and didn’t really look back. But I knew that people were going to be coming for me until the very last second. It was easy to be motivated."
There are few events where Stanford has not had success over its history, but the program had not won the NCAA title in the 200 free since Marybeth Linzmeier in 1982 and 1984. Ledecky put an end to that 33-year drought. She finished as the co-NCAA champion with Mallory Comerford of Louisville. The pair tied at 1:40.36 – a school record for Ledecky.
Ledecky was one of five Stanford swimmers in the 200 free finals. Simone Manuel was also in the A final and finished third with a time of 1:40.70. Meanwhile, a trio of Cardinal was in the consolation final.
Senior Lia Neal (1:43.19) was second to finish 10th overall, freshman Katie Drabot (1:44.82) finished 14th and Nicole Stafford (1:46.03) was 16th.
Stafford's 200 free marked her first career individual All-America recognition. She earned that accolade with an inspiring swim in the prelims.
The senior was the 33rd seed in the event but earned the last spot in the consolation final with a personal-best swim of 1:44.96.
"There was a huge celebration," Meehan said. "It was a great moment of reflection of what it took to make that happen. We all know what she has gone through, and her resiliency and resolve to our program says a lot about her as a person."
Kassidy Cook earned her second All-America honor in as many days. About 24 hours after she reached the finals on the 1-meter, Cook finished third in the finals on the 3-meter. She scored a 372.30 to score 16 more points for the Cardinal. For the meet, she collected 27 points.
Janet Hu, who seems to swim in every event, earned another All-America award in the 100 butterfly with a sixth-place finish of 50.81. Naturally, she was also in the 100 backstroke.
She finished alongside teammate Ally Howe, who has also had a heavy workload this week. Howe was fourth at 50.58, and Hu was fifth at 50.73.
Howe and Hu were also part of the 200 medley relay. Kim Williams and Manuel helped the foursome finish third with a time of 1:34.90.
Williams earned the highest individual finish of her NCAA career with a 29th-place showing in the breaststroke (1:00.58), Leah Stevens was 23rd in the 400 individual medley (4:09.90), Lindsey Engel was 25th in the 100 fly (52.37) and Erin Voss was 40th in the 100 back (53.35).