FEDERAL WAY, Wash., Feb. 23. DEFENDING Pacific-10 Conference women’s swimming and diving champion Arizona used its depth Friday to move into the lead at this year’s conference championship being staged at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington. The Wildcats didn’t win any of the eight finals, but edged past first-day leader USC going into Saturday’s final seven events.
Arizona has 795 points through 14 events, while surprising USC slipped to second with 771.5 points. UCLA is right behind cross-town rival USC with 766 points, while Stanford is fourth at 702. Those four are followed by California 642.5, Arizona State 483.5, Washington State 289, Washington 266 and Oregon State 231.
While three meet records and one Pacific-10 Conference standard fell Friday to Stanford athletes, it was not a good day for defending champions. In all, five competitors who won their specialties last year failed to repeat.
Stanford’s Tara Kirk, a freshman from nearby Bremerton, twice broke the meet record in the 100 breaststroke. Her time of 59.60 seconds in prelims and 59.58 in the finals, smashed the meet standard. She holds the conference mark at 59.51 seconds from a dual meet earlier this season.
Senior Misty Hyman, the Olympic 200 meter butterfly champion, broke the meet record in the 100 yard butterfly with a 51.83 clocking, while the Stanford quartet in the 800 freestyle relay, on which she also swam,topped the Pac-10 meet record with their 7:10.28 performance.
In all, Hyman had a stellar day, winning four events. In addition to the 100 fly and 800 free relay, she won the 100 backstroke (53.40) and swam fly on the Cardinal's victorious 200 medley relay.
Among the defending champions who could not match their performance from last year were Stanford’s Shelly Ripple in the 100 backstroke, and teammate Erin Sones, who failed to make the three-meter diving finals after capturing the title last year. Ripple finished fifth in the backstroke.
California’s Staciana Stitts, who won the 100 breaststroke a year ago, finished third Friday. Stitts was out most of this season with a back injury.
Arizona’s Sarah Tolar ended up second in the 200 freestyle after winning last year.
In men’s diving, defending champion Ruben Vaca from Arizona finished second after capturing the title last year. Vaca will defend his platform diving title Saturday.
Meanwhile Ripple will get another chance during the final competition Saturday when she defends her title in the 200 butterfly. It will be a tough draw for the junior from Baton Rouge, as she'll likely be going up against teammate Hyman, the Olympic champion, and Cal's Natalie Coughl;in, who has the nation's fastest time in the event this season. Jessica Foschi from Stanford will also go after a second straight title when she takes on the field in the 1650 freestyle.
Three other defending champions, all from Arizona, will be in action during the finals Saturday. Olympian Amanda Beard, who captured the bronze medal in the 200 breaststroke last summer, will defend her Pac-10 title, as will teammate Beth Botsford, who won the 200 backstroke in this meet last year and has the nation's fastest time this year. Another Wildcat, Lindsay Berryman, will put her title onthe line in platform diving Saturday.
Prelims begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, with the finals in the eight women’s events getting underway at 6 p.m. In addition, the men’s platform diving finals begin at 5:00 p.m. Team award presentations are slated for approximately 8 p.m. at the conclusion of competition.