FEDERAL WAY, Washington, March 1. STANFORD still remains out front in the team title battle at the Pacific 12 Women's Championships. Southern California, however, is definitely in the hunt just points behind.
USC is seeking its first Pac-12 title ever, and first conference team title since 1985 when the squad ended a run of four straight WCAA titles.
Stanford's Maya Dirado beat California's Caitlin Leverenz by the slimmest of margins in the women's 400-yard IM, 4:00.58 to 4:00.59, to start the night. That's a pretty big feather in Dirado's cap, considering Leverenz is the current American record holder in the event with a sizzling 3:57.89 from the NCAA Championships last year. Meanwhile, USC's Stina Gardell took third with a 4:05.05, as the top three swimmers all cleared the NCAA A cut. USC did some damage in the event teamwise as Meghan Hawthorne (4:06.76), Haley Anderson (4:10.97) and Jessie Schmitt (4:11.31) placed fourth through sixth.
The women's 100-fly proved to be swift with the top four swimmers all besting the NCAA A cut. USC's Kendyl Stewart rocked the finale with a 51.32 for the win, while California's Rachel Bootsma surged to second with a 51.78. Golden Bear Cindy Tran earned third-place honors in the finale with a 52.05, while Arizona's Megan Lafferty also punched her ticket to NCAAs in Indy with a fourth-place A cut 52.10.
California's Rachael Acker took home the women's 200 free crown with a touchout 1:44.66 to 1:44.72 triumph ahead of Stanford's Andi Murez. Meanwhile, California's Caroline Piehl turned in a third-place time of 1:45.50. After blazing to a 58.92 in prelims, USC's Kasey Carlson clinched the women's 100 breast title in 59.22 as both swims beat the NCAA A cut. Arizona's Ellyn Baumgardner scored second-place points with a 59.52, while Stanford's Sarah Haase also beat 1:00 with a 59.54 after qualifying second with a 59.39 in prelims. Her prelim time beat the NCAA A standard.
California's Rachel Bootsma nearly posted a lifetime best in the 100-yard back as she took down the meet record. First, she turned in a 51.10 in prelims to beat teammate Cindy Tran's 2012 mark of 50.65. She then blazed to a 50.64 in the finale as she split the race 24.84, 25.80. That's just off her fourth-ranked personal best of 50.54 from the Georgia Fall Invitational last November. Only Natalie Coughlin (49.97), Tran (50.31) and Gemma Spofforth (50.46) have been faster than Bootsma in the event's history. Tran matched her prelim time of 51.43 to take second, while Stanford's Felicia Lee (51.63) and California's Hoi Sun Au (51.92) also beat the NCAA A cut.
Arizona's Lauren Smart (52.66), Ellyn Baumgardner (58.57), Megan Lafferty (51.19) and Margo Geer (46.49) raced to the 400-yard medley relay title in 3:28.91, coming up a bit short of the Pacific 12 record of 3:28.26 set by California last year. California's Cindy Tran (52.17), Caitlin Leverenz (58.60), Rachel Bootsma (51.35) and Rachael Acker (48.06) took second in 3:30.18. USC's Yumi So (53.24), Kasey Carlson (57.95), Kendyl Stewart (51.42) and Katarzyna Wilk (47.96) wound up third in 3:30.57. Stanford's Maya Dirado, Sarah Haase, Felicia Lee and Maddy Schaefer also beat the NCAA A cut with a fourth-place 3:32.36.
In diving, Arizona State's Morgan Weller topped the one-meter, while USC's Haley Ishimatsu took second.
Southern California 945.5
Arizona State 572
Oregon State 212
Washington State 128