Pac-12 Analysis: Amazing Finish With Ledecky’s Double, Breaststroke Ties

Stanford, CA; Saturday November 12, 2016; Woman's Swimming vs Texas
Stanford's Katie Ledecky. Photo Courtesy: Bill Dally

By Dan D’Addona.

Katie Ledecky just continues to impress. Her exploits at the Olympics were impressive enough, even to casual swim fans and Team USA fans that cheer for swimming once every four years.

She has continued to impress at the collegiate level. It was hard to top her setting so many pool and Stanford records as the season began — but it was the way her regular season finished that was most impressive.

In the most anticipated meet of the year between No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Cal, Ledecky opened the individual events by setting Cal’s pool record to win the 1,000-yard freestyle (9:20.41). That in itself was a tremendous swim, though given Ledecky’s success, not earth-shattering news.

But what made it so astonishing is that she had maybe a minute to catch her breath before diving in to swim the very next event — the 200 freestyle. And Ledecky broke that pool record, too, with a 1:43.09.

Ledecky is preparing to swim the 1,650 at NCAAs, so the distance of the quick double is not unbelievable, but it was the mental toughness to end a race, quickly breathe, refocus — then go out and beat teammate Simone Manuel, another Olympic gold medalist, in the 200. Manuel is also one of the greatest swimmers in the world, and to beat her and set the 200 pool record after just swimming the 1,000 is beyond remarkable. She went on to win the 500 freestyle in a pool record of 4:35.89, leading Stanford to a 177-123 victory to cap an unbeaten regular season.

There were plenty of other amazing things that happened in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.

The craziest part of the meet wasn’t even Ledecky’s records and quick double. It was a double tie in the breaststroke events. Yes, a double tie.

Stanford sophomore Kim Williams and Cal’s Marina Garcia tied for first in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. They simultaneously touched at 1:01.89 in the 100 and did it again at 2:12.16 in the 200. It is rare enough to see a tie for first in any event, but two by the same two people is something the sport has rarely seen — maybe never seen in one meet.

Another factor that could prove interesting at the Pac-12 Championships and NCAA Championships is some of the head-to-head races with national-title contenders.

Manuel and teammate Lia Neal each finished ahead of Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil in the 100 freestyle.

Stanford’s Janet Hu finished ahead of Cal’s Amy Bilquist and Kathleen Baker in the 100 backstroke, while Stanford’s Ally Howe finished ahead of the All-American duo in the 200 backstroke — and also finished third in the 100 backstroke, between Bilquist and Baker.

How are these races going to go in the postseason? Who knows? That is the best part about swimming. Everyone tapers differently and everyone of those swimmers can beat the rest of the field, which should make for a spectacular finish in the sprints and the backstroke events at NCAAs.

Stanford diver Kassidy Cook remained undefeated in five dual meets on the 1-meter. She earned her spot on top of the podium with a score of 309.68.

Cal had some big performances, too, especially in the relays

In the opening 200-yard medley relay, as Bilquist, Weitzeil, Noemie Thomas and Farida Osman sprinted to the finish in 1:36.67 to break to old pool and Cal dual-meet record by nearly two seconds.

The Bears also closed out the afternoon with another impressive swim in the 400 free relay. This time, Katie McLaughlin, Bilquist, Weitzeil and Osman touched the wall in 3:12.99, nearly three seconds ahead of the previous Cal dual-meet and pool record.

Stanford and Cal started the season in record fashion, and they ended it the same way. The best part was, it was the first of three showdowns between the nation’s best.