Stanford Women Fight Through Flu for First Day NCAA Relay Win (Video Included)

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By David Rieder.

As is often the case with any relay with Katie Ledecky anchoring, the women’s 4×200 free at the NCAA championships was relatively drama-free. Ledecky split more than two seconds quicker than anyone else on the anchor leg, and the Cardinal won by more than three.

Heavily favored to win a second straight NCAA team title, not much could stop the Stanford train this week—including, apparently the flu.

“A bunch of us got wiped out with some sort of flu virus,” Ella Eastin said after the relay. Eastin was one of them, but the smiling Eastin seemed to be fully recovered. She split 1:41.13 on the second leg of the relay, the fourth-fastest split in the field.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Putting our hand on the wall first,” Eastin said of Stanford’s goal for the lone Wednesday night event at the meet. “I think there’s a lot of energy that goes into the first night, and it’s just one race, and we were just trying to get things rolling for our team.”

The first swimmer off the blocks for Stanford was sophomore Katie Drabot, who was part of an American record-setting effort in that relay at the 2017 Pac-12 championships but was left off the team at the NCAA championships in favor of Ledecky, Eastin, Simone Manuel and the now-graduated Lia Neal.

And even after Drabot led off in a sluggish 1:45.88 this year at the Pac-12 championships, Stanford coach Greg Meehan entrusted her to get the team off to a good start. This year, he decided to sit Manuel out of the opening relay to save her for the other four, so Drabot’s effort was even more critical. She came through with a 1:42.99 leg.

Drabot did not score any individual points at her freshman year NCAAs, but she admitted that she feels far more at ease in her second trip to the dance.

“I think there’s a lot more comfort this year as I have a full meet under my belt,” Drabot said. “I don’t feel as nervous. I think the nerves are kind of transferred to excitement as I know what to expect and how the meet will flow. I also think that being able to be on this relay is an extra thing for me to experience, and I think it got everything off on the right note.”

Drabot and Eastin had the Cardinal in contention in the final heat of the relay, but it was freshman Brooke Forde, making her NCAA championships debut, who put the team in front with a 1:42.94 split on the third leg. Forde, who has also been dealing with the effects of the flu, was undaunted. Ledecky was then her usual self on the end, splitting 1:39.87.

After finishing second to rival Cal in the event at the Pac-12 championships last month, the Cardinal were understandably pleased to be back on top. But it’s worth reiterating this point: No Simone Manuel. Manuel, remember, is the top seed for the individual 200 free coming up on Friday.

But Stanford just has too much depth. No other team put together of three swimmers under 1:43, and only Cal had three sub-1:43 splits. Last year’s Cardinal team won by 160 points despite talented then-freshmen Drabot, Erin Voss and Allie Szekely combining for just nine individual points.

Sure, Neal is gone from last year’s team, but Forde is a weapon that could swim in three A-finals and perhaps even earn a top-three finish in the 400 IM. In short, as expected, we will see a lot of Stanford at the winner’s podium this weekend in Columbus. If the flu couldn’t stop the Cardinal, then no other team has much of a chance, either.


  1. Laura M Wanco

    Where is 5he live feed?

  2. Daniela Rados

    Chris Sommer Furbee show this to Calvin! Hope he feels better!!!

  3. Marci Bodner

    David Eric Anderson