Taylor Ruck, Brooke Forde Power Stanford to Relay Win With ‘Victory Lap’

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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When the familiar voice of swimming announcer Sam Kendrick called out that Stanford had won the NCAA title in the 800 free relay, everyone looked at the board to see their winning time of 6:47.22.

Everybody except Stanford anchor Brooke Forde, who continued to swim an extra 50.

Better to be safe than sorry.

“I would like to say it was a victory lap, but honestly, my mind was kind of blank. I was really nervous beforehand and I think I was just lost in the moment,” Forde said.

“I also took a three-hour exam today, so maybe that killed some brain cells. I am just glad that everything worked out OK and we got the win.”

Forde went above and beyond to make sure that the Cardinal got off to the strongest possible start. After all, the past four years, the winner of the opening 800 Free relay has gone on to win the meet.

Swimming that extra lap might have taken the pressure off the Cardinal.

“We are able to laugh it off. Getting the win this first session is a great way to get our momentum going, which was really important for us,” Forde said. “I am excited for the 500 tomorrow when they will have lap counters.”

Katie Drabot led off the relay for Stanford and swam a split of 1:43.99. Ella Eastin followed with a 1:41.03 as the Cardinal were in the mix with Cal, USC and Michigan in the middle of the race, clinging to a narrow lead.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

But Stanford freshman Taylor Ruck dove in for the third leg and completely took over the race. In her first collegiate swim, she swam a split of 1:39.83 to put the Cardinal in front.

“I thought it as a really cool experience, this first swim at NCAAs,” Ruck said. “We spend so much time together. Being here and being a pat of the energy is amazing. I am excited to share it with my roomie (Forde).”

All Forde had to do was hold that lead.

She swam a split of 1:42.37 — before swimming the extra 50 — and the Cardinal held off Cal, USC and Michigan.

Cal’s Robin Neumann, Izzey Ivey, Katie McLaughlin and Amy Bilquist took second in 6:50.12 — one hundredth ahead of USC’s Louise Hansson, Laticia-Leigh Transom, Tatum Wade and Kirsten Vose (6:52.13).

Michigan’s Rose Bi, Siobhan Haughey, Catie DeLoof and Sierra Schmidt took fourth in 1:45.63.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford made things interesting in the second leg, swimming a 1:39.19 — the fastest split of the night. She had the fastest split of all-time last season with her 1:39.14 at NCAAs in Columbus.

But in the end, it was Stanford, who repeated as champion of the 800 free relay, and take the early lead as they aim for a three-peat.

“We always talk about getting the meet off to a great start,” Forde said. “We knew our teammates were going to have great energy and we were feeding off that. It was a great way to get the ball rolling.”

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