Junior Simone Manuel and freshman Katie Ledecky each earned national titles in record-setting fashion to lead No. 1 Stanford on Thursday night at the 2017 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships inside IUPUI Natatorium.
Stanford's 400-yard medley relay also earned a national title to give Stanford the lead with 213 team points after two days and seven events. Cal is second with 136 points and Texas is third with 119.
"This is a really close group," head coach Greg Meehan said of the Cardinal. "It's just really fun to get excited for them because I know what they do every day. They work hard and they grind. They are passionate about what they do."
Manuel set the NCAA record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.17. It was the second straight NCAA title in the event for Manuel, who won in 2015 and redshirted in 2016. Senior Lia Neal was also a winner in the event as she bested the field in the B final with a career-best time of 21.65 – second-fastest finish in school history.
Ledecky toppled her own American and NCAA records in the 500 free to earn her first individual national title. She went head-to-head with the meet record holder in Virginia's Leah Smith, and the pair both broke 4:30 in the event – the only two women to ever accomplish that feat. Ledecky won by four seconds at 4:24.06 to earn Stanford's first victory in the event since Jessica Foschi in 2001.
Cal appeared to have won the 400 medley relay, but was disqualified. The Stanford quartet of Ally Howe, Kim Williams, Janet Hu and Lia Neal took home the title at 3:26.35. It marked the Cardinal's fourth straight victory in the event. In those four years, Stanford used four different combinations including three different breaststrokers, two different backstrokers, flyers and freestylers.
The Cardinal set the American record in the 200 free relay when Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, Janet Hu and Ally Howe were tops in the prelims at 1:26.15. In the final, the same foursome finished as the national runner-up with a school record time of 1:25.91 – bested only by Cal's NCAA record of 1:25.59.
On the diving boards, Kassidy Cook earned her third career All-America honor with an eighth-place finish on the 1-meter. She scored 305.65 to earn another 11 points for the Cardinal.
Sophomore Leah Stevens also earned some big points. As the 28 seed in the 500 free she qualified for the B final with a career-best 4:39.67, and then topped that with a third-place finish of 4:39.10 in the B final. She was just behind freshman teammate Megan Byrnes, who won the B final and set a personal-best with the fifth-fastest time in school history at 4:37.78.
"We hadn't scored a point in the 500 free in the last four years, and today we scored 35," said head coach Greg Meehan. "To see Leah, Megan and Katie swim so well was a really fun moment for our team."
Stanford racked up 24 more points in the 200 individual medley. Sophomore Ella Eastin was the national runner-up in the event with a season-best time of 1:52.27, while junior Ally Howe qualified for the B final and finished 10th overall with a career-best finish of 1:54.82.
Overall, Stanford has won eight 500 free titles as Ledecky became the fifth Cardinal to win the event … Manuel joined Jenna Johnson, Jenny Thompson and Catherine Fox as the four Cardinal to win two NCAA titles in the 50 free … Manuel's 50 free victory was the 10th overall in Cardinal history … Williams earned her first career NCAA Championship and All-America honor in the 400 medley relay … Neal has earned four All-America honors in the first two days of the meet to up her career total to 23 … Byrnes and Stevens earned their first career All-America recognition … Stanford has won the 400 medley relay 12 times … Howe, Hu and Neal have all earned three All-America honors in the 400 medley relay.