The Stanford women’s swimming and diving team enters the Pac-12 Championships this week as a prohibitive favorite. It can be hard to be humble on a team as talented as the Cardinal.
Just ask Kassidy Cook, one of the best divers in the nation who looks in awe at her teammates.
“It’s amazing to share a locker room with Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel and other Olympians,” Cook said of the three 2016 Olympic gold medalists who swim for the Cardinal.
That’s saying something as Cook was an Olympic diver at the Rio Games.
The Stanford women, whose roster features four Olympians, a Paralympian and Youth Olympian, are 8-0 in dual meets this season and ranked No. 1 heading into the conference championships at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic center in Federal Way, Washington. Their most recent dual meet was a resounding 177-123 victory over No. 2 California. Prior to that was a 202-98 win over No. 4 USC.
Swimmers come from New York to Florida, a handful from Texas and others from all parts of the country. The lure is simple.
“I think it’s the prestige of the school. Once you visit the place and see how beautiful it is, it’s hard to turn down,” said Cook, who comes from the Woodlands, Texas. “This place is full of special people. And Stanford obviously has a great program with great tradition.”
Just how good is the Stanford team? Last year Cook and Manuel took a redshirt year so they could train for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and the Cardinal still finished second at the NCAA meet in Atlanta, just 19 points behind Georgia.
This year’s team appears to have no chinks in the armor, as they’re already a favorite to bring the national championship back to Palo Alto.
“It’s hard to pinpoint any one strength on this team because we have so much talent here, and that’s what makes this team special,” Cook said. “There’s definitely a lot of talent and a lot of people know that.”
Here are some Team USA members who make Stanford swimming and diving so special this spring.
Brickelle Bro (2012, 2016 Paralympic swimmer)
The two-time Paralympian (2012, 2016) set the S8 Paralympic American record in the 1,650-yard freestyle at the Pac-12 Championships last season as a freshman when she swam in 19:56.87. Before that, the Coloradan set S8 American records on the 1,000-yard freestyle and 1,650 freestyle while in high school.
Kassidy Cook (2016 Olympic diver)
Cook is in her fourth year at Stanford but is only a junior after taking off the 2015-16 season to train. She’s a two-time All-American after taking second in the nation in the 1-meter springboard and third in the 3-meter during the 2015 NCAA meet. She’s a four-time junior national champion and two-time high school state champion from the Woodlands — the same place that produced Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Cook is undefeated in the 1-meter springboard this season, but she said she is starting to make progressions in the 3-meter after ramping up her training. Cook finished 13th in the 3-meter at the Rio Games.
Katie Ledecky (2012, 2016 Olympic swimmer)
Still just a teenager, Ledecky is on pace to become the most prolific swimmer in women’s history. And only a freshman at Stanford, the two-time Olympian and six-time Olympic medalist has already shattered pool records at Stanford in the 200-, 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle races. She broke American and NCAA records in the 500 free and 1,650 free at the Ohio State Invitational in November. Ledecky, of Bethesda, Maryland, is the world-record holder in the 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,500-meter freestyles and has broken world records 13 times in her career.
Gracia Leydon Mahoney (2014 Youth Olympic diver)
Leydon Mahoney won the NCAA title on the platform as a sophomore last year and was the Pac-12 Diver of the Year after winning conference championships in the 1-meter springboard and platform. She was a gold medalist at the 2011 Junior Pan American Championships and also the 2012 junior world championships — both in the 3-meter. The Newton, Massachusetts, native played ice hockey before taking up diving at age 9.
Simone Manuel (2016 Olympic swimmer)
Manuel is the hands-on favorite to win the short sprints at both the Pac-12s and NCAAs. She was the 2015 NCAA champion in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, and she was on the 400 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay that each won gold that year. Manuel is undefeated in the 100 and 200 freestyle this collegiate season, coming off the heels of winning four medals at the Rio Games. The Sugar Land, Texas, native is the Stanford record holder in the 50, 100 and 200 free, and she’s part of two relay teams that hold Stanford records.
Lia Neal (2012, 2016 Olympic swimmer)
Brooklyn native Neal is a six-time NCAA champion (all on relay teams) and five-time Pac-12 champion, including 2016 conference titles in the 100 and 200 free. The two-time Olympian is a two-time medalist, winning bronze in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the London 2012 Games and silver in the same event at the 2016 Rio Games. She’s a part of five relay teams that hold Stanford records.
Scott McDonald has 18 years experience in sports reporting. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.