Olympic stars Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky excel in Pac-12 swimming championships

In a battle of Stanford stars, sophomore Simone Manuel, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 100 freestyle, held off freshman Katie Ledecky, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 200 free, at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

It was a 200-yard freestyle final worthy of being an Olympic final.

And it certainly lived up to expectations Friday night at the Pac-12 women’s swimming and diving championships at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

In a battle of Stanford stars, sophomore Simone Manuel, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter freestyle, held off freshman Katie Ledecky, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 200 free.

But just barely.

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With Ledecky’s late charge coming up slightly short, Manuel won in 1 minute, 40.37 seconds, .13 second faster than Ledecky.

It was nearly three seconds back to Stanford teammate Lia Neal, who has won medals in the past two Olympics. Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil, who also has two Olympic medals including a gold, was eighth.

About a half-hour before the 200 free, Ledecky won the 400 medley in an American-record time of 3:57.68. She was third after the third leg, but the five-time gold medalist pulled away in the freestyle.

Stanford went 1-2-3 in that event as well and the top-ranked Cardinal is easily ahead with 1,126 points. No. 2 California is second with 953, and No. 5 USC is third with 762.

Stanford junior Ally Howe set an American record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 49.67. Cal’s Kathy Baker, who was the silver medalist in the 100 back at the 2016 Olympics, finished second.

In the tightest race of the night, USC freshman Louise Hansson won the 100 butterfly by one-hundredth of a second over Cal senior Farida Osman in a time of 50.39.

In a stirring finish to the night, Manuel rallied in the freestyle leg of the 400 medley relay to win the event over rival Cal.

The four-day…

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