The women’s swimming and diving team representing Stanford University delivered a sensational season, one for the record books, highlighted last March in Columbus, Ohio, where they were crowned the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Champions.
Stanford women finished the national championship meet with a total 593 points, overwhelming the second place score of 373 achieved by UC Berkeley, a thumping 220 point gap.
Led by six-year Head Coach, Greg Meehan, and a stacked roster featuring Olympians, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel, the women’s team dominated the competition en route to earning back-to-back NCAA Championships.
Alongside current Olympians on the roster, anticipated Olympian, Ella Eastin, displayed a stunning performance which earned her Swimmer of the Meet honors.
Before diving in for her events, Eastin recalled, “I know that I was nervous, as a season’s work was culminating into those moments, but I was also extremely excited knowing that I had a few good swims in me.”
Eastin began the meet as a member of the winning 800 free relay, then set an American and NCAA record in the 200 individual medley, swimming a 1:50.67. She continued by setting another American and NCAA record in the 400 individual medley, with a 3:54.60 time, and completed Stanford’s historical run in the meet’s final event by winning as a member of the 400 free relay.
“It felt awesome to be able to put my hand on the wall first for Stanford and contribute to our success at the meet. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. That’s when you know you are experiencing something great,” Eastin candidly remembers.
Twenty-one-year-old Eastin’s pathway to attending the prestigious Stanford University as a human biology major, started not long ago in her hometown of Irvine, Calif.
In Irvine, she swam for Crean Lutheran High School as well as Novaquatics until the age of 15, when she switched clubs and began swimming for SoCal aquatics. In her graduating class of 2015, SwimSwam Magazine ranked her the sixth best female swimmer.
Though her achievements include 2016 Pac-12 Women’s Swimming Newcomer of the Year, two-time Pac-12 Women’s Swimmer of the Year, two-time Pac-12 All-Academic, member of two Pac-12 and two NCAA championship teams, and holds four NCAA, American and school records, and countless more distinctions and achievements, she is more than a swimmer, also a granddaughter, daughter and sister.
Her family is fittingly athletic, in which, her grandfather was a drafted baseball player, her grandmother a professional golfer, her father a former college and international basketball player, and her closely bonded younger Irish twin sister, Emily, previously swam.
Emily, a current sophomore attending University of Michigan swam for the team her freshman year, however opted to focus on school her sophomore year and did not swim for their team this season.
As only a junior at Stanford, Ella Eastin will for one more year swim with the world’s best and most talented swimmers, train with an amazing coaching staff and focus on leading the team into a three-peat NCAA Division 1 National Championship next year.
More indulgently, Eastin will also focus on cherishing their team tradition of treating themselves to pizookies, a far and few treat for the devoted athletes, and a tradition she will likely share only once more with her team.
What type of focus, sacrifice and commitment went into becoming a two time NCAA Champion, breaking three NCAA records and achieving Pac-12 women’s swimmer of the year?
“The things that my team and I have accomplished took dedication and persistence on a daily basis. We train an intense 20 hours a week [the NCAA standard] plus time spent recovering in the training room, doing physical therapy, seeing sports psychologists, watching underwater film, and more. Each session in the water is purposeful, focused and tough. With an incredibly talented team, it’s impossible not to have a day-in-day-out competitive environment. This was what made me better every single day.
I sacrifice a good amount of sleep, having to wake up at 5:30 a.m. multiple times during the week, but I always know it’s worth it, and have found to appreciate 20 minute naps to rest during the day. I spend most of my time during the week that I am not swimming on my studies. I am a human biology major and I’m preparing for graduate nursing school and absolutely love having something to balance my time in and out of the water.
And I would be lying if I said that handling all of this was easy – it is not, by any means. But at the end of the day, I go to sleep knowing that I put all of my effort into the things that I love and want to pursue.”
In what ways is your work ethic and swimming career influenced by your competition alongside and against the world’s best swimmers, the coaches you have been guided by, and the athletic history of your family.
“The greatest amount of pressure that I feel comes from myself and my constant drive to improve. I have a very good work ethic that I think only dwindles every once in a while. Which actually can get a little tiring, but I think adds to my confidence in my training and preparation. I’m incredibly lucky to have the best [arguably the most talented] training group in the world. I am pushed to be a better version of myself every day and I benefit from having my teammates and coaches hold me to a high standard.
I appreciate them thinking so highly of me that they are willing to hold me accountable to be my better self, when needed. The environment that I am training in suits my work ethic better than anything I have experienced before, and is showing in my results.”
In your final year at Stanford and into your professional swim career, what are you looking to accomplish and in what meets and competitions?
“My main goals include being a part of the next few travel national team trips [this summer at the Pan Pacific Games and next year at the FINA World Championship]. Additionally, I want to be a good leader for the Stanford Cardinals as I go into my last year competing for the university.
I hope to continue to improve in short course at my last NCAA’s and carry the momentum from this year into next year. I will make a decision after my next NCAA’s for my swimming career, and for now I am trying to enjoy the process as my time with the sport is slowly dwindling.”
People often oversee you as a Stanford student, how did you manage to make Pac-12 All Academic first team?
“Just like in the pool, I hold myself to a high standard in the classroom. It helps when you enjoy what you study. I am fascinated by the human body, how it works, how it is able to improve, and perform at such a high level athletically – which has engaged me when I am practicing and continuing to ‘shape’ myself as an athlete.
Studying at [Stanford] has taught me a lot about facing challenges head on, being less afraid to fail and trying to learn as much as possible along the way. It has been a difficult, but worthwhile pursuit in my academic career and I am excited to continue my studies after my time at Stanford.”
Being a young 21, swim has quickly chosen you as your primary pursuit, and your fame is soon set to grow exponentially. Are you daunted by the imminent stardom that your athletic abilities are causing you to become?
“I think that I am going to have a different experience than some of my Olympic-star teammates will have, but I think that my presence in USA Swimming has become more noticed and will help me through the next couple of years.
I love being on travel trips with Team USA and getting to meet the people I look up to and compete against them, and getting to travel the world doing what we love . My ‘fame’ in this little swimming world I don’t think needs to be daunting, but something that I can appreciate as it often comes with great support and hopes for my success.”