Sims, DiRado start strong at NCAA championship


Amanda Sims appears to be going out in style. Maya DiRado might be coming in the same way. The two Redwood Empire sirens and Pac-10 competitors kicked off the 2011 NCAA Division I swimming and diving championship with strong performances Thursday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Swim Center in Austin, Texas

Sims, the Cal senior and former Montgomery High athlete, swam the butterfly leg of the Bears’ winning 400-yard medley relay team, which touched in 3 minutes, 28.53 seconds. The time, which broke the school record and was just .24 seconds off the NCAA mark established by Arizona two years ago, was more than a second ahead of second-place USC.
DiRado, a Stanford freshman who prepped at Maria Carrillo High, finished second in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:54.66.

This will be the final NCAA championship for Sims, who was the 2009 champion in the 100 butterfly and took third in the event last year. She’ll get another shot at the 100 today, and she will swim the 200 fly on Saturday. Sims is third on Cal’s all-time charts in both the 100- (51.12) and 200-yard (1:53.54) fly.

DiRado, meanwhile, is just getting warmed up.
The Cardinal’s super-frosh has three events remaining: the 400 IM and the 800 freestyle relay today, and the 200 backstroke on Saturday. Her 200 IM time on Thursday was her best ever and third-fastest in Stanford history behind Olympians Julia Smit and Elaine Breeden. DiRado was in fourth place after the third leg but made up ground with a 26.92-second final leg.
Her race was impressive, but not entirely unexpected. DiRado left Carrillo with the state high school record in the 200 IM.

The Cal and Stanford women remain fierce competitors in the pool. The Cardinal edged the Bears for the Pac-10 title in February, partly thanks to DiRado’s win in the 200 back. Heading into today’s NCAA competition, Stanford is in third place (116 points) and Cal, which also won the 200 free relay, is in fourth place (115). Georgia is the overall leader with 129 points.

Georgia was led by Allison Schmitt, who won her third straight 500-yard freestyle title. She set the NCAA, school and Jamail Swim Center records with a time of 4:32.71 in the morning prelims.

In the 500 free, Schmitt touched in 4:34.20, holding off Towson’s Meredith Budner down the stretch. Schmitt is just the third woman to win the 500 freestyle three times, joining Stanford’s Marybeth Linzmeier (1982, 1983, 1984) and USC’s Lindsay Benko (1996, 1997, 1999).