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Simone Manuel latest Olympic swimmer to win Honda Cup

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LOS ANGELES — Olympic champion swimmer Simone Manuel of Stanford won the Honda Cup on Monday night for collegiate woman athlete of the year.

It’s the second time Stanford has had back-to-back winners. Katie Ledecky, Manuel’s Olympic and collegiate teammate, won last year. Swimmer Tara Kirk won the award in 2004, followed by volleyball player Ogonna Nnamani the next year.

Manuel is the fourth straight Olympic gold medalist to take the Honda Cup after Missy Franklin, Breanna Stewart and Ledecky. Other Olympic champion swimmers to earn the award included Tracy Caulkins (twice), Mary T. Meagher, Jill Sterkel and Cristina Teuscher.

Manuel, of Sugar Land, Texas, received the trophy at the Galen Center on the Southern California campus.

She became the first black woman to win an individual Olympic swimming title in Rio, where Manuel also won another gold and two silvers.

She finished her collegiate career with six American records and seven NCAA records and was a member of two NCAA championship teams and two Pac-12 Conference title squads. Manuel won 14 NCAA titles over her career, including six at this year’s championships.

In the classroom, Manuel was a two-time Pac-12 Academic honoree and a CoSIDA first-team Academic All-American as a communications major.

Manuel, track and field star Maggie Ewen of Arizona State and basketball star A’ja Wilson of South Carolina were the top three finalists from a field of 12. They were selected in voting by nearly 1,000 NCAA member schools.

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Katie Ledecky turns pro

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Katie Ledecky is turning professional, forgoing her final two years of eligibility at Stanford ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Ledecky made the announcement Monday at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., near her hometown of Bethesda, Md.

“This gives me some time before 2020 to focus in on really getting all the pieces in place,” said Ledecky, adding that she will continue to train and study at Stanford, where she lives with five other swimmers. “It’s a decision that I didn’t make just this last week. It’s something that over the last few months I’ve been discussing.”

The five-time Olympic champion capped her second NCAA Championships with a win by 28 seconds in the 1,650-yard freestyle on her 21st birthday on March 17.

Ledecky said Stanford coach Greg Meehan recommended she turn pro now.

“This is the right time for this transition,” Meehan said in a press release.

Ledecky took a gap year between graduating high school at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015 and the Rio Olympics, where she won the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles and anchored the winning 4x200m free relay.

Ledecky moved to Stanford later in summer 2016 and swam two seasons for the Cardinal, winning eight NCAA titles in nine finals between her freshman and sophomore years.

Ledecky said she was “maybe a little off my goals” at her second NCAAs two weeks ago, when she won the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyles convincingly but did not break her American records.

The major meets this summer are the U.S. Championships in late July in Irvine, Calif., and the Pan Pacific Championships in late August in Tokyo. Those two meets are the qualifiers for the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

Another five-time Olympic champion, Missy Franklin, also turned pro after two NCAA seasons (at Stanford’s rival California). Franklin did so one year before the Olympics in 2015, while Ledecky has two full seasons before the Tokyo Games.

Ledecky could duplicate her Rio Olympic program while adding a new Olympic event — women’s 1500m free — in 2020.

“Now, every time I get up on the blocks, I’m racing the current world-record holder in that event, because I’m racing myself,” she said.

Ledecky has never swum a non-freestyle event at nationals or a major international meet, but she entered the 400-yard individual medley at NCAAs two weeks ago (and finished second behind a teammate who broke Ledecky’s American record). Ledecky said she does not plan to add the 400m IM to her major-meet schedule as a pro.

“I think I’ll continue to compete in them [at smaller meets] and train IM because it’s good for my freestyle, but I don’t think long-term,” she said. “Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind and pursue it a little further, but I have my hands full with the freestyle events.”

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MORE: Rio Olympic breaststroke gold medalist retires

Katie Ledecky wins by 28 seconds on 21st birthday to close NCAAs

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Katie Ledecky capped her second NCAA Championships with a win by 28 seconds in the 1,650-yard freestyle on her 21st birthday Saturday.

It may have been her final college meet. Ledecky did not commit to returning for her junior season at Stanford, rather than turning pro, in a press conference after the Cardinal repeated as team champions in Columbus, Ohio.

“I have a final exam on Monday,” Ledecky said. “That’s about as far into the future I’m looking.”

Full meet results are here.

Last year, Ledecky lapped all but one swimmer through 1,000 yards of the 1650 final and won by 21.19 seconds in 15:07.70.

On Saturday, Ledecky clocked 15:07.57. Her American record from earlier this season is 15:03.31 — 21.04 seconds faster than anybody else all-time.

Earlier this week, Ledecky anchored Stanford to an 800 freestyle relay title and won the 500 free by a record margin of more than eight seconds.

Then on Friday, teammate Ella Eastin beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds in the 400 individual medley, an event that Ledecky never swims on the major international level. Eastin broke Ledecky’s NCAA record by 1.93 seconds.

“I think this is the best birthday party I’ll probably ever have,” Ledecky said on ESPNU. “It’s a long and grueling week. … This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a meet.”

Ledecky said she was “maybe a little off my goals” for the week. She did not break any of her American records in the convincing wins. Still, Ledecky finished the meet with eight NCAA titles in nine career NCAA Championships finals.

“I’m pretty hard on myself,” Ledecky said. “I set some pretty high goals. So if I fall a little short it’s not the end of the world. … I’m never really satisfied. If I was, I should retire.”

Also Saturday, quadruple Rio Olympic medalist Simone Manuel finished her Stanford career by winning the 100 freestyle in the second-fastest time ever — 45.65 and .09 off her American record.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King of Indiana broke her second American record of the meet, winning the 200 breast in 2:02.60 and lowering her mark by .58.

Cal’s Kathleen Baker, the Rio 100m back silver medalist, broke the 200-yard backstroke American record in winning in 1:47.30.

The NCAA Men’s Championships, featuring Caeleb Dressel and Joseph Schooling, are next week.

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