Every member of the Stanford women’s swimming and diving team knows that every practice and every regular-season meet has been leading up to this, the moment they’ve been waiting for all year: the championship meets.
“Our preparation is always for the Pac-12 and NCAA championships,” said Stanford head coach Greg Meehan. “We’ve been preparing since September for our NCAA championships and that’s always been our focus.”
No. 4 Stanford (7-2, 4-1 Pac-12) will swim for its third conference title in four years over the four-day championship tournament, which begins this afternoon and ends on Saturday. The Cardinal was the Pacific-10 conference champion in 2010 and 2011 and finished in a very close second to eventual national champion Cal last February. Stanford will hope to continue its streak of success this week.
The Pac-12 conference this year is absolutely loaded with talent and the Cardinal will face multiple teams in what is undoubtedly one of the deepest conferences in the nation for women’s swimming.
Stanford’s competition includes No. 1 USC, No. 2 Cal, No. 6 Arizona, No. 14 UCLA and No. 25 Arizona State, a pool of competitors that have had their own successful seasons and will not go down easily.
Having already defeated Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC this season in dual-meet settings, the Cardinal, which owns the best in-conference record, has shown that it is one of the biggest threats in the competition.
However, championship meets are very different from the dual meets that the team has been competing in for the past few months. Dual-meet success does not by any means translate to success against the same teams on the championship stage. The pressure on individual swimmers is much higher and the team must have a very strong all-around performance in order to take home the title.
Three-time All-American senior Andi Murez, who swam solid races at last year’s inaugural Pac-12 Championship, will hope to build off of past success and deliver an impact performance in her final conference championship meet. Experienced junior Maya DiRado, the defending conference champion in the 200-yard backstroke, will also look to continue her winning ways.
Sophomore sprinter Maddy Schaefer and versatile junior Felicia Lee have also enjoyed consistent success down the stretch for Stanford and hope that their regular-season form will carry into the championship meet. Their continued success, as well as consistent performances from junior diver Stephanie Phipps, will be key to Stanford’s success starting for the next few days.
In the end, it will take the Cardinal’s best performance of the year to outswim some of the top teams in the nation, including the country’s No. 1 and No. 2 schools, in this championship meet. The teams that Stanford defeated earlier this year will be eager to have their chance at retribution and will be swimming with increased determination with a conference title at stake.
But then again, this is what the Cardinal has been preparing for all year.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.