As most students on The Farm take their last finals of the winter quarter, the women’s swimming and diving squad will be engaged in a battle of its own for an NCAA title—a title that has proved elusive as of late. The best collegiate swimmers in the nation will square off against each other in Indianapolis with the national championship at stake in a three-day affair from March 21st to the 23rd.
In the 30 years in which the sport has been played at the national level, Stanford has claimed the most national championships of any team with eight. However, its last title came 15 years ago in 1998 at the tail end of an era of dominance that saw it claim six national titles in seven years.
Although it has not won a title since then, the Cardinal has by no means experienced a sharp decline in performance. Since its last championship in 1998, the only year in which Stanford failed to log a top-five finish at the NCAA championships was in 2003, when it finished in sixth place by the narrowest of margins. In the last five years the Card has tallied three fourth-place finishes and a third-place finish as well as being the runner-up in the 2010 meet.
This year’s squad looks to take the extra step and finally snap the championship drought that has plagued the program since the glory days of the 1990s.
Ten swimmers will represent No. 4 Stanford at this year’s national championships after capping off a spectacular season with the program’s third Pac-12 championship in four years.
After winning the championship in what is undoubtedly the strongest conference in the nation for women’s swimming, it looks as if Stanford has a good chance of winning it all this year. At the Pac-12s, Stanford squared off against the likes of No. 1 USC, No. 2 Cal, and No. 6 Arizona and never backed down en route to a 21-point victory over the second-place Trojans.
Among Stanford’s representatives will be sophomore sprinter Maddy Schaefer and versatile senior Andi Murez. Both qualified for the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle. Schaefer’s consistent first-place finishes during the dual-meet season and pair of silver medals at the Pac-12 championships has been a huge factor in the Cardinal’s success this season. She will also compete in the 100-yard backstroke, another of her strong strokes.
Murez, who will be wrapping up a phenomenal four-year career as a Stanford swimmer, will hope to end her time at Stanford with an NCAA title. The senior from Southern California will likely earn All-American honors for the fourth year in a row and will compete in the 200-yard freestyle with freshman Julia Anderson in addition to the two freestyle sprint events.
Junior Maya DiRado, one of the strongest individual medley swimmers in the nation, will swim in both the 200-yard and 400-yard versions of the event at the NCAA championships. DiRado currently owns the nation’s second-fastest time in the 400 IM and also the nation’s sixth-fastest time in the 200-yard backstroke, another event in which she will compete in Indianapolis.
Stanford will also be well represented in the backstroke with junior Felicia Lee, who has contributed consistent first-place finishes during the dual meet season in both the 100-yard and 200-yard versions of the event. She will compete in both at the NCAAs, as well as the 100-yard butterfly. Sophomore Annemarie Thayer will join Lee for the 100-yard backstroke.
Freshman Sarah Haase and sophomore Mary Olsen will represent Stanford in the breaststroke events, while junior Andie Taylor and freshman Allison Brown will take on the long-distance swimming duties.
After claiming the Pac-12 title in the 3-meter diving event, junior Stephanie Phipps will hope to also take home the gold from the national event. Phipps finished in eighth place in the one-meter event during last year’s NCAA tournament and will look to improve on that performance this year.
Stanford is loaded with talent and has shown the capability to topple the top teams in the nation. After defeating the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams at the Pac-12 championships, the Cardinal squad is on a roll and will have a good chance to come home with the national title.