The men’s swimming and diving team suffered a somewhat disappointing end to the season last weekend, as it finished outside of the top four in the NCAA Championship meet for the first time in over two decades.
After also losing its monopoly on the Pac-12 title after a 31-year reign, the Cardinal undoubtedly had a down year in competition. However, stellar individual performances from younger members of the team over the course of the NCAA Championship give the Cardinal strong hope that it will be back with renewed strength next year.
During the summer of 2010, more than 20 Division I schools from all around the nation struggled against each other to recruit a rising senior out of Hershey, Penn., named David Nolan.
After the dust cleared, Nolan had chosen Stanford from the enormous pool of colleges that coveted his talent. During the 2011 high school season, Nolan then promptly shattered the national high school record in the 200-yard individual medley (IM).
Two years later, Nolan once again found himself atop the standings in the 200 IM, except this time it was at the collegiate level. With a winning time of 1:41:21, the sophomore gave Stanford its first national title of the 2013 NCAA Championships, swimming an incredibly powerful freestyle leg to overtake Florida’s Marcin Cieslak in the final leg of the race after trailing for the first three legs.
However, Nolan wasn’t satisfied with just one national title. The very next day, he claimed a second title, this one coming in the 100-yard backstroke. Nolan got off to a strong start and held a solid 0.3-second lead after the 50-yard split. He never lost pace in the second half, holding off Cal senior Tom Shields to claim his second national title of the meet.
In the diving meets of the championships, fellow sophomore Kristian Ipsen, who spearheaded Stanford’s strong diving corps with two national title performances of his own over the course of the championship meet, matched Nolan’s strong showing.
The Olympic gold medalist almost swept the diving events of the meet, claiming the titles in both the one-meter and three-meter events and falling just short in the platform diving event as he finished as runner-up to Duke junior Nick McCrory.
Ipsen and McCrory battled back and forth throughout the whole meet, as they combined for first- and second-place finishes in all three diving events. In the one-meter event, Ipsen finished in first in the preliminaries to qualify for the finals, in which he claimed a solid victory over McCrory by a margin of almost 40 points. The three-meter final, however, was decided by a much closer margin, as Ipsen only finished 10 points ahead of McCrory to claim his second title.
Stanford’s team standing was greatly hurt by two disqualifications in relays. After it was rendered ineligible to compete in the finals of the 400-yard medley relay due to a disqualification in the preliminaries, it was also disqualified from the finals of the 200-yard event. The latter disqualification especially hurt, as the team had finished in third place in the preliminaries and had swum a strong time in the finals already before learning that they had been disqualified for an early takeoff.
Stanford’s team ultimately scored 282 points, finishing almost 200 points behind Michigan, the eventual victors. The differences between the scores of the top three teams, Michigan, Cal and Arizona, was very large, indicating that the Michigan swimmers consistently finished in the top of many events across the board.
With continued contributions from young swimmers and divers like Nolan and Ipsen, Stanford hopes to return to national title contention next year and into the future. Stanford has the ability to consistently swim strong relays and has powerful individual swimmers that can swim with the best in the country. Next year, the Cardinal will attempt to pull it all together and once again return to its perch atop the Pac-12 and in the top three in the country.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 “at” stanford.edu.