Stanford men’s swimming and diving finished its season with an underwhelming ninth-place finish last weekend at the NCAA Championships, at which Cal claimed its third national title in four years. Juniors David Nolan and Kristian Ipsen failed to defend their four combined national titles from last season as no Cardinal swimmers won events at the 2014 meet.
After finishing in the top four as a team at the NCAAs in 31 straight seasons from 1982 to 2012, the Cardinal has now finished in seventh and ninth in 2013 and 2014, marking an unexpected downward trend for the program despite the strong talent that it fielded in both seasons.
“We competed well enough to stay in the top 10, but our performance came up short of representing our talent,” said head coach Ted Knapp to GoStanford.com. “We know we will be more competitive next year.”
Nolan — though he ultimately finished in third in the event — set a new Stanford record in the 200-yard backstroke with his 1:39.17, breaking his mark of 1:39.31 that earned him a runner-up finish at last year’s championships. However, the improvement was not enough to overcome a monster swim from Cal freshman Ryan Murphy, who burst onto the scene in his first NCAA Championships by setting a new NCAA record in the event with an eye-popping 1:37.35.
Nolan and Ipsen, the defending national champions in the 200-yard individual medley (IM) and 1-meter diving event, respectively, were expected to be strong threats given their excellent seasons and previous conference titles in those events. However, Nolan’s time of 1:41.38, nearly two-tenths of a second slower than his championship time of 1:41.21, was not enough to push past the competition, as Florida senior Marcin Cieslak narrowly missed the NCAA record with a winning time of 1:40.58.
Meanwhile, Ipsen was unable to replicate his record-breaking performance in the 1-meter dive from a season ago, as his finals mark of 436.55 was not good enough to edge out Texas freshman Michael Hixon, who took the national title with a 443.50 score. In addition, the two-time defending national champion in the 3-meter dive was unable to extend his dominance to three straight seasons, as he slipped to a fourth-place finish with a mark of 394.90 in the finals — more than 50 points fewer than his effort in the event last season.
Sophomore Tom Kremer won the “B” final of the 200-yard freestyle with a strong 1:33.32 swim after having claimed a bronze in last year’s edition of the event as a freshman in 1:33.07. Despite a time in the preliminaries that would have qualified him for the “A” final in last year’s field, improved depth from around the nation — four swimmers finished in under 1:33.00 this season, as opposed to two last season — pushed him back to the “B” final this season.
Despite a disappointing finish at this year’s NCAAs, however, both Nolan and Ipsen will be back next season for one final opportunity to lead the team back into the upper echelons of the national swimming world and will have a talented, quickly-developing supporting cast to help them do so.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.