By Kit Ramgopal
This Wednesday, Stanford women’s swimming and diving begins the NCAA competition in Indianapolis, vying for its first NCAA championship since 1998. Armed with more national titles than any other program and top-three finishes in the last three consecutive years, the No. 1 Cardinal approach the NCAAs with sixteen qualifiers hungry for a championship.
Last year at the NCAAs, Stanford fell short of a national title in the final event. Despite another second-place finish, the Cardinal witnessed 10 different All-Americans combine for 35 All-America honors. This year, the Cardinal have three more qualifiers than last year, upping their individual entries to 42 this year, compared to 25 last year in Atlanta.
Of the sixteen qualifiers, only two swimmers — Lia Neal and Nicole Stafford — are seniors. Nine athletes in the Cardinal squad are underclassmen, comprised of six freshmen and three sophomores. The young group is led by a young head coach: Greg Meehan, who started in 2013. Under Meehan, Stanford has finished eighth (2013), second (2014), third (2015), and second (2016) at the NCAAs.
Even with such a young contingent, Stanford boasts the individual favorite in 10 of the 13 swimming events and four of five relays. The national freestyle stats are practically monopolized by Stanford swimmers; Simone Manuel claims the fastest national times in the 50, 100 and 200 free, while freshman Katie Ledecky holds the 500 and 1650 free. Sophomore Ella Eastin boasts top times in 200 butterfly and both individual medleys, and Janet Hu and Ally Howe own the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, respectively.
Stanford is coming off of a Pac-12 record-setting conference title— the 20th in Cardinal history. For the first time since 2013, the Cardinal reclaimed conference dominance following three straight second-place finishes. The Pac-12 competition saw Stanford set five American records and win 15 of 21 events.
As Indianapolis approaches, expectations for the Cardinal are high. College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America places Stanford at No. 1 for the second straight year. The 2017 NCAA squad boasts a depth of Olympians—ranging from Kassidy Cook on the diving board to Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel in the pool. With a Pac-12 championship to top off an undefeated dual meet season, the Cardinal ride a hot streak onto the NCAA scene. If all goes as predicted, they should ride it straight to the top of the national podium.
Follow the stats starting Wednesday on gostanford.com for live updates.
Contact Kit Ramgopal at kramgopa ‘at’ stanford.edu.