By James Hemker
From this morning until Saturday night, the No. 2 women’s swimming and diving team (2-0, Pac-12 2-0) will be competing in Columbus, Ohio, at the annual Ohio State University Invitational.
The invitational comes a week after the disappointing cancellation of the Texas dual meet last Friday due to polluted air from the devastating wildfires. Since Texas had a tight travel schedule the next day and the meet was out-of-conference, hopes of rescheduling quickly fell through.
As a result, the team will be swimming competitively for the first time in five weeks, which is something of a double-edged sword. The time off means the team will be well rested; however, some cobwebs will need to be brushed away before they reach top form.
Regarding the matter, head coach Greg Meegan said, “Fortunately we do enough fast swimming in practice that they are not going to be completely rusty. They should be in a spot to have some good swims, and for our divers to compete well on the boards, but it may take a couple of races to get back into racing mode.”
The invitational has no bearing on conference standings, so the team is not entering the meet with a must-win attitude. Instead, the coaching staff’s top goal is to set a baseline for the team.
“I would think our number one priority is to have our ‘take-homes’,” Meehan explained. “We want them to race really hard over the next few days and give us all kinds of feedback and then we can come up with a plan for the rest of the season.”
He then added that a secondary priority was to start qualifying as many swimmers as possible for NCAA’s, but Meehan believes those times happen more organically. The fact that Stanford boasts some of the best swimmers in the country means that as long as the team races hard and competes well, the qualifying marks will start flowing in.
The invitational meet style will provide swimmers the opportunity to compete in as many as 12 or 15 races. Each day has a specific set of events scheduled. Preliminary races take place in the morning, and the fastest swimmers from those heats race in the finals at night. There is much more time between events than at a dual meet, so swimmers can race in events that may normally be back to back.
These next few days mark the first time the freshmen will be racing in a collegiate invitational format. This year’s team is particularly young, so the invitational will afford valuable experience for the nine freshmen. This meet will also allow the coaching staff to see what each swimmer’s best events are. The NCAA championship meet allows swimmers to score in three separate events.
Meehan, who is always focused on the title meet, said of the freshmen, “We generally know what their two best events are, but their third event can be between one or two or three events, so we are using this week to figure that out as well.”
At the meet, Stanford will be one of nine teams swimming and one of 10 teams diving. Despite their reserved attitude about winning, the Cardinal are the heavy favorites. No. 13 Notre Dame is the next-highest ranked school at the meet. Stanford last attended the meet in 2016 when they secured an easy victory in the wake of multiple meet records and a pair of American records. Returning members have fond memories of the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion at Ohio State, which served as the location for the NCAA championship last year.
Preliminaries will begin at 7:00 a.m. PST each morning, while finals will start at 2:00 p.m. PST.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.