By James Hemker
On Saturday afternoon, the No. 7 Stanford men’s swimming and diving team (5-0, 4-0 Pac-12) swam for the final time at Avery this year, smashing No. 9 USC (4-2, 2-2). Fittingly, this massive win came on Senior Day, when the team’s seven seniors were honored for four excellent years of competition.
Despite a quick win during the first event, the Trojans were handily dealt with. Stanford won the next 14 of 15 events en route to a 196-93 victory. The senior class stepped up in a big way, winning five of those events.
“All the credit goes to our seniors today,” head coach Ted Knapp said. “Over four years, they’ve done what it takes to be Stanford student-athletes, and today was the latest example of what they bring to our program.”
The meet opened with the all-senior team of Patrick Conaton, Matt Anderson, Brad Zdroik and Abrahm DeVine in the 400-yard medley (3:11.49). A heroic comeback by DeVine fell short by less than a tenth of a second, and the squad settled for second.
DeVine paved the way with two individual victories. DeVine (1:47.51) claimed gold in the final individual event of his career at Avery, the 200-yard IM. In the 100-yard free, DeVine (44.59) held off classmate Cole Cogswell (44.62) in a bang-bang finish for first and second.
The roles were reversed in the 50-yard free when Cogswell (20.17) out-touched DeVine (20.19). Zdroik (20.26) rounded out the podium for an all senior sweep. Zdroik (47.31) easily outlasted an all-Trojan field in the 100-yard free, finishing almost a second and a half before second place.
In a meet ruled by fractions of a second, Conaton (48.55) held the closest finish of the afternoon in the 100-yard backstroke. He managed to reach past USC in the last meter to win by one one-hundredth of a second.
Conaton and Cogswell also led off the winning 400-yard free relay team. Freshmen Jack LeVant and Mason Gonzalez anchored the victory, stopping the clock at 2:56.70.
Junior True Sweetser outraced the whole field in the 1000-yard freestyle. His time of 9:00.43 currently stands as the team’s fastest of the season.
LeVant (1:35.04) found individual success in the 200-yard freestyle, while junior James Murphy (1:37.23) and Gonzalez (1:37.67) made the first sweep of the day.
Stanford finished one and two in four events and swept the podium in another three. This is a big reflection of the strength and competitiveness of the team as a whole.
“I knew our depth would be good, but I didn’t think we would have as many 1-2-3s, which shows quality and depth.,” Knapp said. “I thought we would see just 2-3-4s or 3-4-5s. Especially today, I was really proud of those 1-2-3s who were lead by seniors.”
The Trojans sole individual victory came in the 100-yard breaststroke. Four Stanford swimmers, led by junior Hank Poppe (54.47), followed in places two to five. Sophomore Alex Liang (1:47.39) was able to right the ship in the next event, the 200-yard butterfly.
Sophomore Johannes Calloni (1:44.1) quickly swam to a large lead in the 200-yard backstroke, and he managed to hold onto it, outlasting the nearest Trojan by a second.
Freshman breaststroke specialist Daniel Roy (1:58.06) cruised to an easy 200-yard breaststroke victory, and LeVant (4:20.25) found similar success in the 500-yard free.
On the boards, freshmen Conor Casey and Noah Vigran took care of business. Casey (391.13) claimed first on the one-meter springboard while Vigran (363.00) was tops in the three-meter variant.
For some seniors, the gravity of the day was not apparent until after the meet had started.
“It didn’t really register with me that this would be the last time I would be swimming in Avery until today,” said Zdroik. “Each year senior day is surreal, but now it feels weird that this was the last time we would be competing in this pool.”
Other members of the class had reflected on the significance, but it still felt just as dreamlike.
“I really realized Wednesday that my last meet at Avery would be today,” DeVine said. “I’d think about it for five minutes or so then put it off. I was sitting with Jack Walsh before the 200 IM and it hit us like, ‘Wow this is our last race in this pool.’ You don’t know how to react, or what it even means until you’re past it.”
The team’s final dual meet occurs across the Bay in two weeks with arch-rival Cal. The Golden Bears are the top-ranked team in the nation, but similar situations led to a Stanford upset last year.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.