By James Hemker
Tonight is the start of the Men’s Swimming Pac-12 Championships. No. 7 Stanford (5-1, 4-1 Pac-12) will be competing at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington.
The Cardinal enter the meet with momentum from their divers, who competed alongside the women last week. The freshman duo of Conor Casey and Noah Vigran performed exceptionally, as the two scored in all three diving events.
Casey, who was named a Pac-12 Diver of the Week earlier in the year, claimed his first conference title on the 3-meter springboard with a score of 382.40. Vigran took the silver at 378.75.
On the 1-meter board, Vigran (331.95) earned his second runner-up finish while Casey (286.45) ended the event in seventh. The duo wrapped up competition on the platform where Vigran (312.55) secured his third second-place finish. Casey (280.05) just missed the podium and took fourth.
“I’m so proud of the way both Conor and Noah performed last week,” said diving coach Patrick Jeffrey. “They’ve been working toward the postseason all year long and their hard work was on display this week. We’re looking forward to continuing to improve as we move onto NCAA zones.”
Entering the swimming portion of the championship, the Cardinal have historically been the favorite to win the Pac-12. Last claiming the title in 2017, Stanford secured 31 straight titles from 1982-2012, and they have not fallen out of the top-two finishers since 1981. Despite the team’s own history of success, other schools in the conference have been on the rise.
Top-ranked Cal is the clear favorite, and No. 10 USC sits just behind the Cardinal on the rankings. Arizona State and Arizona are ranked Nos. 15 and 16, respectively. No. 20 Utah means all six schools in the conference are ranked in the top-20 in the nation.
“We could come out and compete to win, but that being said we are probably an underdog,” said head coach Ted Knapp. “There aren’t too many people talking about us having a chance. That’s fine, and I think if we catch a couple guys on the other teams with their suits down, it could be a lot closer than people are expecting.”
Still, Knapp is not focused on other teams. In the end the score will be unpredictable as teams are in different stages of tapering. For Stanford, most swimmers have already been in their taper for a week or two, while some may have had already three weeks of reduced workouts and increased rest.
“I’m expecting best times, certainly seasonal best times, and a lot of guys should be hitting lifetime best times,” Knapp said. “There’s no reason for them to not be on that path. Lifetime best times will take care of a lot of things for us. It will keep us competitive for the conference title, it will get guys to the NCAA meet and it will give us lots of smiles on the pool deck.”
With junior Grant Shoults out with an injury, senior Abrahm DeVine is the only returning conference champion from last season. DeVine claimed the 200-yard IM title, and with the second fastest seed time, he looks to defend it again this year.
“I’m definitely excited for it,” DeVine said. “Pac-12 is right near my hometown, so I’ve been racing at that pool since I was nine years old. It’s cool to finish my last conference meet there. I’m pretty pumped to see what I can do.”
Sophomore Alex Liang enters with the second best time in the 400-yard IM, and junior True Sweetser has the second-fastest 1,650-yard free time.
Freshman Jack LeVant will look to steal titles in the 500-yard and 200-yard freestyle events. Above all, Knapp is looking for his relay teams to kick it into the next gear.
“Any event that the freshmen are in will be fun to watch, but the most important events are going to be some of our relays,” he said. “The relay events have been strong, and they have competed well, but at the national level we need to take another big jump to really compete against all of the teams nationally.”
Relays will kick off the meet tonight while the bulk of individual events will happen on Friday and Saturday. Preliminary races are scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. each morning, and the finals will begin at 6 p.m.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu