Over the next few weeks, as the Long Course season closes out, new freshman are arriving on campus, and fans everywhere ramp up for another exciting NCAA Season, we will be running a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NCAA season. Starting with the no.12 teams and finishing with the defending National Championships (Texas men and Florida women) we will work our way down the top finishers from last year’s NCAA teams, and will also jump into some rising teams that we expect to break into the top tier this season. Click here to see the other men’s previews, and click here to see all of the previews for both Men and Women.
Key Losses: Eugene Godsoe (52 NCAA Points, 3 NCAA Relays), David Dunford (26 NCAA Points, 3 Relays), Dwight Dumais (Diving)
Key Additions: Jake Hartley (Sprint free), Mitch Stoehr (Sprint free), Mason Shaw (Middle distance, IM), Garren Riechel (Breaststroke, Sprint free), Will Gunderson (Back, Fly)
2010 Championships Recap: The Stanford men had their NCAA Championship hopes derailed early in the season when superstar Austin Staab took a leave of absence from the team for the season. Staab would have likely impacted the Cardinal’s score at NCAA’s by somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 points, including relays. We still haven’t heard official word about why Staab left the team—he still trained and competed all season back home in Ohio—but ultimately it appears he wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The Cardinal would have certainly jumped Arizona for third, but would have been about 40 points behind Cal for second, and 80 or so behind Texas for the title.
Prodigal Son: All reports indicate that Staab will be back for his senior year in Palo Alto, despite passing on most of the long course season (including Long Course Nationals). He should be as good as ever: last season, he swam the top 100 yard fly time in the nation, collegian or not, of 44.72. Only Tom Shields of Cal (who won the national title in a 44.91 in Staab’s absence) will challenge him there. Staab should be able to A-final in two out of the 200 fly, 50 free and 100 free as well.
The Streak: All things considered, Stanford put together a very good season last year. They won the Pac-10 title for the 29th straight year and placed in the top 4 at NCAA’s for the 21st consecutive season. They will be in a dogfight this year to win their landmark 30th straight Pac-10 title, as Cal is expected to be extremely good, but Stanford always manages to pull through despite strong challengers.
Godsoe, So Good: This season, they will lose 52-point NCAA scorer Eugene Godsoe. He was the National Champion in the 100 back, third in the 100 fly and third in the 200 back last season. His loss will basically be offset by Staab—Godsoe scores a few more individual points, but Staab is a better freestyler, giving him a bigger impact on relays. Staab will also help make up for the loss of David Dunford, who was the best sprinter on the team and was 7th in the 50 free and 5th in the 100 free last season.
Lots of Returnering Scorers: The good news is that the Cardinal have what can best be described as a stable of sprint freestylers. Besides Staab, they will have four other swimmers returning who were 43.5 or better last season: senior Alex Coville, sophomore Aaron Wayne, senior Jake Allen, and senior Rob Andrews. Despite losing its two fastest legs, Stanford’s 400 free relay should be even better than last season. In fact, all of Stanford’s free relays should be better this year—they return their four best 200 freestylers, all at 1:36.5 and better, and five 50 freestylers who were under 20 flat start. Stanford’s sprint group is one of the most underrated in the nation, and all three of these relays will be in the top 5 at NCAA’s this year.
In breaststroke, Stanford returns two NCAA A-finalists in junior Curtis Lovelace and senior John Criste, who placed seventh and eighth respectively in the 100. Lovelace was at 52.61, and Criste was a 52.83, giving them the second-best breaststroke group (behind rival Cal) in the nation. Lovelace also placed sixth in the 200, and Criste fourteenth.
We’ve already discussed Staab, who’s the best in the nation in the 100 fly, but he’s only third best on the team in the 200 fly. There, junior Bobby Bollier and senior David Mosko were third and fourth at NCAA’s last year. They should expect at least 50 points in the butterfly events this year.
Backstroke is the big question mark for this team, after the loss of Godsoe. They bring back sophomore Matt Thompson, who was the consolation champion at NCAA’s last year in the 200 (1:41.54), but he doesn’t have the burners to help on the medley relays. That duty will probably fall to his classmate Matthew Swanston, who had a best of 47.7 in the 100 back.
Although they take a hit with the loss of Godsoe, adding Staab back in probably negates the time difference on the medley relays. If Swanston can step up and get into the 46 second range in the 100 back, this is a squad that can definitely grab top three in both medleys.
Thompson and Bollier could both contribute NCAA points in the IM’s as well. Their Pac-10 times last season would have put them both in the B-final of the 400, but both were well off that pace at NCAA’s.
New Distance King: And lest we forget, Stanford brings back junior Chad La Tourette. Over the summer, he took a stranglehold over the title of best distance swimmer in the US by winning the Naitonal Championship, and taking second at Pan Pacs, in both the 800 and 1500 frees. Last season, nobody touched him in the mile at NCAA’s (14:42), and he is as close as there is to a guaranteed win there this season. At NCAA’s last year, he only took 11th in the 500, and was second best on the team behind Mosko, who was fourth in the nation at 4:13.92. Expect La Tourette to be much better in the 500 this season and make the A-final, at least. Mosko also took 11th in the mile.
It’s surprising that La Tourette doesn’t focus on the 200 free more during the collegiate season—his best yards time last year was 1:42.30. I’d expect that to change this season, given that the first half of his 400 from Pan Pacs converts to a 1:38.9 in yards. He should at least be able to get to a 1:36-low to have an impact on the 800 free relay. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he worked on his speed a little this season to improve both his 200 and 500, given how little competition he’s going to have in the mile.
Off The Beaten Path: Despite not losing much, Stanford still managed to work the numbers to allow them a huge and very talented recruiting class. This is partially a function of recruiting swimmers who come from off-the-beaten-path of club swimming. This Stanford coaching staff worked hard to seek out underrated swimmers from unheralded clubs, and it is going to pay off for them.
To really seal up their very talented sprint group, they add two studs in Jake Hartley and Mitch Stoehr.
Hartley, out of Texas, had bests of 20.22 and 44.60 in the 50 and 100 freestyles as a senior, and pulled off an great state championship double. Even more impressive is that he did so swimming out of El Paso. Though Texas has some of the best high school swimming in the country, El Paso is in the far west of the state and is nowhere near the swimming hotbed that Austin, San Antonio and Houston are. Once he gets to Palo Alto and gets into serious training, he should become one of the top sprinters in the country.
Stoehr, from Illinois, had bests his senior year of 20.6 in the 50 and 44.8 in the 100. Unlike Hartley, he was able to stretch into the longer freestyles in high school, with a 200 time of 1:38.79 and a 500 mark of 4:34.49. Neither sprinter stretches himself much beyond freestyle, though of course that could develop at a top program like Stanford.
Mason Shaw, from Idaho, is another example of a big potential guy. He is already a very good middle-distance swimmer, with a 1:38.9 in the 200 free and 2:05 200 breast. He will develop into a primary IM’er in college, where his bests are 1:50.1/3:55.0.
Parker Lam is a freshman only in the sense that it’s his first year in college. The 21-year old holds both the 50 and 100 long course breaststroke national records in his native Singapore, and is already a well-seasoned competitor. He will bring some big-time depth to the Stanford breaststroke group, which didn’t have anybody under a minute besides the aforementioned Criste and Lovelace. In 2010, Lam has bests (converted from short course meters) of 54.7 and 1:56.9. In either event, he could pull into a B-final at NCAA’s, if there are enough roster spots left for him to qualify for the meet.
Stanford further bolstered their depth in both the breaststroke and freestyle events by bringing in Garren Riechel from Snohomish, Washington. Riechel was a four-time state champion in the 100 breaststroke, with a textile-best time of 55.6 as a senior. Riechel did not swim a 200 breast during the 2010 season, but in 2009 wasn’t as good as he was in the 100. Riechel is also going to be good in the freestyle sprints. During his senior season, he went a 20.9 in the 50, and although his yards best was only a 48, he went a converted 44.6 during the long course season.
Will Gunderson bucks the trend for this class, as he hails from the very good Hillsboro HEAT club in western Portland. Gunderson is a backstroker and butterflier who, as a freshman, will mostly provide valuable depth for dual meets and the Pac-10 Championships. His best race is the 200 back, where his textile time is 1:48.67. He also has a good 100 back (50.67), 100 fly (50.29), and 200 IM (1:52.24).
Diving: The Cardinal lose their best diver and a former NCAA finalist, Dwight Dumais, though it won’t hurt them as a team. Last year, Dumais missed essentially all of the season with a shoulder injury, and unfortunately it was his second missed season (he previously redshirted the ’07-’08 season), and his NCAA eligibility has expired. They do return senior Brett Eisencher, who finished 13th on the platform at NCAA’s in 2009, and just barely missed the B-final (17th place) on the 3-meter last season.
2011 Outlook: Coming into this article, I wanted to write Stanford off. I wanted to say that their streak of Pac-10 titles would be done, because Cal looks so incredibly good. But when I broke it down, they are really deep. Their only glaring weakness is the 100 backstroke, but they seem to more than compensate for that by being in the top 3 groups in the nation in many other events.
I don’t think that Stanford, barring something obscene, can knock off Cal for the National Title. But thanks to their big-time depth, the Pac-10 title is still within their reach, and they will definitely keep their streak of top-4 finishes alive.