Key Losses: Chad la Tourette (33 NCAA Points), Bobby Bollier (26 NCAA Points, 2 NCAA Relays), David Mosko (15.5 NCAA Points, 1 NCAA Relay), Rob Andrews (11 NCAA Points, 1 NCAA Relay), Eirik Ravnan (NCAA Qualifier), Geoff Cheah (2 NCAA Points, 3 NCAA Relays), Curtis Lovelace (9 NCAA Points, 2 NCAA Relays)
2011-2012 Lookback: Last year, the Stanford men’s freshman class came in with a huge amount of buzz. The team’s dependence on their rookies showed in that they scored 116 of the team’s 280.5 individual points. Those points alone, even without relays, would have put this team 11th at NCAA’s, and is a huge performance by swimmers in their first year of college action. That’s especially true given this is a men’s team, where it’s rare to see that many freshman who are that good, that early.
With such a young team last season, it felt very much like a changing-of-the-guard, a reset on the program, a new day in Stanford men’s swimming. This year will have a similar feeling, as 33-year head coach Skip Kenney retired this summer, being replace by his former assistant Ted Knapp and new assistant Scott Armstrong from NBAC. Knapp will have lots of questions, and pressure, surrounding him on the basis of the 31-straight Conference titles won by the Cardinal, which will be the hot topic on this team outside of Palo Alto all season.
In relative terms, this year’s freshman recruiting class was a tiny bit quieter, but only in relative terms. The Cardinal still brought in three of CollegeSwimming.com’s top 10 recruits: Tom Kremer, Danny Thomson, and Gray Umbach. In reality, these three combined might ultimately combine for more total value over their four seasons, they just aren’t as high-profile as the Nolan class was.
Superstar Freshmen: We’ll start right there with our preview, as those three should all have an immediate impact on this team as all three rank among the best young swimmers of all time in their specialties (though all three are versatile enough to fill almost any role they’re needed in).
Kremer has been 47.12 and 1:45.2 in the 100 and 200 butterflies, respectively. He had a big mid-season meet where he swam very well (that’s where that 200 time came from, for example), but the 100 came in May’s Central Coast Section High School Championships in California. What’s notable about that is that the swim was about a week-and-a-half prior to the European Swimming Championships, where he was representing Israel, and there went a best time in long course of 53.97.
If I had to guess, it would be that he aimed his taper for the European Championships, where he had a chance atOlympic qualification. Of course, swimmers don’t go from “fully worked” to “tapered” in only 10 days, but with a different time table he might have cracked the magical 47 barrier. He’s already in the hunt for big Pac 12 points with that swim, and would have only been about two-tenths from scoring at NCAA’s last year.
Kremer could contribute in plenty of other areas as well – he’s been a 44.8 in the 100 free and a 1:36.4 in the 200 (all the way up to a 9:16 in the 1000); a 47.9 in the 100 back; and a 56.5 in the 100 breast.
Danny Thomson from Hinsdale, Illinois is a superb freestyler, especially in the distance races. There, he’s been a 4:18.8 in the 500, an 8:55.7 in the 1000, and a 14:57.66. With Chad la Tourette, Bobby Bollier, and David Mosko all out of eligibility, he will join returning sopho0more Andrew Cosgarea (who was 12th last year at NCAA’s in 14:51) in a revamped, but supremely talented, Stanford distance group.
Thomson also has been a 1:37 in the 200 free and a 3:54 in the 400 IM.
Gray Umbach is a National Age Group Record holder whose career stalled out ofr a little while, but then reignited as a senior in high school. His abilities start in the sprints where he was a 20.8 in the 50 and 44.5 in the 100. He’s also a very good backstroker (48.55), but in the 100 fly he matches Kremer’s 47.12, and adds on a 1:46.3 in the 200. I don’t know that another college has ever had two 47.1 100 butterfliers in the same class.
Last Year’s Freshman Class: Let’s check back in on last year’s hugely-hyped freshmen class. Between David Nolan’s top-three finishes in the 200 IM, the 100 back and the 200 back; Andrew Cosgarea scoring in all three of his individual events; and diver Kristian Ipsen winning the 3-meter National Championship, this freshman class scored an amazing 116 points: over a third of the team’s individual scoring.
Throw in Jon Edwards, who was 21st in the 200 back in 1:43.97, and John Lane, who hit 46.2 on a medley relay and was 22nd individually in the 100 fly, and this class certainly performed very well.
Nolan had a rough summer, coming up well short of his best times in long course. At NCAA’s, he was able to put up best times in the 100 back (45.33 leading off the 400 medley relay), and the 200 back (1:39.74 to just get edged in a great battle with Cory Chitwood). His 200 IM time of 1:42.85 (this being the race where he absolutely smoked the National High School Record) for 3rd at NCAA’s though was far from it. Still, the amount of points he scored in year 1 at Stanford has only been done a few times in history.
Nolan should be a big favorite to win the 200 back title this year (depending on what Jacob Pebley at Cal can do this season), though the battle for the 100 back and the 200 IM don’t get any easier. If he gets back to the 1:41 IM that he went in high school, though, that could be a second event win for him.
Sprinters: This Stanford men’s sprint crew, much like their women, is probably the best in the country that nobody talks about. They finished 5th in the 200 free relay and 4th in the 400 free relay, and only graduate Geoffrey Cheah from last year’s relays.
The real star of the group is senior Aaron Wayne, who had a huge breakout last season. He finished 4th in both the 50 (19.47) and the 100 (42.51) freestyles last season at NCAA’s. He was also a 41.71 to anchor the Cardinal’s 400 medley relay: within a tenth of all of the country’s top sprint stars (Feigen, Chierighini, etc.). Wayne has already been a 43.6 this year, the fastest time in the country, so he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
He will be joined on this year’s relay by Nolan, who is an underrated sprinter (19.5/42.3 coming out of high school, though he didn’t get many late-season shots at a flat start in either race last year); and Andrew Saeta, who was a 19.9 and 43.5 at Pac 12’s.
The 4th spot is very wide open, however, and would seem to come to a battle between junior Jake Hartley (44.4), sophomore Ethan Hallowell (44.52 in high school), and the freshmen. Hartley is a swimmer who the Cardinal will have high hopes for this season. He’s chipped a few tenths off of his lofty high school times, but hasn’t really exploded yet. At 6’5″, he’s due for a fast year, and we could see him finishing off the sprint relays.
Other Freshmen: This class didn’t simply stop with those above; the Cardinal brought in a big group of long, tall freshmen with a lot of potential once they mature physically and add some muscle. That includes Ryan Arata, who has identical 49.32 bests in both the 100 back and 100 fly, plus a 1:45.50 in the 200 back.
Christian Brown is yet another great swimmer from the international schools of Tokyo; he has limited yards results, but is an Olympic Trials qualifier in the 100 breaststroke with a 1:04.11. That breaststroke is going to be very important to this team, as the Cardinal only return two swimmers who were in the top 30 of the Pac 12 in the 100 breaststroke last year: Nolan (who won’t swim it), and sophomore Sebastian Wigstrom, who was a 54.8. That leaves Brown with every opportunity to make an immediate impact (though it would be expected that this will still be the team’s biggest weakness this season).
Sean Duggan is another great sprinter in the class who will contend for (and may be even the front runner for) the 4th and final free relay spots. He’s been 20.36 in the 50 and 44.29 in the 100. He shows some ability in the 200 as well, with a 1:37.5 best on his second taper of his senior season. Further, he’s yet another horse in the IM stable, having been 1:49.66 in the 200 (this is a typical Skip Kenney class – where almost everyone can IM).
Jeff Garnier is a 45-second 100 freestyler and a 51-second 100 backstroker; James Ross is also a 45-second 100 freestyler. Ben Lovell is another 45-mid in the 100 freestyle, and adds a 20.7 in the 50 free and a 48.1 in the 100 fly.
Two-Headed Monster: Matt Thompson and Matt Swanston, besides being similarly-named, have very similar event specialties. At last year’s NCAA Championships, Thompson was 3rd in the 200 back and Swanston was 4th. The year before, it was swapped as Swanston finished 4th, and Thompson finished 5th.
The two seniors each swam the 200 IM, and though both went season-bests at NCAA’s, neither was able to score. The small divergence comes in their 3rd-best events: Thompson swims the 400 IM, and Swanston swims the 100 back. Still, both are scorers in those 3rd-best events, as Thompson was 13th in the 400 IM in a 3:45, and Swanston was 14th in the 100 back in 47.31 (with a 47.03 season best in prelims).
Other Potential Contributors: Mitchell Stoehr had a great freshman season in 2011, but sat out the championship meets in 2012. He’s got a 1:36.10 best flat-start in the 200 free, which with a lot of graduations off of that relay could give him a shot at contending for a spot at NCAA’s. Bryan Offutt was 3rd in the Pac-12 in the 400 IM last year in a 3:46, but was off of that pace at NCAA’s. Had he repeeated the time, it would’ve probably been a high B-Final.
Diving: We already talked about the Olympian Kristian Ipsen, but Stanford returns a loaded diving crew even in addition to him. Taylor Sisch and Connor Kuremsky are the two highest-placing returners from last year’s Pac 12 Championships on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. A potential 1-2-3 finish on both springboards, plus big platform points, could be Stanford’s biggest advantage toward keeping the streak alive.
2012-2013 Outlook: Stanford was 3rd in the country last year, but top 3 teams on the men’s side of the pool don’t have gaping holes the way that Stanford does in its breaststroke spot.
We’re really getting down to the big players here, and among the teams contending for top-5 spots, Michigan has looked the best this season. That could be bad for Stanford, except that the gap between those two were so huge last season (~155 points). Stanford still has a big diving edge over most of the teams at the top, and their huge freshman class from last season will be blooming into sophomores.
If the Cardinal can develop one of those breaststrokers to a respectable level (even a 54.0 on a relay start would keep their medleys in the A-Final) it’s hard to see the math working out where this doesn’t remain a top-3 team. They very well could even jump Texas for 2nd, given how much Texas graduated after last season.
The bigger question, though, might be whether or not Stanford can keep “the streak” alive. Both fans of Stanford and fans of their opponents are mixed on each side of the debate: some think they should, some think they shouldn’t. Regardless of what might be “best” for their NCAA performance, I think that they will; and I don’t think it’s a question of “taper” or “not taper”.
Unless they adopt Arizona’s training cycles (big taper mid-season, train straight through Pac 12’s), this team is still built to win conference titles – they dominated the scoring last year, and didn’t even swim all that great. They’ll have better than a 100 point leading before the swimming even starts, thanks to their divers, and should