2013-2014 College Swimming Previews: Nolan, Kremer Shoulder Load for Stanford

Key Losses: Andrew Saeta (3 NCAA Relays), Matt Thompson (5 NCAA points), Aaron Wayne (22 NCAA points, 4 NCAA relays), Taylor Sishc (3 NCAA diving points), Payne Montgomery (1 NCAA point), Matthew Swanston (13 NCAA points), Jack Lane (1 NCAA point, 3 NCAA relays, officially on a 1-year hiatus to study abroad)
Key Additions: Top Names: Jimmy Yoder (fly/IM, Connor Black ( sprint free/fly), Max Williamson (breast/IM), Charlie Wiser (breast/free), Justin Buck (distance free), Spencer DeShon (sprint free), Jonathan DesCombes (sprint free), Daniel Le (breaststroke), Travis Johns (IM)

2012-2013 Lookback:

Much like the women’s squad that we covered last week, the Stanford men were under a new regime in the 2012-13 season, with longtime assistant/associate head coach Ted Knapp at the helm for the first time.  And—again in parallel with the women’s team—despite what looks like a regression on paper (they finished seventh at NCAA’s and lost “The Streak” of 31 straight Pac 10/Pac 12 titles), the last twelve months have been very promising for the Stanford men in their first year under Knapp and new assistant Scott Armstrong.  Over the last calendar year, Stanford has gotten lifetime best performances from their top-end swimmers (David Nolan, Drew Cosgarea, and Tom Kremer), while seeing huge improvement from their guys not traditionally thought of as “elite” (Chris Pickard, Jeff Garnier, and Mason Shaw, to name a few).

Taking over for a 7-time NCAA Championship-winning coach who was also responsible for the longest conference championship streak in what is also indisputably the strongest one in men’s swimming can be a daunting task… but given Knapp was on deck for all of those titles, there was familiarity in the transition.  That being said, the new staff didn’t take long to make it clear what would be different in a new era of Stanford swimming: rather than having a majority of their guys fully rest for Pac 12’s, the goal would be to place a much clearer emphasis on NCAA’s.

The mindset change was evident at Pac 12’s, with Stanford’s upper echelon swimmers missing their usual spark at a meet they traditionally have dominated.  That, combined with a solid enough performance by a loaded Cal team, spelled the end to Stanford’s streak.  Overall, however, the team performance at NCAA’s showed the benefits of pulling back on the reins at Pac 12’s.  Somehow, despite DQing two relays, the Cardinal finished just seven points outside of trophy contention in Indianapolis.

Highlighting the meet for Stanford was David Nolan, who put together his best meet as a collegiate swimmer.  The sophomore from Hershey, Pennsylvania brought home two individual titles, placed second in his third event, and put together a workhorse effort with seven additional relay swims (would have been eight, had it not been for a prelim DQ in the 400 medley relay).  Nolan will return this year as a favorite to repeat in the 200 IM and 100 back, though freshmen phenoms Ryan Murphy and Jack Conger won’t make it easy (more on that below).

Danny Thomson (17 individual points) and Tom Kremer (32 individual points, two relays) proved to be two of the nation’s top freshmen at NCAA’s.  Kremer was one of the Cardinal’s biggest assets, finishing in the top 10 in all three individual events, including the 200 free, where he broke a 20+ year old 17-18 NAG record.  The two incoming sophomores both had career summers, each posting lifetime bests in their three best events.

Stanford also got scoring individual scoring performances from five seniors (Aaron Wayne, Matt Thompson, Matt Swanston, Mack Montgomery, and diver Taylor Sishc) who Stanford will have to work to replace.  What do these losses mean for them this year?  Swanston is a big loss individually, but the graduation of Wayne and fellow sprinter Andrew Saeta (three relay swims) are bigger blows for the Cardinal (more on Stanford’s sprint situation below). 

Help Wanted: Sprinters

You can’t win an NCAA title without a bunch of sprinters.  You just can’t.  Unfortunately, the biggest question mark for Stanford stems from their lack of firepower in the short events.  David Nolan returning accounts for four slots on the sprint relays, but with a fully-loaded championship schedule (he will likely compete in the maximum of 14 races over the three-day meet), he needs to conserve his energy during preliminary relays.  The Cardinal will get the best out of Nolan if they find a way to get him some chances to rest early in the meet, but with the loss of Wayne, Saeta, and underwater extraordinaire Jack Lane (he’s taking the year off), Stanford still has to replace ten relay swims.

The relay legs on the 4×100 relays shouldn’t be too difficult to replace, thanks to the emergence of Chris Pickard (43.48 flat start), Tom Kremer (42.49 split last year), and Ethan Hallowell (43.75 flat start), along with incoming freshman flyer/freestyler Connor Black, and breaststroke stud Charlie Wiser (more on them below).  However, there are four missing 50 free legs that will be very, very tough to replace.  Despite their growth as short-distance swimmers, Stanford can’t afford to have Kremer and Pickard filling every sprint void; the 50 is too short for both of them, and forcing them into the 4×50 relays will just add to their already-tough schedules (3 events, 2-3 other relays for each of them).  Look for Black (19.8/43.7 flat start) and Jeff Garnier (19.60 split a year ago) to take two of those spots.

Shouldering the Load:

Stanford will lean heavily on their two best swimmers to carry this young squad to the promise land: David Nolan and Tom Kremer.

We all know the story of Nolan’s first two NCAA seasons (a moderately disappointing first one, followed by a redemptive second one).  Despite the breakthrough last season, Nolan’s job in 2013-2014 doesn’t get any easier:

  • 200 IM: While he is still the prohibitive favorite here, there are five swimmers who could give Nolan trouble.  Marcin Cieslak was just 0.24 behind last year and has shown no signs of slowing down.  Sebastian Rousseau tore everyone to shreds across the board in a vengeful week at the U.S. Open (though he may opt again to do the 500 free again).  Right across the San Francisco Bay lies the 2011 champion Marcin Tarczynski and rising sophomore Josh Prenot, who has continued to improve rapidly.  Finally, despite his questionable breaststroke antics, Cody Miller broke 1:42 twice last season.  With a little more closing speed, you can’t count out the Indiana senior.
  • 100 back:  Tom Shields is gone, but Murphy and Conger are already almost as fast.
  • 200 back: Six guys in this field have already broken 1:40: Murphy, Andrew teDuits, Conger, Nolan, Pebley, and Eric Ress.  At this point, Nolan is a distant fourth.  Not that our opinion matters, but… Is it time for Nolan to switch his focus to the 100 free on day three?  His best time (42.34, all the way back from 2011) makes him the third fastest returner, with Joao De Lucca (42.27) just in front.  Some more legitimate sprint freestyle work, combined with the opportunity to swim the event without being completely gassed (like he’s been every time he’s done it in college), could easily push Nolan down into the 41’s.

The puzzling question about Nolan: what do we make of his long course results?  He easily posted best times in his top 6 events (100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 200 back, 100 fly, 200 IM), but didn’t quite put up the times he was looking for (especially after putting up a reported 2:00 long course 200 IM in practice earlier this summer).

Coming out of high school in the spring of 2012, we knew Tom Kremer was going to be a key contributor for Stanford over his four years.  His 1:36 200 free, 47’s in the 100 fly and 100 back, and 1:58 LCM 200 fly made him one of the nation’s top recruits.  But most on-lookers didn’t expect what he did last year: 1:43.1 in the 200 IM, 1:33.0 in the 200 free (good for third), and 1:43.6 in the 200 fly, along with swimming on two relays (he had the fastest split on the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays for Stanford).  Like Nolan, Kremer’s job doesn’t get any easier this year, as he’ll probably be expected to pull additional relay swims. 

Fresh Faces:

Easing the uncertainty surrounding Stanford’s sprinting question is top 5 recruit Connor Black, whose arrival on the Farm couldn’t come at a better time.  Black brings some of the better sprint times we’ve seen to the table, including 19.8/43.7/1:37.2 in the 50/100/200 yard freestyles, 46.7 in the 100 fly, and a 20.7 relay split on the 200 medley.  Expect him to immediately contribute on four relays, and score high in at least one event at NCAA’s.

The addition of Charlie Wiser could quell any worries Stanford has over their lingering breaststroke conundrum.  Wiser took part in the fastest age group breaststroke race in history earlier this year at the North Coast CIF meet, becoming the second fastest pre-collegiate 100 guy of all time (53.57).  The big caveat here: Wiser is coming to Stanford as a member of both the swim and water polo teams.  If he manages that (and that’s a big “if”… though a possible redshirt in water polo this year would make the double easier), he has a ton of upside.

Two other names with NCAA potential to watch: Max Williamson and Jimmy Yoder.  Although Williamson has made his mark in the IM’s, (he has yards bests of 1:46.6 and 3:46.7), he’s proven to be pretty versatile, going 1:37.9 in the 200 free, 1:47 in the 200 back, and 1:57.9 in the 200 breast (likely his third event over the next four years).  Yoder will provide added depth to an already solid butterfly group (48.1 and 1:45.7), along with some potential in the 500 free, as well (4:23.1).

Stanford brought in three other sprinters who could turn into key contributors: Spencer DeShon (20.3/45.0), Jonathan Descombes (44.8 in the 100), and Travis Johns (45.3).

Watch out for…

… Chris Pickard and Jeff Garnier, who each spent this past year obliterating their previous best times (both short course and long course):

 

Pickard

 

2013 SCY (Previous Best)

2013 LCM (Previous Best)

50 free

20.25 (21.03)

22.97 (23.64)

100 free

43.48 (45.12)

49.99 (51.04)

200 free

1:35.30 (1:37.65)

1:49.98 (1:53.86)

400/500 free

4:21.00 (4:27.71)

3:58.08 (4:09.16)

100 fly

 

53.45 (54.79)

200 fly

1:44.51 (1:47.40)

1:59.48 (2:02.37)

     
 

Garnier

 

2013 SCY (Previous Best)

2013 LCM (Previous Best)

50 free

20.37 (21.36)

 

100 free

44.39 (45.75)

51.68 (52.00)

200 free

1:35.87 (1:37.24)

1:51.44 (1:53.25)

400/500 free

4:22.33 (4:40.57)

3:59.43 (4:05.80)

Pickard qualified for NCAA’s a year ago, and will be a huge contributor for Stanford this year, potentially scoring in three events and swimming on at least three relays.  Garnier, who was more of a “diamond in the rough” coming out of high school, has really coming into his own, and will help bolster the Cardinal mid-distance group this year.

Another big name coming back for Stanford: Andrew Cosgarea.  The North Baltimore native has scored at NCAA’s each of the last two years for Stanford, easily clearing his lifetime bests in the 400 IM and 1650.  While his IM’s weren’t quite there this summer, the rising junior made big strides this summer in a couple of his off events that could mean big things for his 500 free and 400 IM (breaking 1:50 in the 200 free and 2:00 in the 200 back).

Diving Helps…

Stanford still has two more years of Kristian Ipsen, who was the nation’s top diver a year ago at NCAA’s, beating rival Nick McCrory of Duke in the 1m and 3m springboard (although McCrory was victorious in the 10m platform event).  Assuming he does a full platform program again, even on his worst day, you can count on Ipsen for 50+ individual points.  He’s just that good.

Joining Ipsen are returning scorers Noah Garcia (14th, 10m platform) and Connor Kuremsky (16th, 3m springboard), along with incoming freshman Bradley Christensen.  A U.S. National Team member and consistent contender at the junior national ranks, Christensen is already polished enough to score in the 1m and 3m board events.

The Overall Outlook:

Stanford’s team isn’t built to compete for an NCAA title this season… and that’s okay.  At this point, their realistic ceiling as a team is probably third, behind Cal and Michigan.   However, if one or two sprinters can come out of the woodwork and they land a few big-name recruits (Corey Okubo and Liam Egan are just two of the top swimmers from the Class of 2014 Knapp and Armstrong are targeting), this team can challenge for a title in the 2014-2015 season.

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Michael Sujek

Nice article!

I would love to get an analysis of the Wolverines and other top programs this year (like Cal or Texas or Arizona). Michigan lost so many of their sprinters and don’t seem to have the freshman coming in who will make an immediate impact at NCAAs, IMO. There is another GS on the roster from Kenyon to help with their sprint free… but curious how they stack up… Cal got their stud back from the year off last year… plus top recruits… they seem like the team to beat preseason.

Michael Sujek

It’s also interesting the Stanford approach to put the emphasis on NCAAs and not worry about Pac10s. In contrast, it will be interesting to continue to watch Mike Bottom’s approach at Michigan with the team pulling the double year-end taper. Last year, Miguel Ortiz had such a phenomenal NCAAs among other guys… who continued to swim fast.

Art Winters

In the first few paragraphs, you mention more info later in this article about: freshmen phenoms Ryan Murphy and Jack Conger won’t make it easy (more on that below).

I could not find anything about them!

Help please.

art winters

Hi Art,

try hitting ctrl + f and typing in Conger. They’re in the section titled “Shouldering the Load”.

duckduckgoose

Very thorough and fair. Thanks, Morgan,

One of the things that shocked and bummed me out was almost exactly a year ago when people were bagging on Nolan for the audacity to attend Stanford. If you’re majoring in biomechanical engineering, your college choice isn’t solely based on swimming. Nolan’s a good guy from an incredible family, so it was terrific to see him do well last season, even if my heart is blue and gold.

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A recent graduate of Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the …

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