The Stanford Cardinal men topped high-flying NC State in Palo Alto Saturday, with senior Gray Umbach coming up with two clutch wins in a back-and-forth showdown.
Though Stanford was at home, the result is still at least mildly surprising: the Cardinal were 6th at last year’s NCAA Championships (compared to 8th for NC State) but lost national champ David Nolan to graduation and All-American Tom Kremer to redshirt. Stanford was just 10th in our season-opening Power Rankings, with NC State at #4.
The teams split the event wins at 8 apiece, but Stanford’s depth helped them accumulate 28 more points along the way. No event was more key in that effort than the 200 fly.
NC State started out red-hot, carrying momentum from their big meet with Cal Friday night and winning four straight events to open the meet and build a 26-point lead. But Stanford got its first win with a 54.92 from freshman Matt Anderson in the 100 breast, and it was a 1-2 finish.
But it was the subsequent 200 fly that really put the hurt on the visiting team. Umbach went 1:44.63 to win the race and put up the best time in the NCAA this year (pending the results of other meets this weekend), and his Stanford teammates Jimmy Yoder (1:45.55, #8 nationally) and Abrahm DeVine (1:46.84, #18) followed in a 1-2-3 gut punch. Suddenly NC State’s commanding lead had shrunk to just 2.
The teams would trade the lead again after that, but late in the meet, Umbach provided the dagger swim as well. He went 1:45.93 to win the 200 IM and rocket to #3 in the nation while also putting Stanford over the 150-point mark, officially clinching the meet.
NC State wasn’t without its bright spots, though. The Wolfpack swept the relay events in dramatic fashion. The 200 medley relay came down to three tenths of a second, with anchor Simonas Bilis splitting 19.55 to help the Pack take the night’s first win. Sophomore backstroker Hennessey Stuart led off in 22.08 to give NC Stat the early lead and the team went 1:28.01. Stanford was 1:28.33 behind a 21.12 Umbach fly split.
In the 200 free relay, Stanford actually led with 50 yards to go, but Bilis popped a 19.46 to run down the Cardinal and seal the win in 1:19.32. NC State already leads the NCAA with its 1:18.98 from last month, but tonight’s time was still faster than anyone else in the NCAA has been. Stanford was 1:19.55, 3rd in the NCAA this year.
Bilis also dominated the sprint freestyles to finish with a four-win day. His 19.47 blew out the 50 free field, and his 43.08 win in the 100 free displaces Caeleb Dressel as the top time in the NCAA for the time being.
Other notable event winners:
- Anton Ipsen swept the 500 free (4:23.66) and 1000 free (9:03.21), both in times that would check him into the top 5 nationally. That 500 free checks in at 5th, and he already leads the nation in the 1000.
- The Wolfpack swept all the freestyle races, with top freshman Justin Ress going 1:37.25 to win the 200.
- But Stanford really took advantage of NC State’s breaststroke weakness. The freshman Anderson won the 100 in a 1-2 as mentioned above, and would complete a breaststroke sweep with a 1:59.21 in the 200.
- One of the battles of the night came in the 200 back, where highly-touted sophomores Patrick Conaton and Hennessey Stuart collided. The two tied down to the hundredth of a second at the 50, and Stanford’s Conaton led by just .02 at the 100. He would ultimately hold on for the win at 1:44.35, with Stuart going 1:44.52.
- Stuart won the 100 back during NC State’s early rampage, going 47.33.
- Another Stanford sophomore, Andrew Liang, came up with a tight 100 fly win late, going 47.30 to the 47.60 put up by NC State’s Soeren Dahl.
- Stanford also swept diving, with Bradley Christtensen winning on 1-meter and Ted Miclau on 3-meter.