College Swimming Previews: #5 Stanford Distance Squad Keeps Rising

We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs from the 2017 NCAA Championships – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24. Can’t get enough college swimming news? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for some inside looks at the life of a college swimmer as told by college swimmers themselves, plus full-length profiles of a few of college swimming’s biggest names, including our cover athlete, Simone Manuel.


Key Losses: Tom Kremer (15.5 NCAA points, 3 NCAA relays), Jimmy Yoder (2.5 NCAA points)

Key Additions: Matthew Hirschberger (MD – distance free), Alex Liang (CA – IM), Brennan Pastorek (GA – IM/breast), Johannes Calloni (NJ – distance free), Alberto Mestre (CA – sprint free), Glen Cowand (TX – back), Jordan Greenberg (MN – sprint free)

Grading Criteria

We’ve tightened up our criteria from last year, where our first stab at a letter grading system got hit by a little bit of classic grade inflation. Again, bear in mind that all of these grades are projections more than 6 months out – and as none of us has a working crystal ball, these projections are very subjective and very likely to change over the course of the season. Disagreeing with specific grades is completely acceptable; furiously lashing out at a writer, commenter or specific athlete is not.

  • A = projected to score significant (10+) NCAA points per event
  • B = projected to score some (3-10) NCAA points per event
  • C = projected on the bubble to score likely only a few (1-2) or no NCAA points per event
  • D = projected to score no NCAA points

2016-2017 Lookback

A team made up almost exclusively of non-seniors, the Stanford Cardinal charged to its highest NCAA finish since Ted Knapp took over from Skip Kenney as head coach after the 2011-12 season, ending up 5th.

Abrahm Devine and Tom Kremer scored in three events individually, while Stanford‘s distance group really made its mark on the national scene. Freshman Grant Shoults led the way with a 4th place finish in the 500 free and an 8th in the 1650 free, while fellow freshman True Sweetser was 16th in the 500 and 12th in the mile. Liam Egan was a part of that group as well, contributing a B final win in the 500 free.

Stanford covered most of the bases in terms of scoring in a diverse event set, with Patrick Conaton (200 back) and Ryan Dudinski (100 back) earning points in the backstrokes, and Andrew Liang (100 fly) and Kremer and Jimmy Yoder (200 fly) making it back for night swims in fly. Sam Perry held it down in the sprints, touching 7th in the 100 free and 12th in the 50, as Stanford scored all five relays, including all but the 200 free relay in the top 8.

Sprint Free: B+

Perry will shoot for a double A-final showing in the 50 and 100 frees in what will be his senior campaign on the farm. He’ll also be the rock for Stanford‘s sprint relays, especially with Kremer gone.

Andrew Liang and Cole Cogswell return from the 200 free relay, though neither are predicted to score in a 50 free that continues to drop down to a 19-low in order to make the B final. Nonetheless, they are important pieces for the sprint group to pair with Perry.

The freshman class could definitely make an impact, and there are a couple names that might be of use immediately in their first seasons with Stanford. Though his times in yards might not suggest it, Alberto Mestre might be one of the biggest steals for the Cardinal coaching staff in this NCAA incoming class. Mestre, who represents Venezuela internationally, has been 20.0/44.5 in the 50/100 free. Those are certainly strong times, but he ended up blasting a 22.3/50.0 in LCM at the 2017 World Junior Championships, the 50 free time being more eye-popping of the two. Jordan Greenberg is the other sprint specialist incoming, with best times of 20.3/45.0 in SCY. Glen Cowand is also worth mentioning, as he’s primarily a backstroker, but has been 20.6/44.8.

Further, Andrew Liang‘s brother Alex Liang has been 20.5/44.6, while Brennan Pastorek has been 20.6/44.1.

Distance Free: A+

Shoults and Sweetser is a fantastic combo, and both of them got international experience this summer with Shoults at WUGs and Sweetser at Worlds. The two of them combined for 32 NCAA points between the 500 and 1650 free last year, and the way they swam this summer suggests that they’ll only go up from there.

Meanwhile, senior Egan will likely chip in points in one or both distance free events for three expected scorers in the two events.

Shoults is most capable of the distance squad in terms of the 200 free, and he just missed scoring in the 200 free last year at NCAAs. Stanford returns five of seven swimmers under 1:36 in the 200 free, too.

Additionally, freshmen Johannes Calloni and Matthew Hirschberger are great distance specialists joining the program this year. Calloni has definitely had the hotter hand lately, as he has won the Jr National 1500 free title the last two summers, though his SCY best (15:02.10) is well off of Hirschberger’s (albeit from 2014) best of 14:51.81. The good thing for Stanford, though, is that they really don’t need the freshmen to develop right away– they already have one of the best distance groups in the country. Should the newcomers end up scoring, well, that will only serve to better the distance tradition on the farm.

Alex Liang, again, could be useful here– he’s been 1:36.6/4:21 in the 200/500 free.

IM: A-

Abrahm Devine was a big name this summer, as he claimed a somewhat unexpected 200 IM spot on the U.S. Worlds team at Nationals in June. In doing so, his time of 1:56.79 marked him the 5th-best U.S. performer of all time in that event, behind only Phelps, Lochte, Shanteau, and Kalisz. Devine scored in the B final in this last year at NCAAs and in the A final in the 400 IM, and it’s to be expected that he’ll pull off two A final showings in the IMs.

Last year, Curtis Ogren slid into the 400 IM B final, giving the Cardinal another potential scorer in that event.

Freshmen Alex Liang and Brennan Pastorek will be immediate boosts to the IM group on the farm. Liang is very good at many events, so it’s no surprise that he’s been 1:45.9/3:46.7 in the 200/400 IM. Pastorek, meanwhile, has been 1:46.0/3:53.8.

Butterfly: B+

Andrew Liang is certainly a strong candidate for an A final appearance next March in the 100 fly, after he finished 2nd in the B final last year. Brad Zdroik popped a 45.9 at Pac-12s last year, and while he gained a little and missed scoring at NCAAs, having two sub-46 flyers on the roster is a pretty good sign for StanfordSam Perry, while primarily a sprint freestyler, also went 46.3 in the 100 last year.

Little Liang has some interesting potential in the 200 fly, where he’s been 1:45.5. That time is even more valuable considering both of Stanford‘s 200 fly scorers at NCAAs last year, Kremer and Jimmy Yoder, are no longer NCAA eligible. Will Macmillan is set to lead the charge in the 200 fly, having gone 1:43.5 at Pac-12s last year as a freshman.

Backstroke: B-

Ryan Dudzinski and Patrick Conaton lead the way in the 100 and 200, respectively. Dudzinski just snuck into the B final in the 100 last year, and Conaton wasn’t far off himself. Conaton, meanwhile, ended up winning the 200 back B final after getting in at 16th in prelims.

Abrahm Devine was another scorer in the 200 back B final for Stanford, and after the summer he had, we can expect more from him this year.

In terms of complementary staff, Andrew Liang has been 46.1 in the 100 back, Alex Liang has been 1:45.8 in the 200 back, and freshman Glen Cowand brings in times of 47.4/1:45.1. Cowand is the best freshman backstroker on the roster, and that will likely be what he specializes in at Stanford.

Breaststroke: C-

This is the only portion of the Stanford lineup that could use some help. Matt Anderson has done a fine job on medley relays for the Cardinal, but he was unable to score in either breaststroke race last season. Still, he was only a few tenths off of making the 100 breast B final last season, so there’s a chance he could make the push to score there.

Anderson’s best 200 time (1:54.07) also would’ve scored at NCAAs in the B final last year, so there’s definitely potential for him there, too.

Pastorek has been 54.2/1:57.6, and he’s the only real breaststroker in the class. In terms of the entire incoming class across the nation, he’s one of the stronger breaststrokers in a class without much breaststroke talent. Still, he’s not at NCAA scoring yet, and he’ll have to drop a lot to get there.

2017-2018 Outlook:

This is a Stanford team that continues to deepen its various strengths, and the freshman class is pretty remarkable. The distance group is going to be fantastic with Shoults, Sweetser, and Egan at the helm, and while the strokes could be deeper, they have enough for great medley relays and could end up scoring in every stroke.

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5 years ago

Rumor has is Grant Shoults is never swimming another 1650

JP input is too short
Reply to  PNW
5 years ago

I would find that very hard to believe unless he’s got a 1:41 200 fly hidden in there somewhere.

The real swim shady
5 years ago

Where male swimmers go to die…

Reply to  The real swim shady
5 years ago

What a dumb comment.

Reply to  The real swim shady
5 years ago

Yeah they only got 2 current guys on the US Worlds team..?

Reply to  The real swim shady
5 years ago

Connor Black, a National HS record holder in 100 fly

JP input is too short
Reply to  Swimmer
5 years ago

Because no other college team has ever had a top recruit fail to thrive. Ever.

5 years ago

USC and Stanford had a battle for the 5th spot. USC had a DQ on their 200 free relay, which was one of their best relays.

The USC roster is skewed more toward the shorter events, and Stanford toward the longer events. Might come down to the relays again to see who is in the prestigious Top 5.

tea rex
5 years ago

Even with arguably the best distance squad in the nation, I bet there are days when Katie Ledecky runs train on all the guys.

Big Cardinal Bird
Reply to  tea rex
5 years ago

Katie can’t run train on those distance bois because their swag level is too high

Jeff K
5 years ago

Johannes Calloni is also 1:45.6 in the 200 Back.
Hank Poppe, still only 18 as a sophomore, swam all best times this summer in the Breastrokes: 1:02.30 and 2:16.7.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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