College Swimming Previews: #6 Stanford Men Face First Nolan-less Year

Key Additions: Cole Cogswell (CA – Freestyle), Ryan Dudzinski (PA – Sprint Free/Back), Brad Zdroik (NJ – Freestyle), Matt Anderson (AZ – Breaststroke), Abrahm Devine (WA – IM), Jack Walsh (MI – IM)

Key Losses: David Nolan (53 Ind. NCAA Points + 3 relays), Kristian Ipsen (Diving, 3 Pac 12 Titles, 41 NCAA Points) Drew Cosgarea (3 Ind. NCAA Points + 1 relay), Thomas Stephens (3 NCAA relays, 4 Pac-12 relays), Tom Kremer-Olympic Redshirt (28 NCAA Ind. Points, 3 NCAA Relays)

The Stanford men come into the 2015-16 season with a lot of question marks surrounding their team, along with a lot of excitement after a strong recruiting year. The question marks mostly come from the loss of their top NCAA performer David Nolan, along with diver Kristian Ipsen, who had the 2nd most NCAA points of any Cardinal last season. The team will have to establish a new identity this year with Nolan gone, and the entire team is going to have to pull up their socks if they want to remain as competitive as they have been in recent years. Recently we have heard that Tom Kremer is taking a redshirt year to prepare for the Olympics, which means Stanford will lose all 125 individual points they earned last year.

2014-2015 Lookback

The Cardinal had a very successful season in 2014-15, with a 6th place NCAA finish to go along with narrowly missing out on the Pac-12 title, losing to USC by just 9 points. After winning an amazing 31 consecutive Pac-12 titles from 1982 until 2012, they failed to regain the title in 2015 after back-to-back wins by California. USC’s title was their first since 1979.

Despite the breakout meet by USC, Stanford’s showing at Pac-12s was superb, as they downed defending champions California by well over 100 points. David Nolan led the way for Stanford at his final Pac-12s, with top-3 finishes in all of his individual events (200 IM-1st, 200 Bk-2nd, 100 Bk-3rd) and was a key contributor on 4 relays. Tom Kremer was another top performer, with 3 top-6 finishes in his individual events and contributions on 3 relays in his junior year. Another junior who had a strong competition was Danny Thompson, who was 4th in the 500 free, 8th in the 400 IM and then had a breakout swim winning the 1650, earning Stanford some valuable points. The freshman had a good showing at Pac-12s as well, with Sam Perry finishing 4th, 8th and 10th in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and contributing on both 200 and 400 free relays. Curtis Ogren was 2nd in the 400 and 4th in the 200 IM, and Patrick Conaton was 4th in the 200 back. Ultimately, things went USC’s way on the final day and Stanford lost by a mere 9 points.

At NCAAs Stanford had another strong showing, moving up 3 places from 2014 into 6th in the nation. David Nolan led the way again, highlighted by his victory and American record in the 200 IM. He was also 2nd in the 100 back, 3rd in the 200 back, and swam on 3 relays. He scored 53 points in those 3 swims alone, contributing over 25% of Stanford’s point totals. Senior diver Kristian Ipsen was the 2nd highest point scorer, with two 3rd place finishes in the diving events giving him 41 points. Also scoring individually was junior Tom Kremer (28) and senior Drew Cosgarea (3). That makes all 3 of Stanford’s 4 individual point scorers seniors who have now used up their eligibility and won’t be swimming for them this season, and the other, Kremer, is taking the year off.

However, they did have some swimmers at NCAAs last year who came close to scoring and could do so this season. Patrick Conaton’s 200 back preliminary time would’ve earned him a berth in the B final at NCAAs, so that is something for him to work towards this year. Connor Black and Andrew Liang were 23rd and 24th in the 100 fly, Gray Umbach was 18th in the 200 IM and Curtis Ogren would’ve been swimming in the 400 IM B final had he not been disqualified. Stanford had solid relay performances with 2 A finals, 2 B finals and 1 disqualification (200 medley, would’ve made B final). One thing to point out is their top relay, the 800 free, was comprised of 3/4 seniors, leaving some major holes to be filled this season.

Solid Recruiting Year Will Attempt To Replace Nolan

David Nolan was one of the most impressive swimmers at NCAAs last season, no doubt. His individual performances were spectacular, and every time he swam on a relay he would throw down a split that was competitive with the fastest in the field. Not only was he a force in the 200 IM, he backstroke events and the free relays, he swam breaststroke on the 400 medley relay with a very fast split. The guy oozed talent, and the Cardinal will miss him dearly this year. Now that Nolan has expired his eligibility, Stanford has attempted to address some of the holes that are left by his departure. He obviously cannot be replaced, but Stanford has brought in some very capable freshmen to help fill the void. To help the freestyle relays, they brought in Cole Cogswell, Ryan Dudzinski and Brad Zdroik who all boast impressive personal bests. All 3 swimmers cracked Swimswam’s top 20 recruits, with Cogswell at 7, Dudzinski at 11 and Zdroik at 17. All three will help the 200 and 400 free relays, with best times ranging from 20.0 to 20.3 in the 50 and 43.8 to 44.5 in the 100. Cogswell and Zdroik will also be candidates for the 800 free relay, as they both have best times of 1:36. The 3rd place 800 free relay from last year is losing all 4 members this season, so they’ll be looking for all the help they can get. Dudzinski will lend a helping hand to the backstroke squad, as he comes in with times of 21.4/46.7 in the 50 and 100 back, which will give the medley relays a boost. Matt Anderson comes in as the breaststroker of the recruiting class, with best times of 53.5 and 1:55.3 in the breaststroke events. That gives Stanford the breaststroker they have desired for a few years now, and his times out of high school would score solid points at Pac-12s, especially the 200 which would make the A final. Stanford also brought in a couple IMers, with Abrahm Devine and Jack Walsh. Both come in with best times of 1:47 in the 200 IM, and Devine has a 3:45 400 IM while Walsh is currently sitting at a 3:52. Both would crack the B final at Pac-12s in the 200, and Devine would even make the A final in the 400. Stanford came away with many great additions this recruiting season, but simply won’t be able to replace the performances of David Nolan. However they have done a good job addressing their needs and got some of the top recruits in the country in the process.

Devine and Walsh Join Strong IM Group

For years David Nolan has led a strong IM contingent from Stanford, and even though he’s gone now they still have a strong group and are adding to it this year. They are led by rising star Curtis Ogren who is entering his sophomore season as a Cardinal. Ogren was 4th in the 200 IM and 2nd in the 400 IM at Pac-12s, and would’ve scored at NCAAs in the 400 had he not been disqualified. He is coming off a 5th place finish at US Nationals in the 400 IM. Another member of the IM group is Max Williamson, who is entering his junior year at Stanford. Williamson made the A final in both IM events at Pac-12s and qualified for NCAAs last year, but had his most successful performance of his career this past summer as he won a bronze medal in the 400 IM at the Pan American Games in Toronto. He continued his strong summer finishing 4th in the 400 IM at US Nationals, just ahead of teammate Ogren. Also competing at NCAAs in an IM event was Danny Thomson who was 31st in the 400 IM. They also have Gray Umbach who had a top-8 finish in the 200 at Pac-12s, one of 5 members of the team in the championship final. While losing Nolan and Tom Kremer, the IM group gains two strong members this season in Abrahm Devine and Jack Walsh. As previously stated, both Devine and Walsh should be able to come in and immediately be contributors at the Pac-12 level. Devine will be a strong contender to score individually at NCAAs in his first year as well, as his 400 IM best time is only 1 second off of what it took to score last season.

Relays

Stanford lost a lot of their relay strength from last season, with Nolan being the teams biggest contributor. He was someone they could always count on for a blistering leg. With the losses of Tom Kremer, Drew Cosgarea and Thomas Stephens all 4 members of the 3rd place finishing 800 free relay at NCAAs is gone, so some guys will have to step in and fill in the gaps. Nolan, Kremer and Stephens all swam on 3 relays at NCAAs. With all 5 relays placing in the top-3 at Pac-12s last season and a solid showing in the relays at NCAAs, Stanford has to keep their relays competitive in order to remain in the upper echelon of teams. With the swimmers they have recruited this past year they should have no problem doing so. Cogswell, Dudzinski and Zdroik will join Sam Perry, Spencer DeShon and Connor Black as leading candidates for the freestyle relays. With the additions of Dudzinski for backstroke and Matt Anderson for breaststroke, the medley relays shouldn’t take a major step back this year.

Diving

Not only is Stanford losing their top point scoring swimmer this season, they’re also losing their top point scoring diver. Kristian Ipsen has won multiple NCAA and Pac-12 titles for Stanford, and even has an Olympic medal to his name. He won all three diving events at the Pac-12 Championships last season, and had a pair of 3rd place finishes at NCAAs. The combination of losing Nolan, Kremer and Ipsen will hit Stanford hard. Together they combined for 122 points last year. Stanford had three other divers put forward solid performances at Pac-12s, and will need them to hopefully make the jump to NCAAs this season. Bradley Christensen was the Stanford’s only other diver at NCAAs, finishing 18th in the 1 meter event. He had three top-8 finishes at Pac-12s last season, including a 2nd place finish in the 3 meter. He will be counted on to become an NCAA scorer this season. Theodore Miclau and Tarek Abdelghany also competed for Stanford last season. Miclau had a 5th place finish on Platform at Pac-12s, while Abdelghany best finish was 9th in the 3 meter event. Both should continue to be solid Pac-12 contributors again this year.

Other Key Swimmers

  • Heading into his final year with Stanford, Gray Umbach will be relied on more heavily than he has in his three previous seasons. Last season at the Pac-12 Championships he had three top finishes, including two appearances in the A final (200 fly-4th, 200 IM-7th). He then had his best individual finish ever at the NCAAs, finishing 18th in the 200 IM. He was also the flyer on the 400 medley relay at both the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships. This season he will not only be counted on for more Pac-12 top finishes and relay contributions, but to make the jump to becoming an individual scorer at the NCAAs.
  • After a successful rookie season with the Cardinal, freestyler Sam Perry will be a key member of the team this year. He came through in a big way at his first Pac-12 Championships last season, finishing 4th in the 50 free, 8th in the 100 free and 10th in the 200 free. The man from New Zealand also swam on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays at Pac-12s and NCAAs. He will be counted on to be a key member of the freestyle relays again this year, and potentially could add the 800 free relay to his lineup after the departures of Nolan, Cosgarea and Stephens. His 1:35.60 from Pac-12s is a good sign moving forward.
  • Like Perry, Connor Black will be relied on heavily for his relay contributions this season. Last season at Pac-12s Black swam on both the 200 free and 200 medley relays, and then the 200 free relay again at NCAAs. He also had three top-12 finishes at the Pac-12 Championships, including a trip to the A final in the 100 fly (7th). He then just missed scoring individually at NCAAs, finishing 23rd in the 100 fly. His performance from Pac-12s would’ve put him in scoring position. Black is capable of scoring individually at NCAAs this season, and he probably will have increased relay duties. He is coming off a 6th place finish at US Nationals in the 100 fly (52.61).
  • Last season sophomore Spencer DeShon made great strides, improving his 50, 100 and 200 freestyle times from his freshman year by substantial margins. If he continues to improve, he could find himself in Pac-12 A finals in the freestyle events this season, along with increased relay responsibilities. Last season he was 14th, 17th and 11th in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles, and swam the final of the 200 free relay at NCAAs.
  • Stanford will look for Ryan Arata to have some big performances this year in the backstroke events. Heading into his senior year, Arata is coming off his first NCAA Championships where he swam individually in both backstroke events, along with swimming on the 200 medley relay. He has consistently improved his best times in all of his three years at Stanford, finishing his freshman year with times of 48.11 and 1:45.40 in the 100 and 200 back, he came out of last year with times of 46.88 and 1:42.04. If he can improve again in his senior year and swim his fastest at NCAAs (something he failed to do last season), he is within reach of making the a consolation final or two.

2015-2016 Outlook

This season will be a very interesting one for Stanford. 100% of their individual points from NCAAs are gone, and they will need the team to collectively step up and do what they can to fill the void.

Despite the massive losses, they boast one of the top recruiting years. Their class doesn’t have strength in numbers, but does in quality, including 3 from the top 20.

Even with the loss of Nolan and Kremer, all of their relays have potential to be close to what they were last year- save the 800 free relay. It will really depend on how the freshmen perform in their first season and how the existing squad responds to the challenge of losing some of their top guys. Almost all of Stanford’s swimmers who competed at NCAAs last year and didn’t score have potential to do so this year. They weren’t far off, and if they can take a step forward they could earn Stanford some much needed individual points.

Stanford will have a difficult time retaining their 2nd place from Pac-12s this year, with the defending champions USC looking strong and 2013 & 2014 champions California looking for redemption after a disappointing 3rd place last season. Stanford will likely be looking at a slight demotion from 2nd place to 3rd. As for NCAAs, last year was a dogfight for 6th between Stanford and Georgia, ultimately being won by Stanford by just half a point. NC State, Auburn and Alabama were all not far behind either, and it will likely be the same kind of situation this year. NC State, Auburn and Alabama look strong coming into this year, while Georgia is facing a similar dilemma that Stanford is, with 2-time NCAA champion and 2-time World Championship medalist in the 400 IM Chase Kalisz redshirting the season in preparation for the Olympics. With last years 6th and 7th place teams facing major losses and the 8th, 9th and 10th ranked teams looking good coming into the season, NCAAs sets up to be potentially a war between many teams for places 6 through 10.

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Years of Plain Suck

I wish coaches Knapp and Armstrong much success this year. My gut tells me that Stanford’s sophomores will provide the leadership for this team. They’re dedicated and battle-tested (from the 2015 Pac12 and NCAA meets). I believe their enthusiasm and work ethic will rub off on this year’s freshmen. We’ll find out next March. Going out on a limb: I also think that diving coach Patrick Jeffrey will get more points out of his divers than he did last year (even with Ipsen’s graduation). Note to James Sutherland: Stanford is the “Cardinal” (as in the color), never the “Cardinals” (the birds). Also, when I quickly scanned your bio, I read your as team as the “Laurentian Voyeurs,” and thought “huh,… Read more »

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times - SCM (LCM) 50 FR - 24.56 (25.12) 100 FR - 53.58 (56.70) 200 FR - 1:56.07 (2:04.29) 1500 …

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