After a one-year hiatus due to the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-2021 season, our college previews are back! We’ll be previewing the 2021-2022 seasons for the top 12 men’s and women’s programs from the 2021 NCAA Division I Championships – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24.
#9 Stanford Cardinal
Key Losses: Lauren Green (2 NCAA Relays), Hannah Kukurugya (NCAA Qualifier), Lauren Pitzer (1 NCAA Relay)
Key Additions: Torri Huske (VA – free/fly), Meghan Lynch (CT – free/breast/IM), Lillie Nordmann (TX – free/fly), Aurora Roghair (IA – free), Taylor Ruck (CAN – free/back), Regan Smith (MN – free/fly/back), Anna Shaw (CO – free/back), Samantha Tadder (VA – IM/free/breast), Amy Tang (WA – free/back/fly)
Returning Fifth Years: Brooke Forde (40 NCAA Points)
Two years ago, we unveiled a new, more data-based grading criteria based on ‘projected returning points’, a stat of our own making that involved a lot of manual calculations involving departing seniors, redshirts, freshmen, etc. We liked the objectiveness of that stat, but given that there’s still a lot of uncertainty for this year, we’re adopting a hybrid approach this year. The “stars” will rely heavily on what swimmers actually did last year, but we’ll also give credit to returning swimmers or freshmen who have times that would have scored last year.
Since we only profile the top 12 teams in this format, our grades are designed with that range in mind. In the grand scheme of college swimming and compared to all other college programs, top 12 NCAA programs would pretty much all grade well across the board. But in the interest of making these previews informative, our grading scale is tough – designed to show the tiers between the good stroke groups, the great ones, and the 2015 Texas fly group types.
- 5 star (★★★★★) – a rare, elite NCAA group projected to score 25+ points per event
- 4 star (★★★★) – a very, very good NCAA group projected to score 15-24 points per event
- 3 star (★★★) – a good NCAA group projected to score 5-14 points per event
- 2 star (★★) – a solid NCAA group projected to score 1-4 points per event
- 1 star (★) – an NCAA group that is projected to score no points per event, though that doesn’t mean it’s without potential scorers – they’ll just need to leapfrog some swimmers ahead of them to do it
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and diving. Use these grades as a jumping-off point for discussion, rather than a reason to be angry.
Stanford lost a lot of their magic last season with a slightly weakened roster following the pandemic. Most swimmers were way off their mid-season/Pac-12 efforts, causing Stanford to progressively lose their on-paper projected points as the 2021 NCAA championships went on.
Following the 2019 NCAA meet, Stanford returned a whopping 233.5 individual NCAA points for the next season. Contrastingly, Stanford will bring back 57 individual points for this season. A tough reality Stanford had also faced was despite bringing 14 individuals to NCAAs, four had managed to score points.
Senior Brooke Forde earned 40 of the 57 individual points at the 2021 NCAAs, highlighted by a title in the 400 IM and placing third in the 500 free. Both her and junior Allie Raab also scored in the B-final of the 200 breast, placing 13th and 15th respectively, while Raab had just made it into the 100 breast B-final. Meanwhile, sophomore Emma Wheal stepped up and contributed two B-final swims as well, placing 13th in the 50 free before improving to 10th in the 100 fly, alone worth 11 points.
The Cardinal were able to put together score-able relays, but none were to the caliber of previous teams. As a result, Stanford found themselves in an unfamiliar 9th-place NCAA team finish.
But Stanford lands in kind of a weird spot. They’re probably coming out of a 9th place season better than any 9th place team in recent NCAA history, which means they’re right back in the thick of the national championship conversation.
All eyes will be on the new faces, and returning-from-an-absence faces, this coming season to put Stanford back on top.
SPRINT FREE: ★★★★
Emma Wheal leads the returning sprint crew with a sub-22 flat-start 50 free capability that was good enough to place in the B-final. Along with Wheal, Amalie Fackenthal and Anya Goeders all swam at NCAAs but were all off of their 50/100 free Pac-12 times. At the same time, Morgan Tankersley was off her 1:44.63 swim from Pac-12s in the 200 free that could have scored in the B-final.
In massive contrast, newcomer and Olympian Torri Huske boasts 21.39/47.60/1:43.23 in all three of her sprint free events, which all could place in the A-final at NCAAs. Another potential addition to this crew could be Lillie Nordmann in the 200 free, with a score-able 1:43.62 best that could fill in more freestyle point gaps.
Taylor Ruck will be returning from a two-year redshirt and commence her sophomore season with the Cardinal. During her freshman campaign at the 2019 NCAAs, she swam a 1:40-point 200 free to secure top-three points.
Huske and Ruck also can swim other strokes too, raising a question on whether they would swim multiple individual freestyle events or fight their way onto the relays.
DISTANCE FREE: ★★★
Versatile Olympian Brooke Forde will be returning for a fifth year at Stanford, carrying this distance free crew with her 500 free clocking of 4:35.22 that placed third at NCAAs. Morgan Tankersley fell victim to not being able to repeat her 4:37.11 Pac-12 swim, which could have placed in the NCAA A-final, but instead added to finish over 4:40 and missed finals.
Samantha Tadder headlines the incoming distance crew with a potential NCAA-scoring 1650 best of 16:10.2, as well as 4:42.6 in the 500 free. Fellow rookie Aurora Roghair is right with Tadder at 4:45.78/16:34.45 while Meghan Lynch also comes in with a promising 4:46.76 for the 500 crew.
While these times are within the range of upperclassmen freestylers Tankersley and Isabel Gormley, this group will need to ensure they are able to at least repeat Pac-12 times if they want to secure points at NCAAs.
The absence of Taylor Ruck last season really hurt Stanford’s backstroke crew. Both backstrokers did not score individually at the 2021 NCAA championships for Stanford. But now, two of the fastest SCY backstrokers in history, Olympians Regan Smith and Ruck, will likely increase the Cardinal’s chances of making the “A” final in both backstroke events at NCAAs with their scary-fast times of 49.6/50.3 in the 100 and 1:47.1/1:47.5 in the 200, respectively.
As a freshman, Ruck had placed second in both backstroke events. If she were to repeat such finishes, and let’s say Smith simply qualifies for both A-finals, Stanford could really see a turn-around in this discipline. Smith and Ruck will be excellent options for relay considerations, which again will be discussed in a bit.
Brooke Forde accompanied Allie Raab in the 200 breast B-final, but together combined for a mere six NCAA points even with sub-2:10 swims. Raab is a sub-minute 100 breaststroker, yet had only managed to place 16th in the B-final with a reputable 59.25 following a 58.97 prelims swim. Zoe Bartel is another sub-minute/sub-2:10 breaststroker, but experienced taper issues as did many other Stanford swimmers at NCAAs and missed out on finals.
Samantha Tadder has great potential to keep up with Raab/Bartel with event bests of 1:00.5/2:10.1, but would need to develop a plan to ensure she can repeat/better those times where it matters. Meanwhile, Meghan Lynch will give the Cardinal breaststroke crew a solid amount of depth with promising 1:02.2/2:12.2 bests, which came from when she was 15.
Emma Wheal will again return NCAA points with her 51-point 100 fly that nearly won the NCAA B-final, but did secure seven individual points.
Meanwhile, freshman Torri Huske is a scintillating 49.70 in the 100 fly, a time that would likely be in the conversation for an NCAA title every other year if Maggie MacNeil hadn’t blasted a 48.89 last season. Nonetheless, Huske is likely a top-three finishers in the event.
Huske also has a matching 1:53 best in the 200 along with Lillie Nordmann, also a 52.0 flyer, which could fill another point gap for the Cardinal if their resting goes according to plan.
Regan Smith boasts a 1:51.2 in the 200 fly to give the Cardinal a top-tier option that can challenge for the national title. A reminder that Smith missed the Olympic team in the 200 back, but was able to secure a surprise silver medal in the 200 fly at Tokyo, meaning Smith could very well opt to race the incredibly tough double at NCAAs this season.
Huske, Nordmann, and Smith all have potential to be ‘A’ finalists in the 200 fly, though it’s far from a certainty that either Huske or Smith will swim it.
Coming back to defend her 400 IM title will be Brooke Forde, who put up 4:01.57 to set a Greensboro pool record at NCAAs. Newcomer Samantha Tadder could very well succeed Forde in the 400 event with a 4:07 best in the event. Tadder is also 1:57.4 in the 200 IM, which is promising but not for-certain repeatable considering last season’s taper misses.
Torri Huske is a potential option in the 200 IM with her best of 1:53.73, which she could easily swim over her equally-impressive 21.39 50 free best. Fellow newcomer Meghan Lynch also has been under 2:00 in the 200 IM and comes in with a 4:12.0 long IM best.
Daria Lenz was the lone diver to score points in 2021, scoring three points in contrast to her ten points earned in 2019. Despite this, Lenz has wound up in runner-up position twice at the Pac-12s on the 3-meter board. Coming back this season after hiatus will be another 2019 scorer Carolina Sculti, who reeled in eight individual points.
Joining the Cardinal diving crew this season will be Lauren Burch and Great Britain’s Maria Papworth. Both Burch and Papworth have experience competing at the national level, with Burch placing top-eight at the 2019 USA Diving Junior Championships while Papworth has medaled at the 2019 British Diving Championships. These strong additions raise the potential of diving NCAA points this season, if each diver can perform at their top level where it counts.
At the 2019 NCAAs, Stanford had one relay title, two third-place finishes, followed by two sixth- and seventh-place relays, summing up to 154 points. Meanwhile, in 2021, Stanford’s best relay finish was fifth place, which also included three more eighth-place finishes and a 12th-place finish, worth 104 points. That’s a 50-point difference in relay points.
However, looking at freestyle relays alone, Stanford’s massive incoming class provides a massive amount of depth that can put their relays back into championship contention. As mentioned before, Torri Huske (21.39/47.60) and Taylor Ruck (21.70/46.76) immediately can boost the Cardinal’s sprint free relays. Emma Wheal and Amalie Fackenthal were the only swimmers to break 22 in the 50 free last season. Combine that duo with Huske/Ruck, that could very well produce a sub-1:28 relay.
Into the 800 free relay, Brooke Forde had the fastest split of 1:43.23 for the Cardinal by nearly three seconds. In the past, Stanford has won this relay on numerous occasions. This season, Stanford has the potential to put together an all-Olympian 800 free relay that is destined for the NCAA title, if taper goes well. Along with Forde, Huske and Regan Smith come in with 1:43s in this event. Ruck has also been 1:40.3, which could set Stanford up for a great relay dual with the No. 1 Virginia women.
As for the remaining incoming freshman freestylers, Anna Shaw (22.2/48.2) and Amy Tang (22.0/48.1) provide even more sprint free depth for the Cardinal to put together some blistering sprint free relays. Along with Tang (1:46.6), Aurora Roghair (1:46.72) and Meghan Lynch (1:47.8) are all sub-1:48 in the 200 free, which can benefit either the 800 free relay or put in options for the individual 200 free.
Into the medley relays, Ruck and Smith are stellar options to lead off either 200 and/or 400 relays. Most likely, we will see Allie Raab swim breaststroke for these relays while Huske could be the power fly leg that Stanford needs to get their medley relays up to par with their free relays. If Ruck and Huske are on the same relay, that would then put extra pressure on who can take over the freestyle leg. Nonetheless, Stanford’s relay options are massively re-vamped with their Olympic-sized boost.
Many teams experience waves of strong incoming classes and/or seasons where the pressure is laid on the upperclassmen. As Stanford assesses how to re-group and get back on track, the Cardinal will be fortunate enough to gain a large incoming class/bonus returnees that will jolt them back on the winning path.
With the likes of versatile swimmers Ruck, Huske, and Smith joining Stanford, head coach Greg Meehan has a plethora of options on how to best utilize each swimmer individually and on relays. Simply put, these swimmers’ additions were what Stanford needed.