It’s that time of the year again. SwimSwam will be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s teams (and then some) from the 2022 NCAA Championships. Follow along with the College Swimming Preview Channel. Want to read even more? Check out the latest edition of the SwimSwam magazine.
#3 STANFORD CARDINAL
Three 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.
After what can be considered an “off-year” during the COVID-impacted 2020-2021 season, the Cardinal women bounced back here this past season and ended up finishing third at NCAAs only six point behind Texas. The competition for second place came down to the final event at NCAAs.
Regan Smith arrived after deferring her enrollment to prepare for the Olympics and went undefeated in individual events at dual meets. Taylor Ruck returned after redshirting the 2020-2021 season to also prepare for the Olympics. The two were not the only Olympians to be added (back) to the roster as Torri Huske also arrived on campus. All three had impressive seasons, combining for 132 individual NCAA points.
Sprint Free: ★★★★
At NCAAs, Stanford scored zero points in the 50 free, *only* nine in the 100, but scored big in the 200 with 46 points. The good news? All of those points return. The bad news? Absolutely nothing.
Taylor Ruck led the way winning the 200 freestyle in a 1:41.12. That was a huge swim for Ruck as it was the second-fastest swim of her career, showing she was back at the top of her game after placing second in 2019. It also was her first individual NCAA title and one of the top moments from NCAAs as she had also opened up about her battle with an eating disorder.
Leading the way in the 100 was Torri Huske, who won the ‘B’ final in a time of 46.98. That would’ve finished fourth if she were in the ‘A’ final, but a bit of an off prelim swim of 48.12 kept her out of the championship heat.
Adding to the 200 freestyle scoring party is incoming freshman Kayla Wilson, who already has a best time of 1:43.1 which would have made the ‘A’ final at NCAAs.
Also adding to the sprint group are Gigi Johnson and Kristi McEnroe who aren’t far off earning individual invites at NCAAs. Claire Curzan might join the sprint group as her best 50, 100, and 200 frees would have made the ‘A’ finals, but she has so much versatility it’s hard to say she will be swimming any of the events with 100% certainty. It’s more likely her focus lies on backstroke and butterfly.
Distance Free: ★★★
The return of Tankersley for a fifth year is huge for the Cardinal, especially with the loss of Brooke Forde. Both Forde and Tankersley made the 500 free ‘A’ final last year, and the team had two more NCAA qualifiers in Aurora Roghair and Lillie Nordmann.
Although not in the same scoring position as her 200 free, Kayla Wilson already has a best time in the 500 that would make NCAAs and is only slightly over a second off of earning a second swim. If she is able to drop in her freshman year, she could potentially add some points in the 500 free.
The team was comparatively weaker in the 1650 free, as they only had two points in the event. Roghair finished 15th to get on the board, and Tankersley was 32nd. No true distance free specialists enter this upcoming year, so expect Roghair and Tankersley to be the team’s key milers once again.
Even with the loss of Regan Smith, who opted to turn pro and forgo her remaining collegiate eligibility, the Stanford backstroke group is one of the best single-stroke groups in the country.
Smith is obviously a huge loss, but the team is also home to upperclassmen Taylor Ruck and Lucie Nordmann. Nordmann was eighth in the 200 back at NCAAs in a time of 1:52.28, and Ruck won the ‘B’ final in 1:50.25. Notably, Ruck has a best time of 1:47.59 in the event which would have won last season’s NCAAs.
Claire Curzan comes in and could immediately be a huge impact in the backstrokes, although, once again, it is not clear what her NCAA lineup will be. Also joining the group will be Natalie Mannion. Although Mannion does not have SCY bests that would make NCAAs yet, her LCM success could translate to SCY soon.
Although the group has more to prove, if Curzan swims backstroke, Ruck is around her best time in the 200, and Mannion matches her LCM success, this group is easily a dominant force.
In the pool, if Stanford has a weak stroke, it is breaststroke. Fifth-year Allie Raab is returning and had hip labrum surgery in the spring.
Raab placed 16th in the 200 breast at NCAAs, and was the runner-up in the 100 at Pac-12s. She has a best time of 58.74 in the 100 from 2021, which would put her in scoring range in the shorter breast event if she can get back down there this season.
The return of Raab is huge especially for the team’s medley relays as they do not have any primary breaststrokers in the incoming freshman class.
Torri Huske led the 100 fly group this past season and was the only swimmer to score in the event. She finished second with one of the fastest swims ever–49.17.
The team will get a huge boost from their freshman class as Claire Curzan is a near-lock for the ‘A’ in the 100 fly and although she also has a best time to make the big heat in the 200, it is unsure exactly what her NCAA lineup will be as the U.S. Olympian is so versatile across free, back and fly.
Given her World Championship success this past summer, it would be logical to predict that she races the 200 back on the final day of NCAAs over the 200 fly, but you never know.
Senior Emma Whealwill also be a key asset in the 100 fly, as she swam 51.91 at nationals to finish 20th. That was just off her best time of 51.81 which she swam at the 2021 NCAAs. It took a 51.79 to make the ‘B’ final at NCAAs, so if she is able to squeak a little best time in her senior season, she could potentially add another few points in the 100.
The 200 has a huge gap left by the departure of Regan Smith. The good news is that Lillie Nordmann returns after finishing ninth last year at NCAAs. Also joining Nordmann will most likely be Charlotte Hook and Lucy Bell. Hook has a best time of 1:52.7, which would have snuck into the ‘A’ final. Bell’s best time would have qualified for NCAAs.
Torri Huske leads the way in the 200 IM group after finishing second in it at NCAAs. She swam a huge personal best in the final to trail only Alex Walsh, who produced the fastest time in history. Rising sophomore Samantha Pearson also swam the 200 IM, finishing 59th in prelims.
Brooke Forde, a mainstay on the Cardinal for the past number of seasons, was their top finisher in the 400 IM after placing second to Walsh. Her loss will be felt by the team, having scored 44 individual points last season to trail only Smith.
The good news, especially in the 400 IM, is that they bring in freshmen Charlotte Hook, Lucy Bell, and Sophie Duncan. Hook’s best time of 4:06.4 and Bell’s best of 4:07.3 would have made the NCAA ‘B’ final and Duncan’s best time would have earned an individual invite.
The freshmen will also help in the 200. Hook is about two-tenths off of making the ‘A’ final, and Bell’s best time would have also earned her an invite.
The freshmen and their development/consistency at least with their high school best times will be a very key element if the team wants to score big in the IMs.
Diving has been one of the team’s weaker disciplines recently and it most likely will continue into this year. They lose their only NCAA scoring diver as Carolina Sculti transferred to USC for her fifth year. Olympic Trials qualifying diver Emilie Moore enters as a freshman and could help fill this gap.
The team only won one relay at the 2022 NCAAs in the 800 free. That looks to be slightly harder this upcoming year as they lose half of that squad in Forde and Smith.
Curzan should be a huge help with the loss of Smith on the medley relays, and could also slide into her 800 free relay spot. As for the loss of Forde, especially in the 800 free relay, incoming freshman Kayla Wilson should slot in smoothly.
The team had a miss in the 200 medley relay this past year, partly due to a misjudged turn by Smith on the lead-off leg. Even with the loss of Smith, Stanford should easily outscore their 2022 total in this event this season after falling to 14th last year.
Total Stars: 28/40
Yes, the losses of Smith and Forde will hurt, but the freshmen class has to be one of the best recruiting classes ever. Not a single swimming commit is ranked outside of SwimSwam’s Best of the Rest in the latest rankings that came out in August.
Claire Curzan has shown time and time again that she is always ready to race and is arriving at the perfect time. It is well known that she is going to make an impact, but the question remaining is: where will she make an impact? Fly, back, free, and relays, you name it, she can make a significant mark.
Not to be outshined, however, is Charlotte Hook, who finished third in the 200 fly at both the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2022 International Team Trials. Like Curzan, Hook also shows great versatility in the fly, medley, and mid-distance free events.
On paper, the team looks set up to improve upon their 400 points from NCAAs this past season, especially if the incoming class performs as well as they’re projected to.
While Stanford is looking exceptional, the loss of Smith will dim their chances of upending the reigning national champions from Virginia. With the Texas women having an improved roster via incoming transfer (Dakota Luther) and superstar freshman (Lydia Jacoby), it’s going to be hard for the Cardinal to do any better than their 3rd place finish last year. The team still has enough starpower, though, to hold off the likes of NC State. The Cardinal are looking at another 3rd-place finish at this year’s NCAA Championships – a great result by almost any standard, except for maybe Stanford’s.
WOMEN’S PREVIEW INDEX
|Team||Sprint Free||Distance Free||Backstroke||Breaststroke||Butterfly||IM||Diving||Relays||Total Stars|
|#3 Stanford Cardinal||★★★★||★★★||★★★★★||★★||★★★★★||★★★||★||★★★★★||28/40|
|#4 Alabama Crimson Tide||★★★★★||★★★||★★★★||★★★||★★||★||★||★★★★||23/40|
|#5 NC State Wolfpack||★★★★||★||★★★★||★★★||★★★||★★||★||★★★★||22/40|
|#6 Louisville Cardinals||★★★||★★★||★★||★||★★★★||★★★||★★||★★★★||22/40|
|#7 Michigan Wolverines||★★★||★★||★||★★||★||★★||★||★★★||15/40|
|#8 California Golden Bears||★||★||★★★||★||★★★||★★★||★||★★★||16/40|
|#9 Ohio State Buckeyes||★★★||★★★||★★||★★★||★★||★★||★★★||★★★★||22/40|
|#10 Tennessee Volunteers||★★★||★★★★||★★★||★★★||★★★||★★★★||★||★★★||24/40|
|#11 Indiana Hoosiers||★★||★★||★||★★★||★||★★||★★★★||★||16/40|
|#12 Kentucky Wildcats||★||★||★★||★★★||★★||★★★||★★||★★||16/40|