We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs for the 2018-2019 season – 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 more in-depth college swimming coverage, including a bird’s-eye view of the flood of coaching changes and our ever-popular rankings of the top 50 individual swimmers in college swimming.
#6 Stanford Cardinal
The Cardinal will additionally have Patrick Conaton back in action this year after taking a redshirt year in 2017-18 due to injury. This will be his senior season.
- A = Big NCAA point potential
- B = Some NCAA point potential/Big conference point potential
- C = Longshot for NCAA points/bare minimum for relays, dual meet lineups/some conference points
- D = Likely to only score a few or no points at conference, a liability in dual meets, relays, etc
After recording their highest finish in years in 2017, placing 5th with 242 points, the Cardinal dropped down to 7th at NCAAs in 2018 with 205.
Abrahm DeVine improved from scoring in all of his individual events in 2017 to making the A-final in all three in 2018, including winning the National title in the 400 IM. Grant Shoults, Liam Egan and True Sweetser chipped in with one top-8 finish apiece, while seniors Andrew Liang and Curtis Ogren, junior Ryan Dudzinski and freshman Brennan Pastorek all contributed individually out of the consolation finals.
Their relay performances were similar to the year prior, with three top-8 finishes and a pair of 10th outs of the ‘B’ heat after making four A-finals in 2017. Senior Sam Perry had a few near misses in making second swims in the 50 and 100 free, but made up for it by being a stalwart on the relays, as the New Zealand native produced two sub-19 and three sub-42 freestyle anchor legs. They proved weakest in the sprint freestyles, not putting anyone in the top-16 in the 50, 100 or 200, and also failed to score in the 200 fly and 200 breast.
They were ultimately 48 points back of 6th place USC and 142 off their finish last year of 5th. That was mostly due to the rise of Indiana, who improved by nearly 200 points as they jumped from 7th to 3rd.
SPRINT FREE: B+
The Stanford sprint free relays will go through a pretty big overhaul this year as both Perry and Liang depart after being key on both the 4×50 and 4×100 in years past. However, the team is well equipped to deal with their losses.
Jack LeVant is an amazing all-around talent, and while he likely won’t swim either the 50 or 100 individually, chances are he’ll be on both relays and will contend for a top-3 finish in the 200 free. After unleashing a pair of 1:46-mid LC swims at U.S. Nationals, qualifying for the 2019 World Championships in the 800 free relay, LeVant looks primed to improve his short course personal best of 1:33 and perhaps get down into the 1:31 area. On the sprint relays, flying splits of sub-19 and sub-42 look imminent.
The 4×50 is in solid shape after Brad Zdroik (18.98) and Alberto Mestre (19.02) proved they could produce fast relay splits at NCAAs, and the addition of Mason Gonzalez (19.99 flat-start) will be huge. They’ve also got senior Cole Cogswell, who was 19.7 last year, and LeVant, David Madej and Alex Boratto all entering with flat-start bests of 20-point.
The 4×100 perhaps takes a bit of a bigger hit with Perry making a big impact for them last year with his 41-mid splits, but medley specialist DeVine proved invaluable with multiple 41-second legs himself. If LeVant and Gonzalez can split even just a second faster than their current bests (43-mid), they’ll be in good shape with Mestre or Cogswell a probable fourth leg.
The 8th place 800 free relay loses Egan, who split 1:33.9 last year, but gains LeVant who will be one of the fastest swimmers in the field. Then they’ve also got DeVine (1:32.7 flat), Shoults (1:33.2 flat) and either James Murphy, Gonzalez or Cogswell on the final leg.
Individually, with how fast the 50 and 100 free events have gotten recently, it’s impossible to expect an incoming freshman to instantly earn a second swim. Ryan Hoffer (50 free) and Bruno Blaskovic (100 free ‘B’) were the only two first-year swimmers to earn a second swim in either events last year, and while Gonzalez will have a shot, it’s a tall order.
In the 200, LeVant is legitimately good enough to challenge for a spot in the top-3, while Shoults should rebound from his 24th place finish last year and get in the top-16.
DISTANCE FREE: A+
The distance free group does take a hit with the loss of Egan, who was 7th in the 500 and 16th in the 1650 at NCAAs last year, but remains strong with Shoults, True Sweetser and rising sophomore Johannes Calloni at the helm. LeVant also factors here as the 500 will likely be a part of his NCAA schedule.
Shoults has now placed 4th in consecutive years in the 500, and has also put up points in the mile in his two years on the farm. He continued to progress over the summer by making his first World Championship team in the 400 free and should expect to challenge for the National title in the 500 this year, especially with Townley Haas slowly straying away from the longer events (though of course he did win the title last year).
Sweetser got himself an 8th place finish in the mile last year, but completely missed scoring in the 500. He’s a solid bet to maintain his spot among the top-8 in the 1650, and has the potential to be there in the 500 as well with a best of 4:12.9.
As a freshman, Calloni had solid showings of 36th and 22nd in the two distance events respectively and realistically isn’t far off scoring in either. His fastest time of the season in the mile (14:45.8) would’ve snuck him into 16th at NCAAs. They also have rising sophomore Matthew Hirschberger, who narrowly missed NCAA qualification in the 500 (4:16.6) and has a 1650 best of 14:51.
And then there’s LeVant, whose PR of 4:14.4 in the 500 would put him in the consol heat at NCAAs but certainly has the potential to crack the A-final.
Abrahm DeVine returns for his senior year as the defending champion in the 400 IM, winning last year’s title by more than three seconds. A close 4th in the 200, two of the men ahead of him (Jan Switkowski, Mark Szaranek) have graduated and he’ll have a legitimate shot at the IM double next year.
Their other scorer from last year was the now graduated Curtis Ogren, but they’re solid with Brennan Pastorek and Alex Liang taking 21st in the 200 and 400 respectively at NCAAs. That puts them in scoring contention, and Jack Walsh is also sub-1:45 in the 200 for some Pac-12 points.
The older Liang brother was their ace on the relays, as he was one of three swimmers to split sub-20 on fly in the 200 medley in both prelims and finals, and was also 44.8 in both prelims and finals of the 400 medley. He was also their lone individual scorer after his 11th place finish in the 100, but Zdroik has the potential to fill that void after his best time from conference (45.79) was less than a tenth from 16th at NCAAs.
Either Zdroik or David Madej (21.6 flat start) should take over fly for the 200 medley, and Zdroik looks like the man for the 400. Madej and LeVant come in with 100 best times in the 47s, and then Gonzalez is right there at 48. They’ve also got the backstroker Ryan Dudzinski who was 46.4 last season.
In the 200, Alex Liang and Zdroik were 35th and 36th respectively at NCAAs last year in 1:44-lows, and LeVant enters with a best of 1:44.5. After his 1:55.8 LC swim at U.S. Nationals in July, he certainly has the potential to make a drop and score (16th last year was 1:42.4). They’ve also got Shoults (1:43.9) and Madej (1:46.0) for a bit of in-season depth.
Dudzinski is a shoe-in to man lead-off duties on the medley relays, and is capable of breaking into the A-final in the individual 100. Last year he was a best of 45.01 on the prelim 400 medley relay, a time which would’ve stood up as the 4th-fastest in the prelims of the individual race (and 5th in the final). He’s also the fastest returning 100 backstroker out of the Pac-12 after departures from USC’s Robert Glinta and Ralf Tribuntsov.
DeVine swam a PB to get into the 200 A-final last year (1:39.2), and the addition of Conaton (1:39.7) gives them two surefire scorers with a shot at both making the top-8.
The two of them have also been 46.8 and 46.3 respectively in the 100, and then they’ve also got additional depth from rising junior Benjamin Ho who was 29th last year in 46.52. There’s also some Pac-12 scoring depth in the 200 with Ho at 1:41.8 and Calloni, Jack Walsh and Glen Cowand all at 1:43.
A strong breaststroke group gets even stronger this year with no losses and two major additions in Daniel Roy and Jonathan Cook.
Last year they had freshman Brennan Pastorek place 13th at NCAAs in the 100 breast, swimming a best of 52.37 in the heats, and then they also had Matt Anderson (52.37) and Hank Poppe (52.66) sub-53 on the year. Anderson just missed a second swim at NCAAs in 20th (52.72), but did step up with some nice swims on the medley relays (23.57, 52.09).
Roy and Cook come in with bests of 53.4 and 53.9 respectively in the 100, adding some more depth there, but it’s the 200 where their impact will be made.
Roy comes in with a best 200 time of 1:51.69 which would’ve put him 3rd at NCAAs last year. He and Cal freshman Reece Whitley will likely have some memorable battles over the next four years. Then they’ve got Pastorek (1:54.3), Poppe (1:55.4) and Anderson (1:55.6) to be joined by Cook, whose best is 1:57.0.
All three of Pastorek, Anderson and Poppe qualified for NCAAs in 2018, and they’ll be adding Roy this season. They’re well covered with either Pastorek or Anderson on the relays, and things are relatively wide open for them to put up points in the individual 100 with six of last year’s top-nine graduated. Roy brings them big points in the 200, something they lacked last year, and has the potential to score in the 100 as well.
The Stanford men are looking good heading into this season. They have five returning individual scorers in DeVine, Shoults, Sweetser, Pastorek and Dudzinski, and if the last year’s championships were re-scored without the seniors, they gain six more. On top of that, they bring in the #3 ranked recruiting class led by LeVant and Roy.
Florida and USC, who finished in the two spots ahead of the Cardinal in 2018, both suffer significant senior losses and check in with just 30.5 and 57 points respectively if last year’s NCAAs were scored without the seniors (to Stanford’s 130.5). Michigan, who finished one spot behind Stanford, comes away with a total of 178, however. The freshman will play a major role in where these teams end up at the end of the season, and Stanford’s returnees along with their recruit class could very well put them atop the heap. Michigan projects to be their biggest challengers for a spot in the top-5.
Their biggest concern will be filling the relay holes left by Perry and Liang, but if LeVant, Madej and Gonzalez make a seamless transition in their first year, and Zdroik continues to be reliable, they’ll be fine.