Competitor Coach of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based coach who has risen above the competition. As with any item of recognition, Competitor Coach of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one coach whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a coach who was clearly in the limelight, or one whose work fell through the cracks a bit more among other stories. If your favorite coach wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
March is the month to shine for college swimming’s top coaches. And though there were several great candidates, it’s hard to argue with Stanford’s Greg Meehan.
Sure, you can argue that with the talent loaded onto the Stanford roster, any coach could win an NCAA title. But while that might be true, it’s also Meehan who assembled all of that talent himself. Recruiting is becoming more and more vital to the job description of a college coach, and Meehan and his staff have been second-to-none in that category for a number of years.
On top of that, the double-edged sword of recruiting elite talents like Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel is that they have much less time to drop. Most college freshmen have a lot of tweaks that can be made to their strokes, race plans, training and lifestyles. But when you enter college with the credentials of being one of the world’s top swimmers, improvements don’t come so easily.
Despite that challenge, Meehan has gotten the best out of almost all of his top talents this season, and the month of March was the best showcase of that accomplishment.
Ledecky, of course, is the headliner. She went faster than anyone in history with an eye-popping 4:24.06 in the 500 free. Even compared to Ledecky’s massive improvement curve, that’s a notable time drop. Here’s a look at how her 500 yard freestyles have gone over the past several seasons:
- College freshman: 4:24.06
- Gap year: 4:27.21
- High school senior: 4:26.58
- High school junior: 4:28.71
- High school sophomore:4:31.38
*Note: the years above are marked in traditional swim season form, from September 1 to August 31. So her freshman year would comprise the fall of 2016 through summer of 2017, her “gap year” the fall of 2015 through summer 2016, her senior year the fall of 2014 through summer 2015, etc.
Meehan’s Stanford women won 10 of the 18 swimming events, including 3 of 5 relays. They set American records in 5 of those records and NCAA records in 5, spanning 6 different events (Ella Eastin‘s 400 IM was only an American and not an NCAA record, while Simone Manuel‘s 50 free was an NCAA record and not an American record).
Most importantly, they ran away with their first team NCAA title since 1998 and their first under Meehan. They won by 160 points and scored 526.5 total – that’s more than they’d scored since 1993, at the pinnacle of their NCAA title streak under Richard Quick.
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