Greg Meehan Explains Stanford Has “Embraced Who We Are” Featuring Young Roster At NCAAs

2024 WOMEN’S NCAA SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

SCORES THRU DAY 2

  1. Virginia — 210.5
  2. Florida — 163
  3. Texas — 141
  4. Stanford — 105
  5. Tennessee — 104
  6. Louisville — 99
  7. USC — 94
  8. Indiana — 87
  9. Michigan — 80.5
  10. Georgia — 75
  11. Ohio State — 61
  12. California — 59
  13. NC State — 50
  14. Wisconsin — 40
  15. UNC — 34

The Stanford women won three straight NCAA titles in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Since the pandemic, the team finished 9th in 2021, 3rd in 2022, and 3rd in 2023. Last year, the team scored a total of 333 points but suffered large losses during the off-season, leaving them in a “rebuilding” phase.

This has left a new Stanford team, a different Stanford team, and one without the superstars names we’ve seen in the past. This team has no Eastin, no Ledecky, no Manuel, no Regan Smith, no Claire Curzan. While every commit at Stanford is a high-level, elite swimmer, nobody on this current Stanford team is likely to make the Olympic roster, at least in 2024.

The team’s largest losses from last season were  Claire Curzan (51 NCAA points, 4 NCAA relays), Torri Huske (50 NCAA points, 4 NCAA relays), and Taylor Ruck (20 NCAA points, 4 NCAA relays). Curzan originally announced she would take an Olympic Redshirt season but has since transferred to Virginia, Huske is training at Stanford while taking an Olympic Redshirt while Ruck graduated.

In spite of those losses, the team has had great success at NCAAs so far and they currently sit in 4th place overall through two days of competition.

Meehan has taken a lot of heat from the swimming proletariat, who have criticized his swimmers’ results both in college and internationally over the last few seasons, but this year’s results, which have been more about development than managing superstars, are a big pressure-release on that narrative.

Stanford women’s head coach Greg Meehan spoke about the big development of the team, despite losing so many key pieces.

“I think we’ve embraced who we are and really just trying to be the best version of ourselves with this particular team. And it’s fun because it’s a really young group. It’s really exciting. I think we’re coming out of the pandemic and COVID. I think [it] hit certain places a little bit harder. It just has taken us a little longer to get some momentum going. It’s been a really fun day and a half here so far.”

The team competing in Athens featured no fifth years and no seniors earning invites. The youth of the team has brought what Meehan said is “great energy, great composure.”

“I think they’re curious. I think student-athletes at Stanford tend to be very intellectual, right? They’re curious about everything that they’re doing, and that certainly doesn’t stop when they get to the pool deck. So that’s been fun,” Meehan said. 

Meehan also spoke of the staffing changes. Katie Robinson joined the staff after most recently spending time at Northwestern as head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs while former Texas head coach Kim Brackin was also added to the staff.

“Then, the other piece of it is we’ve had a big change in our staff. We have a new strength coach who’s doing an amazing job. We have a new director of operations. We have two new assistant coaches, one of which is a new position, and Katie and Kim are just doing an amazing job. So that has like just elevated everything. And so it’s just a really fun environment.”

Going into the more specific side of the swimmers, junior Aurora Roghair was the 7th seed coming into the 500 freestyle and finished 4th in a 4:34.26. Roghair has made great strides in the 500 this season as she came into the year with a best time of a 4:39.77.

“I think about her growth from when she got here to where she is now. We were joking after PAC-12s [when] her third 500 in the middle of her mile. [Her 3rd 500] was better than her best time in her 500 when she came to Stanford.”

Roghair is the #2 seed in the 1650 free later of the meet behind only Georgia’s Abby McCulloh.

“I think she’s a product of the people that she trains with and she’s diligent. She’s a hard worker, but she’s also surrounded by people that make her better every day. She’s one that has range on her events because she’s going from the 200 all the way to the mile. There aren’t many that are doing it that well across that full spectrum of events. For her to go 1:42 leading off last night and then knowing that she’s, you know, seeded really well in the mile for Saturday. She’s just really consistent and usually consistent in the sport. If you’re consistent and you’ve got a good training group, you’re going to get better.”

Junior Amy Tang also showed big improvement in her 50 freestyle. Tang had not swam a best time in the 50 free since December 2019 but got under the 22-second mark for the first time in her career as she finished 15th in finals in a 21.90 but swam even faster with a 21.75 in prelims.

“I think [her work] is showing itself more this week, but I think this has been building for a while and she had good swims last year, but I think [she] was kind of just bumping against it and then finally just over the top this year.”

“She’s another one who’s like really diligent, really curious, asked great questions and is coachable. This is where you know Katie and Kim have done a really good job with just little things for her to focus on and she makes a change from her underwaters to her breakouts to just working through different rates. She’s one that can be really high tempo. Even the second 25 of her 50, she got a little spinny on it and just trying to find that balance for her. I think they’ve done a really great job and she’s now a junior and just a little more experienced and has had great relay swims. I’m excited for her 200 free tomorrow. She comes in, she went 1:43 at PAC-12s, so we’re excited to see how she does.”

Other success stories include freshman Caroline Bricker, who came to Stanford with a best time of 4:09.57 in the 400 IM and was four seconds better than that in her first collegiate dual meet in October, and has since dropped to 4:02.32 – a microcosm of improvements from several other events.

This is not the same Stanford team that Meehan has coached in the past, but it’s the most important team he has had in a year. This year’s Stanford team has cut through the noise and demonstrated, unequivocally, that Greg Meehan can absolutely coach. Managing superstars is a fraught endeavor and one that can take a toll on any coach (see: Phil Jackson and the Los Angeles Lakers).

The pressure mounts in a situation where you have a Regan Smith and a Claire Curzan and a Taylor Ruck and a Torri Huske. That pressure, if not fulfilled, can weigh on any program to the point where top three finishes are still seen as “failures.” That is, in many regards, the nature of a job like Stanford – something another Pac-12 coach Lea Maurer is intimately familiar. When she was the head coach with the Cardinal for seven seasons, her team never finished lower than 5th and was 2nd in the 2009-2010 season: a record that almost every program in the country would sell their souls for.

And yet the narrative was about her not getting it done and not getting over the hump to an NCAA title with a team full of talent. In what many other sports have been considered a “rebuilding year” as the team was without their biggest names, the “rebuilding” and development have shown through so far for the Cardinal.

This is a reset season for Stanford. A good year for their other swimmers to get some focus and some spotlight and some positivity into their resumes. When Torri Huske returns next season, and they bring in another class of elite recruits like Addison Sauickie and Annika Parkhe and Levenia Sim, they won’t be trying their best to hold on to what they had – they’ll be building off a successful season. The foundation has been built with their athletes this season and they will add big pieces to the next.

And that subtle shift in mindset can make all the difference.

Watch Meehan’s Interview Here:

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Coach not swimming coach
2 months ago

“I think they’re curious. I think student-athletes at Stanford tend to be very intellectual, right? They’re curious about everything that they’re doing, and that certainly doesn’t stop when they get to the pool deck. So that’s been fun,” Meehan LIED.

WMswammer01
2 months ago

Greg was my assistant coach at WM my freshman year. I’m glad to see Stanford doing well this year. I will say I was concerned when Smith left then Curzan about culture, but each athlete has to find the school/team/coach that is best for them and their goals. I am happy Stanford has found their vibe. Way to go, Coach!

Mr. One Millionth Comment
2 months ago

I think the Meehan-hate peaked in 2021, and has since subsided.

The reasons for 2021?
(A) His swimmers did not perform well at US Olympic Trials (understatement).
(B) He (and the other Olympic coaches) made some poor relay choices at the Tokyo games.

Nice to see that things are moving in a positive direction for him since the loss of Ledecky, Manuel, Regan Smith and Curzan.

Andrew
Reply to  Mr. One Millionth Comment
2 months ago

Ray Looze was in charge of the relay cards that had Zach Apple instead of my Baby Seli in the 8 FRR and decided to go M/F/F/M in the mixed medley like a complete bozo.

Ex_Board_Run_SwimCoach
2 months ago

He’s the John Calipari of college swimming

Facts
2 months ago

Think he’s kinda like Doc Rivers where if there’s no expectations he can raise the floor and exceed expectations but if there are expectations with superstars it’s hard for him to elevate them to the next level. Kind of an anti-Bowman. Def an overhated coach

Last edited 2 months ago by Facts
Tom212
2 months ago

The other thing people may not be aware of is that Stanford is on the quarter system. They have finals this week (as it usually falls during NCAA’s) and most of the women here are writing final papers and taking proctered finals in the hotel between sessions. Stanford athletes don’t get any breaks from professors just because they have a competition, so kudos to these women for being able to manage both during a stress filled week.

PA Swammer
2 months ago

Great story on a guy who takes a lot of heat from the swimswam commenters

Swimpop
2 months ago

And Lucy Bell just quietly goes about her business getting 4th in the 2IM and 6th seed into the 4IM finals.

About Anya Pelshaw

Anya Pelshaw

Anya has been with SwimSwam since June 2021 as both a writer and social media coordinator. She was in attendance at the 2022 and 2023 Women's NCAA Championships writing and doing social media for SwimSwam. Currently, Anya is pursuing her B.A. in Economics and a minor in Government & Law at …

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