While the men’s NCAA national championship is shaping up to be a dogfight between Cal and Texas, Stanford looks like it is comfortably in control of the women’s side. With a first place finish last year by over 150 points of runner-up Cal and over 200 points over third-place Texas A&M and only one significant senior loss (Lia Neal), one would naturally think that Stanford is again the team to beat this year
Let’s take a look into the data with the Swimulator
At first glance, the raw Swimulated results based off of each swimmer’s top times at this point in the season point to a tight meet between Stanford, Texas A&M, and Cal.
- Stanford 380
- Texas A&M 367
- California 364
- Louisville 255
- Michigan 242
However, as we dive deeper into the data, the race isn’t as close as it first appears. Here’s a breakdown of Stanford’s estimated scores.
An average time simulation puts Stanford on top by over 150 points over second place Michigan.
- Stanford 467
- Michigan 307
- Texas 264
- Southern Cali 246
- Texas A&M 235
Average time simulations are better in certain respects in that the factor in more total swims per swimmer. Predicting a swimmer’s taper time based off of their average times in season is better than just using their top mid-season time. However, the projections can be thrown off for teams that tend to swim different events in their mid-season tapers than in duals, so when they are wrong they can be quite wrong.
In both simulations, Stanford is hurt by three other large factors.
- One of Stanford’s top two swimmers and defending NCAA champion in the 50 and 100 free, Simone Manuel, hasn’t swum yet this year due to an injury. It sounds likely that she will be back before the end of the year. A full strength return of Manuel means around an extra 40-80 points for Stanford including relays. Its possible she isn’t at 100% this year, but her 100% last season was so fast that she will still likely have a huge impact.
- Stanford’s 800 free relay isn’t counted as scoring yet since they haven’t swum one so far this year. They won NCAAs last year by over five seconds in that event and another victory looks likely this season.
- Stanford has a returning diver, Cassidy Cook, who finaled on both the 1 and 3 meter boards. None of the other schools ranked in the top four had any divers score last year.
At this point last year, Stanford also looked like it had a tight race with Cal for the top spot and a modest lead over Georgia in third and ended up blowing both of of the water at nationals. Without some serious moves by another team, all signs point to this year being more of the same.
From our mid-season projections, Texas A&M has a couple of swimmers projected to significantly improve on their scores from last season. Some of these because of legit improvements over last season – Lisa Bratton‘s 1:50.10 200 backstroke leads the nation at this point and Beryl Gastaldello has already bested her 50 and 100 free times. But given that Texas A&M tapers less (1%) compared to their top mid-season times compared to Stanford and Cal (1.5% and 2%), I see them as less likely to move up significantly.
|Texas A&M Relay||134|
|Gonzalez Medina, Esther||12|
Cal, on the other hand also returns most of their talent from last year and does have a larger average taper than Stanford does. The return stars Kathleen Baker, Katie McLaughlin, and Abbey Weitzeil. However, the loss of sprinter Farida Osman will be difficult to replace. At this point, I don’t see them leaving as many points on the board as Stanford.
Louisville and Michigan round out the top five in the rankings. While they look to be ahead of the rest of the pack at this point, they certainly have their work cut out to catch up.
Anything is still possible, but at this point in the season it will take a lot for Stanford’s women’s team not to repeat as national champions.