Returning Conference Points: Stanford Returns 19 of 20 Relay Legs In W Pac-12

The 2020 NCAA Championships were canceled in the coronavirus pandemic – but the virus can’t stop our pre-season coverage for the 2021 campaign. We’re running through a comprehensive preview of each of the Power-5 conferences in Division I, compiling returning conference points and tracking transfers and incoming recruits.

2020 Lookback

A loaded Stanford team won its fourth-straight Pac-12 title despite would-be sophomore Taylor Ruck sitting out in an Olympic gap year. High-end depth powered a 374.5-point margin over Cal. Stanford had 16 swimmers score 50+ points individually, and had 24 overall scorers on a relatively young roster.

The Stanford sophomores (536 individual points) outscored any other class by a wide margin, getting event wins from Allie Raab (100 breast) and Morgan Tankersley (1650 free). The Cardinal’s only relay win came via three sophomores and a freshman in the 200 medley relay. Double conference champ Brooke Forde (400 IM/200 breast) is only a junior and should return, and the only graduated conference champ on their roster is senior Erin Voss, who won the 200 back.

Cal finished second, with some portion of that big Stanford margin owing to Cal sprint star Abbey Weitzeil scratching out of the meet with a hyper-extended elbow sustained at the finish of 21.03 50 freestyle. Weizeil won that 50 and helped Cal win the 400 medley relay before bowing out of the remainder of the meet. Cal did get two other event titles after losing Weitzeil: sophomore Izzy Ivey won the 100 back and the 200 free relay team that didn’t even include their star sprinter.

Cal had to grit out that second-place finish, with USC charging to within twelve and a half points at the finish. The Trojans had star senior Louise Hansson, the meet’s only three-event winner (200 IM/100 fly/200 fly), plus double-event winner Laticia Transom (200 free/100 free). That duo bookended two winning USC relays, the 400 free and 800 free teams.

Arizona State’s Emma Nordin had a breakout swim to win the 500 free (4:33.74), but a deep UCLA roster with 26 individual scorers bested ASU for fourth by a little more than 50 points.

Returning Points for 2021

Somehow, the Stanford margin gets even bigger when you look at returning points. Led by that massive rising junior group, Stanford returns more individual points (1067) than any other team scored in total individual points in 2020. To make things even more lopsided, Stanford returns all but one of its twenty relay legs – and that one graduated leg was the slowest leg of the 800 free relay.

Where things get interesting is that second tier of teams. USC took some heavy losses, with the top scorer in the entire Pac-12 graduating (96-point Hansson) along with four of the team’s top five individual scorers from last year. That leaves the Trojans with a conference-low 60% of individual points returning for new head coach Jeremy Kipp.

Cal lost a significant portion of its scorers, too, with six scoring seniors out the door. Weitzeil will be a more significant loss than her 32 points suggest. Both Cal and USC return 13 of 20 relay legs with some big splits to replace in Hansson/Weitzeil.

That’s opened the door for a young UCLA team to make a run. The Bruins return just 57 fewer points than Cal and 76.5 more than USC. With just four seniors out the door and 22 individual scorers returning, UCLA could have a shot to finish higher than 4th place for the first time since 2006.

Of note further down the list: Utah had only four senior individual scorers and returns the bulk of their points and relay legs. Washington State returns the conference’s highest percentage of points, but that owes somewhat to having only 9 individual scorers. Still, Washington State returns all but one relay leg as well.

Team Returning Individual Points % Returning Individual Points Returning Relay Legs
Stanford 1067 81% 19/20
Cal 687.5 74% 13/20
UCLA 630.5 79% 12/20
USC 554 60% 13/20
Arizona State 469 68% 14/20
Utah 371.5 91% 16/20
Arizona 318 61% 14/20
Washington State 153 92% 19/20

Scorers By Team

Teams are listed in their 2020 conference finish order. Athletes are listed with their year as of the current 2019-2020 season, not their year for the 2020-2021 season.

Stanford (1067)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Forde, Brooke JR 90
Paulsen, Mia JR 82
Tankersley, Morgan SO 82
Lenz, Daria SO 79
Bartel, Zoe SO 74
Fackenthal, Amalie SO 68
Wheal, Emma FR 61
Crisera, Alex FR 61
Raab, Allie SO 60
Goeders, Anya SO 60
Sculti, Carolina SO 59
Pitzer, Lauren JR 57
Nordmann, Lucie SO 54
Zhao, Grace JR 43
Glavinovich, Katie JR 40
Kukurugya, Hannah JR 32
Wortman, Julia FR 26
Green, Lauren JR 26
Volpenhein, Ashley JR 13

Cal (687.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Ivey, Izzy SO 88
Neumann, Robin JR 74
Wilson, Alicia SO 71
Thai, Briana JR 58
Klinker, Rachel FR 56
Spitz, Ayla FR 54
Dimeco, Sarah FR 50
Riley, Eloise FR 49
Rajic, Ema SO 43
Fiorilli, Ashlyn FR 32
Graham, Cassie FR 31
Harrison, Ali JR 28
Krivokapic-Zhou, Soph JR 16
Garcia, Elise SO 14.5
Davidson, Emma FR 9
Bailey, Elizabeth JR 7
Tuck, Natalie JR 5
Clark, Chloe FR 2

USC (554)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Agunbiade, Morenike FR 77
Odgers, Isa SO 64
Transom, Laticia SO 64
Pavlopoulou, Nicole FR 59
Schlicht, Jemma JR 57
Ciesla, Marta JR 56
Stocker, Savannah FR 55
Janvier, Aela FR 37
Aroesty, Maggie JR 34
Tam, Alyson SO 25
Turner, Makenna SO 19
Lawson, Maile FR 7

UCLA (630.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Grover, Claire SO 59
Neave, Ruby SO 59
Butler, Hannah FR 57
Shaheen, Kaytelyn FR 51
Kosturos, Sophia FR 45
Kirschke, Ella SO 45
Smith, Delaney SO 45
Lo, Emily SO 42.5
Rhee, Rachel FR 37
Yanovsky, Alice JR 35
Dang, Gabby FR 24
Su, Stephanie FR 21
Johnson, Lauryn FR 18
Hawkins, Daniella FR 16
Anderson, Gabrielle SO 15
Sulkevich, Kathleen SO 13
Schaffer, Brooke FR 11
Howard, Abriana SO 11
Epps, Jessica SO 8
Andrew, Olivia JR 7
Foster, Lia JR 6
Clarkowski, Sophie SO 5

Arizona State (943.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Nordin, Emma JR 88
Deleske, Nora JR 58
Curry, Camryn JR 55
Laning, Erica JR 54
Foelske, Jade FR 53
Looney, Lindsay FR 50
Wilson, Caitlyn JR 47
Martin, Ruby SO 35
Spears, Lizzy SO 19
Marty, Katrina FR 4
Mitchell, Savannah FR 4
Smith, Lilia SO 2

Arizona (725)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Merckx, Axana FR 58
Bernal, Aria SO 53
Sleeman, Gracie FR 40
Filipek, Kayla JR 37
Purwins, Jacqueline SO 34
Connor, Alayna SO 21
Farrow, Hannah FR 17
Navarro, Vicky SO 14
Neser, Jade FR 11
Hage, Kati JR 11
Treydte, Casslyn FR 9
Neubauer, Francesca SO 9
Stone, Jamie JR 3
Blakesley, Madison SO 1

Utah (636.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Pittard, Charity FR 51
Reimer, Audrey SO 48.5
DeCecco, Lizzie FR 46
Lawless, Emma SO 46
Ruchala, Emma JR 43
Caufield, Regan FR 31
Mills, Lexi FR 25
McClendon, Sara JR 20
Gebhart, Mandy JR 17
Broome, Emma JR 16
Morici, Sophia SO 7
Beller, Elise FR 5
Horvath, Grace JR 5
Gassaway, Mckenna SO 5
Hurst, Abbie FR 4
Yetter, Kyla FR 2

Washington State (396)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Burckel, Lauren SO 42
McCoy, Taylor JR 26
Duarte, Mackenzie JR 21
Fountaine, Keiana SO 21
Zahab, Mia FR 20
Larson, Chloe JR 16
Laderoute, Kate FR 7


New Additions

The rich get richer, as Stanford brings in the nation’s #1-ranked recruiting class. Graduating Voss (80 points), Katie Drabot (67 points) and Allie Szekely (72 points) are the biggest blows. But when you bring in four of the top 18 recruits in the country, the reloading process is significantly easier.

Regan Smith‘s name speaks for itself. She’s the clear favorite for Pac-12 titles in both backstrokes (she’s 49.6/1:47.1 out of high school), and should be the favorite in her third event no matter which of about five options she picks. She’s also going to be an instant upgrade to both Stanford medley relays (Stanford had backstroke legs of 24.5 and 52.4 last year). Her 100 free time (48.07) is better than any of Stanford’s four splits on the 400 free relay and her 200 free time (1:43.27) better than three of the four legs of Stanford’s 800 free relay.

Enough about Smith, though we could probably put together three or four more paragraphs on her impact. #6-ranked recruit Lillie Nordmann is a 1:43.6 freestyler and 1:53.2 flyer whose lifetime-bests would have scored 80 individual points at Pac-12s last year. Janelle Rudolph (22.2/48.2 free) and Samantha Pearson (22.5/48.9/1:45.8) beef up relay groups that already return plenty of talent. 4:08.8 IMer Isabel Gormley just adds more potential scoring talent to this freshman group.

Stanford could also be getting Taylor Ruck back from an Olympic redshirt, but there’s been no official word on her status for the coming season.

Cal and USC both have very good recruiting classes that just might keep UCLA at bay. Cal got elite backstroker Isabelle Stadden (51.2/1:50.3) and Danish sprinter Emily Gantriis (25.4/55.6 long course) who should be instant scorers. 4:42.5/1:46.3 freestyler Nicole Oliva has really intriguing range.

USC gets two Canadian standouts: long course 59.6/2:09.2 backstroker Jade Hannah and long course 25.3/55.4 freestyler (plus 59.0 flyer) Hanna Henderson(Side note: just how loaded is the Pac-12 going to be in backstroke for the foreseeable future?). Throw in top-10 domestic recruit Kaitlyn Dobler (a 58.3 breaststroker) and Kipp has plenty of talent to work with in his first year on campus.

We were impressed with UCLA‘s class, and it doesn’t do that group justice to compare them to the three programs above, who ranked #1, #4 and #5 nationally in our recruit class ranking. UCLA adds Canadian breaststroker Bailey Herbertwho is 1:09.1 and 2:28.6 in long course. 53.3 flyer Sam Baron will be an option to upgrade the butterfly legs of the medley relays, with top flyer Amy Okada graduating. UCLA also pulled in a solid distance swimmer in Greta Fanta (4:47.1/16:26).

There are a lot of international recruits coming into the Pac-12 this year, and the inherent difficulty in converting long course times to short course yards will be a big hurdle in analyzing how much these freshman classes will score.

Arizona got Denmark’s Amalie Mortensen, who is 55.9 and 2:01.6 in long course freestyle. She’ll join a class with two strong butterflyers (53.8 Julia Heimstead and 53.6/1:58.8 Maddy Burt) along with 1:47.1 freestyler Tia LindsayThere’s also a possibility Arizona gets standout Canadian breaststroker Faith Knelson on the roster. She deferred her freshman year last season to remain in Canada in preparation for Olympic Trials, and there’s been no official word on whether she’ll start in the NCAA next year or remain in Canada.

Utah gets Canadian Madds Broad, a 1:00.5/2:09.4 long course backstroker. And former Fresno State swimmer Zofia Niemczak comes over as a transfer, bringing short course times of 1:48.2 and 4:49.2 in freestyle.

And Arizona State brings in two strong long course freestylers. Australia’s Charli Brown (56.1/2:00.4/4:16.5 long course) is a little more distance-oriented, while Norway’s Marte Lovberg (25.9/56.1/2:01.6) trends downward to the sprints a little more.

2021 Outlook

There’s just no picking against Stanford here, especially with that elite recruiting class coming in. The Cardinal just keep reloading with elite recruiting class after elite recruiting class. Last year’s freshman group was relatively small, with just four freshmen on the Pac-12 team, and the bulk of their scoring came from the sophomores and juniors. But the incoming freshman class this fall is going to be a powerhouse for a lot of years to come.

With Cal’s recruiting class, they have to remain the favorites for second place. The odd silver lining in losing Weitzeil mid-meet last year is that Cal mostly proved its relay could stay afloat even without Weitzeil – that’s one big question mark already somewhat addressed.

We’ll take USC to make up the returning points deficit on UCLA, though that one could still be flipped if any projected freshman change plans amid the coaching shakeup. There doesn’t seem to be any rumblings of that, and Henderson even announced her USC commitment after Kipp’s hiring. USC is going to have to prove it can survive without Hansson, who was an absolute force on the relays.

UCLA’s roster is still pretty young. Last year, their freshmen (280 points) and sophomores (302.5 points) easily outscored their juniors (48) and seniors (166). So with a good class coming in, UCLA might have a two-year window to really do some damage without losing many big scorers.

Arizona State was really getting hot at the end of last season, a fact lost a little bit in all the coronavirus cancellations. We’ve got them 5th, ahead of a close Arizona-Utah pairing. Utah has a solid edge in returning points, but Arizona’s recruiting class is better. Getting Knelson into action would be a difference-maker.

Way-Too-Early Conference Picks

  1. Stanford
  2. Cal
  3. USC
  4. UCLA
  5. Arizona State
  6. Arizona
  7. Utah
  8. Washington State

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3 years ago

Stanford would have lost NCAA’s to UVA had they not been cancelled. Their depth this past year was built more for Pac12’s than NCAA’s…no big point getters at the top….besides the 800free, I think most of their relays would have struggled to make A finals. 181 points down to UVA in the psych sheets. Getting Regan and maybe Taylor Ruck back would help alot

Reply to  Ervin
3 years ago

Why are so many people disagreeing with this lol it’s true. It was going to be a stretch for Stanford to win this past year if you look at the numbers

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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