Greg Meehan‘s Stanford women’s team has become a dynasty. In 2016, favored to take the NCAA’s by storm, a relay DQ led to a narrow 2nd place finish. For the next 2 seasons, in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, the Stanford women were seemingly unbeatable, boasting Olympic powerhouses in Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, and Lia Neal, as well as NCAA stars and relay mainstays Ella Eastin, Janet Hu, and Ally Howe. With these athletes being the tip of the iceberg, the cardinal have claimed the last 2 NCAA titles by margins of 160.5 (2017) and a whopping 220 (2018) points.
As the saying goes in athletics, every year is a new team. 5 of the 6 aforementioned names are no longer competing in the NCAA. This makes Stanford’s outgoing points scored last year substantial, losing (among others) 3 out of 4 of their medley relay pieces in Manuel, Howe, and Hu, and 3 individual champions in Ledecky, Manuel, and Howe. With all of these leaders in and out of the pool leaving, how to the Stanford women evolve?
For starters, they have 3 rising seniors who already lead by action. Ella Eastin is the returning 2018 Swimmer of the Year. Kim Williams is the 1 returning piece of 2 victorious medley relays. Leah Stevens has thrived in a Ledecky-era distance program and scored top 5 in the mile the last 2 years. Moving down the ladder, Stanford returns 10 underclassmen that scored over 100 points individually, with a high ceiling on improvement rate. And then you have the incoming freshman.
Stanford is bringing in 9 athletes (7 swimmers) in it’s class of 2022. Among those are 8-time commonwealth medalist Taylor Ruck, NAG record holder Zoe Bartel, and star recruits Allie Raab, Amalie Fackenthal, and Lucie Nordmann. More than anything, as described in the video above, the Stanford personnel are excited about the energy that so many young and excited student athletes can bring to Palo Alto.
As Greg Meehan, Ella Eastin, and rising junior Katie Drabot mention, it takes time to build the team. It’s vital to give incoming freshman time to adjust to their new lifestyle. You also need to give the team as a whole time to adjust to their new teammates, and develop an identity that is individual to them, one that doesn’t necessarily lean on the fact that last year they were crowned champions.