World Record-Holder Regan Smith To Defer Stanford Enrollment In Olympic Year

World champion backstroker and #1-ranked NCAA prospect Regan Smith will take a gap year from college competition in 2020-2021.

Smith confirmed the news to SwimSwam today, saying she and Stanford coach Greg Meehan had talked through the decision together.

“After talking a lot with Greg, we just decided that it would be better for me and my training to have more consistency at home,” Smith said.

“This was a really, really hard decision to make. Especially because I felt so firm for so long about going off to school this fall.”

Smith said she was fully ready to make the jump to college level, but that the ongoing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic forced her to re-evaluate a move across the country. Smith will instead remain in Minnesota, training with coach Mike Parratto and her longtime Riptide Swim Club. She won’t begin taking classes through Stanford, but says she’s looking into taking online courses of some kind to stay connected to an academic routine during her gap year.

“He [Meehan] was so unbelievably understanding,” Smith said, while she was weighing all the factors in her decision. “He was working extensively with me and being so patient with me.

“I’m really disappointed and sad,” Smith said of delaying her Stanford career. “But I know that this will probably be the best for me. I think this will give me the best chance to have a strong year at home with some more consistent training, and then hopefully be able to have a more normal freshman year next year.”

“I have really appreciated Regan and her family’s approach to this conversation over the past 18 months,” Meehan said. “Of course, the original plan was easy: enroll after the Games in 2020. Then we had another plan to enroll this fall with the Games being postponed to 2021. Now we have a new plan.

“The reality is things do change and we all need to be flexible. The most important thing for Stanford was to support a plan that made the most sense for Regan. This new plan is exactly that.”

Smith is one of the best high school swimming prospects in history. The summer before her senior year of high school, Smith won the 2019 World Championships gold medal in the 200 back and broke world records in both the 200-meter back and the 100-meter back. The latter came while leading off the American world record-breaking women’s medley relay.

Smith had originally verbally committed to Stanford. As a 2020 high school grad, she would have been able to remain in Minnesota through the 2020 Olympic Trials and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, keeping her training situation stable through her bid for her first Olympic berth.

But the worldwide coronavirus pandemic forced a one-year postponement of both the Olympics and Olympic Trials. Smith will now effectively follow in the footsteps of former Stanford standout Katie Ledeckywho deferred her college enrollment one year, joining Stanford just after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It’s a big blow to Stanford’s 2021 NCAA title hopes. The Cardinal have won three straight collegiate national titles, but were expected to face a stiff challenge from Virginia even with Smith on the roster. Smith’s deferral also sets up another intriguing Stanford-Virginia battle next season, when Stanford should add Smith and Virginia is expected to add elite sprint prospect Gretchen Walsh as a freshman in the fall of 2021.

A few more interesting notes from our conversation with Smith:

  • Smith is still very excited to compete at the NCAA level, and hopes to compete across a full, four-year college career. “I really would like to swim the full four years,” Smith said. “I know that things could change for me down the line, but as of now, I’d really like to swim the full four years.”
  • As for her Olympic Trials lineup, Smith confirmed the three events she’s widely expected to compete in: the 100 back, 200 back and 200 fly. She said the 100 fly was still a possibility, but cited a tough 100 back/100 fly double and deep fields in both races as complicated factors. “I think I may have to pick the 100 backstroke over the 100 butterfly, but if there’s a way I can fit them both in there, I’d really like to do that,” she said.
  • With another year to prepare, Smith said looking at a relay-distance freestyle event could also be an option, but said backstroke and butterfly were her primary focuses for the time being.
  • Under pandemic restrictions, Smith said her training has been “a bit limited,” but she’s had enough pool access to swim six days a week, though without any doubles. “Sometimes I wish we could be doing a little bit more, but I’m really thankful for how often I am able to be in the water, considering the circumstances,” she said.
  • Smith noted that long course pool space can be hard to come by in Minnesota. But she’s been able to train at an outdoor long course pool about three times a week, and is working on setting up long course training opportunities at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center for the winter.

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Monteswim
1 year ago

Is Taylor Ruck coming back this year?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Monteswim
1 year ago

Who?

Ervin
Reply to  Monteswim
1 year ago

I dont think shes ever coming back

SwimFan49
1 year ago

“I think I may have to pick the 100 backstroke over the 100 butterfly, but if there’s a way I can fit them both in there, I’d really like to do that,” she said.

World record holder in the 100M backstroke says she MAY have to pick that event over 100M fly. Yeah, close call, but I’d lean that way, too. 😉

Ferb
Reply to  SwimFan49
1 year ago

If she decided to focus on the 100 fly, she’d be the world record holder in that event. But maybe not quite as far ahead of the rest of the world as she is in backstroke.

M D E
Reply to  Ferb
1 year ago

Yeah, there is literally nothing to suggest this would be the case, and quite a bit that suggests it isn’t.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Interesting…

Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Next, she’ll go pro. Her endorsement opportunities as the new darling of the US Olympic team are pretty large. No Missy Franklin redux.

Dudeman
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

I really think she should go pro. Maybe it’s cus I’ll never be in that position ever but there’s no way I’d turn down tens of MILLIONS of dollars to swim in college. She should make the money and use a tiny amount of it to pay to attend college and set herself up for life. Chances are she’ll have a long and successful career and make the money anyways but I always think of Missy Franklin and what she most likely lost out on in situations like this.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Would be the smart thing to do since that window can be small.

Sidewalk Chalk
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

And if she had gone pro last summer she could have cashed in on her world champ winnings. Can they claim that retroactively or is there a time limit?

Gator
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Please go Pro!!

DrSwimPhil
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

NCAA is about to change the name in likeness rule (most likely Jan 2021). She’d still be able to cash in.

Swimmer420
Reply to  DrSwimPhil
1 year ago

Name image and likeness doesn’t let you profit on your performance at each meet though.

Max C
Reply to  Swimmer420
1 year ago

For someone at that level meet prize money isn’t a large factor compared to endorsements.

Swimmer420
Reply to  Max C
1 year ago

Correct, but I believe sponsors can’t even write in terms that say “if you do this we will give you x” as far as performance is concerned. Yes she can get paid for photo shoots etc. But they can’t give her performance bonuses. She will make more than enough to continue her education if she wants by going pro now.

Texas swims in a short pool
Reply to  Swimmer420
1 year ago

I bet if she keeps breaking WRs they will find a way to make the deal work around this

Jim
1 year ago

Lots of deferrals and redshirts will be coming soon

Blakeslee
Reply to  Jim
1 year ago

Walsh? Who else?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Blakeslee
1 year ago

Uh, the entire ASU team for starters.

GA Boy
1 year ago

She has the chance to be the golden girl for the 2021 Olympics, next year could be the most profitable year of her career. @NCAA, allow the athletes to profit off of their likeness! She will lose more than 200k worth of endorsements next year in order to keep her eligibility for the next 4 years! Its ridiculous!

Swimgeek
Reply to  GA Boy
1 year ago

Lots more than $200K

Dudeman
Reply to  Swimgeek
1 year ago

need a lot some more zeroes added to that number

Walter
Reply to  GA Boy
1 year ago

Mental health is also in play. Losing money or losing your mind, which do you choose?

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Walter
1 year ago

Losing her mind? That Standford education will rot the mind.

Yabo
Reply to  Justin Thompson
1 year ago

I’m sorry what?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Yabo
1 year ago

Sarcasm is dead.

NM Coach
Reply to  Justin Thompson
1 year ago

JUSTIN – OUCH!!!!

OPINION
Reply to  GA Boy
1 year ago

If I was in the position she was in, I would 100% not be competing in the NCAA and instead go pro and cash in on my talents and performances. No one can hold onto their speed forever! Life is all about set up for the future!

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 year ago

California is one of the worst states hit by the coronavirus pandemic this summer.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 year ago

One that never really came out of lockdown too.

OPINION
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 year ago

It was a bad state before the virus, now it’s even worse! HA

Swimmer
Reply to  OPINION
1 year ago

Ha! Yes, isn’t a global crisis hilarious and something we can all take glee from!

No.

OPINION
Reply to  Swimmer
1 year ago

Yes

Dan Diez
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 year ago

California has a population of almost 40 million people. So, of course, there can be more cases than smaller states. Ditto New York, Florida, Texas with big populations. So no need to be smug if you live in a smaller state when you look at percentage versus population.

Dan Diez
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 year ago

California is a state with a population of almost 40 million citizens. So, of course, it has more cases than smaller states. Ditto New York, Texas, Florida et al who also have big populations. If you went by percentages of populations, there are a number of smaller states which are high, too!

Taa
1 year ago

dominos starting to fall in place

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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