The team’s main headline of the season did not come in a Stanford meet, however. Senior Julia Smit set two new world records at the Duel in the Pool in Manchester, England over winter break. While competing for Team USA, Smit posted world-record times of 2:04.60 in the 200-meter individual medley and 4:21.04 in the 400-meter individual medley. She is also the defending NCAA champion in both events.
In Stanford’s first meet on Oct. 2 against San Jose State, Smit dominated the competition and headlined a 183-103 win for the Cardinal. She took three events — the 100-yard breaststroke, the 100-yard freestyle and the 1,000-yard freestyle — to propel Stanford to victory. Junior co-captain Kate Dwelley and senior co-captain Elaine Breeden also contributed significantly.
On Nov. 7, the Card made an even more emphatic statement at a tri-meet in Gainesville, Fla. Stanford soundly defeated two of the nation’s strongest programs, Michigan and Florida, by scores of 307-122 and 231-198 respectively. Smit and sophomore Betsy Webb led the Cardinal victories. Smit won four individual races and led two Cardinal relay teams to victory, while Webb added victories in three freestyle races.
Looking forward, the Cardinal’s ultimate goal for this season is to improve on last year’s finish in the NCAA Finals, where the team narrowly beat out Texas to bring the fourth-place trophy back to The Farm.
“We were able to maximize our potential,” said head coach Lea Maurer. “I thought we had a strong team effort and we were happy with fourth.”
Breeden was also optimistic about this year’s prospects.
“We have a really good shot at improving our standings from last year. With hard work, I think we can do really well,” she said.
Maurer also emphasized that the team’s main strength is not in the individual swimmers, but in their ability to work together dynamically.
“We have many different leaders and draw strengths from a variety of different groups,” she said.
“We’ve really come together as a team, and we continue to strive toward our goals,” Dwelley added. “In every race, we race for the team and each other.”
Maurer also emphasized that the team needs to work on its depth. Last season, 10 Stanford swimmers and two divers were able to qualify for the NCAA Finals, well short of the 18 athletes a school is permitted to send to the meet. “We need to send more people to the NCAAs and score at the NCAAs,” she added.
While the team is returning many top performers from last year, it also has a very strong recruiting class of new freshmen. The new swimmers have made numerous contributions this year, especially on relay squads.
“They’ve integrated really well into the team,” Dwelley said. “They provide us with a lot of extra competition, and bring great personality and a great dynamic to the team.”
Despite the team’s hot start, Maurer is focused on keeping the team fit and disciplined.
“What we’ve done at this point is relentless confidence and relentless fitness. We want to be really fit and mentally tough,” she said.
Another challenge put to the Cardinal is the new restrictions on high-tech swimming gear. Many critics claimed that the suits gave an unfair advantage to schools, like Stanford, that had deals with the right manufacturer.
“I’d like to [achieve my] best times, but that’s going to be tough,” Breeden said. “I hope to set new personal records despite the restrictions.”
The team’s next meet is at the Avery Aquatics Center on Saturday against Pacific at 1 p.m.
“[The swimmers are] tired, we just came back from holiday training,” Maurer said. “This will be a mental toughness and details test, to see if we can make good choices when we’re tired and not letting mistakes appear.”
According to Dwelley, the team is pretty broken down physically, but will still look to win this weekend.
“I’m not expecting super fast times. We’re going to work on race strategies and teamwork,” she said.