With conference meets around the country now concluded, the field is set for this year’s NCAA Championships in women’s swimming. After its strong performance at the Pac-10 Tournament, No. 1 Stanford (9-0, 5-0 Pac-10) looks poised to contend for the national title.
Last weekend, the Cardinal took home the Pac-10 championship after thoroughly outclassing its top three rivals – No. 4 Arizona, No. 5 California and No. 9 Southern California. With the win, Stanford has its first conference championship since 2005 and the first in head coach Lea Maurer’s tenure.
In two weeks, the Card will head to NCAAs, which will be held at Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. Stanford will enter the meet sharing the No. 1 national ranking with Georgia. Outside of the Pac-10, other teams expected to contend strongly are No. 3 Texas, No. 6 Florida and No. 7 Texas A&M.
“Georgia’s the frontrunner right now,” Maurer said. “They were second last year . . . we’re focusing on having people seeded well, and on having other people move up. I think we’ll be in the hunt.”
For now, Maurer’s focus is on preparation. She said that she will not look to actively scout other teams to see how Stanford stacks up against the competition.
“The only thing I can control is the preparation,” she said. “We’re looking really good bouncing back from Pac-10s, and we’re focused on having our swimmers shine.”
Stanford qualified 12 swimmers to compete in Indiana, out of a possible total of 18. Several teams have sent bigger contingents, including Georgia with 17 athletes and Arizona with 18. Despite this apparent disparity, Maurer still believes that the Card is in a good position to contend.
“We want as many people as possible to score,” she said. “All those people have done well to put themselves in scoring position. Now they have to repeat those performances.”
Senior co-captains Julia Smit and Elaine Breeden will lead Stanford at the tournament. Both are defending NCAA champions – Smit in the 200- and 400-yard individual medley and Breeden in the 200-yard butterfly.
Smit will enter the tournament on a strong note after her electric performance at Pac-10s. In the course of the meet, she broke two American records (in the 200 and 400 IM) and set a school record in a third event (the 200-yard backstroke). She ended the tournament with three individual titles and six overall.
Breeden also had a strong showing, winning the 100 fly and coming in second in the 200.
There are a number of other swimmers that will also need to replicate strong Pac-10 performances. Junior Liz Smith, who won the 200-yard breaststroke, will be called upon to turn in fast times in the same event. Stanford will also look to junior Kelsey Ditto for points in the long-distance freestyle swims.
The NCAA Tournament will begin on March 18 and continue through March 20. The Cardinal is looking to capture its first national title since 1998.