Despite winning five events, Stanford finishes second in NCAA to Florida
After leading the competition for most of the NCAA Championship meet, which took place on Mar. 18-20 in West Lafayette, Ind., the Stanford women’s swimming team seemed poised to take home its first national title since 1998. However, the No. 1 Cardinal (9-0, 5-0 Pac-10) was in second place by the tournament’s end, falling to Florida by a razor-thin margin of 2.5 points.
The Cardinal’s second-place finish is the program’s best since 2001.
The Gators’ final total was 382 points, just ahead of Stanford’s 379.5. Rounding out the top five were California with 363 points, Arizona with 359.5 points and Georgia with 342.5 points. The fifth-place Bulldogs shared the No. 1 national ranking with the Card heading into the meet.
Though Stanford was very close to winning a national title, head coach Lea Maurer was not disappointed in the results put up by her squad.
“We were not the favored team to win and we almost stole it,” Maurer wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “I think we exceeded expectations and built a stronger foundation for future efforts at the championship title.”
This season’s finish is also the best in Maurer’s tenure as head coach.
“We had a tremendous team effort where we were together and focused for six tough sessions, fighting hard as a group to chase down our dreams together,” she said.
Individually, Stanford’s best performances came from senior captains Julia Smit and Elaine Breeden. Each swimmer won two individual national titles.
Smit won both the 200- and 400-yard individual medley races. She came into the NCAAs after setting new American records in both races at the Pac-10 Conference Championships.
Breeden’s two victories came in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly. Her win in the 200 fly came by a thin margin of .13 seconds over USC sophomore Katinka Hosszu.
This meet also marked the third time Breeden has won a national title in the 200 fly. She is only the third swimmer in NCAA history to accomplish this feat.
“Julia [Smit] and Elaine [Breeden] were singularly driven by the idea of doing as much as they could to help our team win,” Maurer said. “I couldn’t ask for better leadership and stronger athletic achievements than those two women have given me over the past four years.”
“I would have loved to give them the championship because they have given so much to Stanford University swimming and diving,” she continued. “It would have been a perfect ending to a perfect college career. They are champions and this will fuel them as they pursue new dreams. I hope they can feel good about being perfect-ish.”
In addition to those four events, Stanford also won a national title in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The team consisted of Smit, junior Kate Dwelley and sophomores Betsy Webb and Sam Woodward. Two other teams – the 200 free relay and the 400 medley relay – took second place.
Aside from winning individual events, the Card also garnered numerous All-American honors, which are awarded to swimmers finishing in the top 16 of an event. Smit, Webb and Dwelley all took seven All-American honors apiece.
“I thought our team handled everything with tremendous confidence and poise,” Maurer said.
While the Cardinal turned in a strong performance in the pool, the diving team met with a much stiffer challenge. Stanford’s only entry in all three diving events was junior Meg Hostage. She placed 18th in platform diving, 23rd on the three-meter springboard and 32nd on the one-meter springboard.
With the season now concluded, Maurer has already turned her thoughts to next year. Though Stanford will be losing its top two swimmers, Smit and Breeden, to graduation, Maurer says she remains confident that her team will be just as strong in the future.
“I would like to believe that people will look at what we need to do differently starting this week – and come back hungry for the next season,” she said.