The Stanford men’s swimming team faced off against some of the best teams in the nation this past weekend, as three of the top six teams competed at the inaugural Pac-12 Championships in East Los Angeles. But none of those teams came even close to stopping the Cardinal from taking the 2012 Pac-12 crown and winning its 31st-consecutive conference title in the process.
Unfazed by the high level of competition, No. 3 Stanford (7-1, 3-1 Pac-12) finished on top of the scoreboard with 939.5 points, more than 100 points ahead of second-place Cal and almost 400 points ahead of third-place Arizona.
Despite the Cardinal’s large margin of victory, it would have been difficult to predict the final results before the meet kicked off on Wednesday night. Even with Stanford’s storied success in the conference setting, Arizona could easily have been considered the favorite heading into the weekend. The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation and also defeated the Cardinal in a dual meet in January.
The only time that Stanford ever found itself trailing was after the first event, when the team was touched out by Cal in the 200 medley relay. In the very next event, however, the Cardinal answered with a victory in the 800 freestyle relay thanks to a clutch anchor swim by senior David Mosko.
The team had unrivaled success in relay events, a huge contributing factor to their ultimate victory. What made the Cardinal’s stellar performance even more impressive was the fact that going into the meet, the team didn’t have a single top seed in any of the relays. By the end of Saturday night, however, Stanford had won three of the five relay events in which it competed.
Other than the team’s overall dominance at the four-day meet, the biggest story this past weekend was freshman David Nolan. The talented youngster announced his presence as an elite college swimmer at the national level after being named the Swimmer of the Meet for his individual triple-win effort. Nolan won the 200 backstroke along with his specialty, the 200 individual medley.
The freshman’s most impressive victory, however, may have come in the 100 backstroke, where Nolan edged out Cal’s Tom Shields, the defending NCAA and conference champion in that event. Nolan displayed his speed by finishing the first half of his race over a half-second faster than the rest of the field, and then he somehow managed to hold off a charging Shields down the stretch for the victory. Nolan also played a critical role in the three winning relays for Stanford, bringing his total gold medal count to six.
But Nolan wasn’t the only freshman who was critical to Stanford’s success in the pool. Distance specialist Drew Cosgarea won the 400 individual medley and also placed fourth in the 1650 freestyle. In the medley event, Cosgarea led a 1-2-3 sweep for Stanford. The team was able to fully capitalize off its tremendous depth in that event, as four of the top five finishers were Stanford swimmers. In that event alone, Stanford scored 85 points, which put the Cardinal well ahead of its opponents with just one day of competition left.
While the talented freshmen were critical to the Cardinal’s success at the conference championship, senior leadership also played a major role in the win. Senior Chad La Tourette defended his conference title in the 1650 freestyle one last time as he beat second-place finisher Cristian Quintero by almost 15 seconds. With the win, La Tourette captured his fourth-consecutive conference championship in the 1650. The senior also added to his already-impressive postseason resume by winning the 500 freestyle, his first conference title in that event.
In a few weeks, the newly crowned Pac-12 champion will carry its momentum to the NCAA championships, where the Cardinal will try to win the grand prize — the national title.