Three weeks after seeing its historic streak of 31 consecutive conference titles snapped by two-time defending national champion Cal, No. 7 Stanford men’s swimming and diving returns to the pool today for the start of the biggest meet of the season, the 2013 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships held at the IU Natatorium.
“We’re excited to be back in Indianapolis for the NCAA Championships,” head coach Ted Knapp told GoStanford.com. “It is a great pool, and all the meet support groups do a wonderful job creating a great venue for the athletes… It’s great to have a squad made up of 16 swimmers and four divers. It creates tremendous team unity, and we’re looking forward to a great team effort.”
Much of the attention will be on sophomore star David Nolan, the high school phenom who once set four high school national records over the course of two days at the 2011 Pennsylvania state championships. Posting a time that would have given him the NCAA title that year, the high school senior clocked a 1:41.39 in the 200-yard individual medley to break his own previous high school national record by over two seconds. Nolan’s blistering swim was three seconds faster than the best times that Olympic stars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte put up in the same event when they were high school seniors.
Nolan more than lived up to the hype at least year’s inaugural Pac-12 Championships, racking up six conference titles — three came in individual events — and earning swimmer of the meet honors. The NCAAs, however, proved to be a different story. While most college freshmen would have been content with two NCAA runner-up finishes, one third-place finish and a Pac-12 Freshman of the Year accolade to boot, Nolan was not completely happy with how his season ended.
In the 200-yard IM, his specialty, Nolan was a full body length ahead of the rest of the field and under NCAA record pace at the halfway mark , but he faltered during the breaststroke leg and was eventually overtaken by two sophomores, Cal’s Marcin Tarczynski and Florida’s Marcin Cieslak.
Nolan’s other two second-place individual swims saw similar endings. The then-freshman could not hold off a late charge by Cal junior Tom Shields in the 100-yard backstroke and was touched out by Arizona senior Cory Chitwood in the 200-yard backstroke by eight hundredths of a second. Chitwood may have graduated, but with Tarczynski, Cieslak and Shields back, Nolan seeks to exact revenge and capture his first NCAA title.
With newly crowned Pac-12 champion Cal eyeing its third consecutive national championship, Stanford will need a lot more than great swims from just Nolan if it hopes to put an end to the Bears’ dominance. Senior sprint specialist Aaron Wayne could be a huge factor for the Cardinal, as the nine-time All-American took fourth in both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events at last season’s NCAAs. Nolan and senior All-Americans Matthew Swanston and Matthew Thompson should prove to be a formidable trifecta in the backstroke events, while junior Bryan Offutt looks to crack the top eight in the grueling 1650-yard freestyle race.
The Cardinal’s greatest and most important advantage, however, might come on the diving board. Sophomore diver Kristian Ipsen, who won a bronze medal in the 3-meter synchronized diving event at the Olympic Games in London this past summer, looks to maintain his dominance on a big stage. The Clayton, Calif. product won the 3-meter event at last year’s NCAAs while taking second in the 1-meter and 10th in the platform, giving him three distinct All-American honors.
Ipsen won’t be alone in representing Stanford, as three other Cardinal divers qualified for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA Zone meet two weeks ago.
“Having four men qualify for the NCAA met is a great accomplishment for this program,” head diving coaching Rick Schavone told GoStanford.com. “We’re hopeful that Kristian will be in the hunt for a title while Taylor Sishc, Connor Kuremsky and Noah Garcia will be competing for points. I’m very proud of the men and excited to see that their hard work throughout the season has paid for.”
Stanford men’s swimming and diving boasts one of the most storied programs in the collegiate history, having won eight national titles and landing in the top four 31 consecutive times. Last year’s third-place finish at the NCAAs was the Cardinal’s 27th top-three finish since 1981. Even so, a national championship has now eluded the Cardinal for 15 years.
A three-day affair, the NCAA Championships starts today and concludes on Saturday evening with each day’s preliminary heats beginning at 11 a.m. and championship finals at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s finals sessions will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Contact George Chen at [email protected].