Records tumble in Nolan’s wake

April 15, 2015, 1:24 a.m.

David Nolan’s announcement in 2011 that he would commit to Stanford made waves around the Farm – quite literally – and rightfully so. He was one of the most coveted high school recruits in history: He held seven Pennsylvania state high school records and five national records to boot, and was an All-American in six strokes.

This past year, Nolan took the national record for the 200 IM from Ryan Lochte by a hundredth of a second. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily).
This past year, Nolan took the national record for the 200 IM from Ryan Lochte by a hundredth of a second. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily).

Four years later, after swimming his final race as a member of the Cardinal in the 2015 NCAA Championships, in which Stanford netted a sixth-place finish, it’s safe to say that the hype was justified – Nolan’s list of accolades is second only to how ridiculously photogenic he is in the photo accompanying this piece.

Here’s a look at the storied Stanford career of David Nolan and his path from stardom to superstardom via the Farm:

March 18, 2011: Nolan, then a senior in Hershey, Pennsylvania (yes, that’s where the chocolates are made), swims a ludicrous 1:41.39 in his signature stroke, the 200 IM, breaking his own national record by nearly two seconds. Let’s put this frankly remarkable time in perspective: Future Stanford teammate Austin Staab won the 2011 NCAA title in the 200 IM that year with a time of 1:41.57.

That’s right: As a high school senior, Nolan would have been the collegiate national champion. Most swimming pundits called it the single best swim in high school history. As if that wasn’t enough, he swam the opening leg of a national-record 200 free relay in that same meet as well. Michael Phelps? Psh. Ryan Lochte? Get real. Watch out, world: David Nolan was firmly set to be the next big thing.

Nov. 19, 2011: Eight titles. That’s how many the freshman Nolan took away from the Long Beach Arena Invite in one of his first meets as a member of the Cardinal squad. Included among those eight titles were five pool record swims in the 200 back, 400 free relay, 800 free relay, 200 IM and 400 medley relay. To further show off his versatility, he also grabbed titles in the 200 medley relay, the 100 fly and the 200 free relay, because why not?

March 3, 2012: Stanford won its 31st consecutive Pac-12 title, and Nolan was clearly the X-factor, winning a mind-boggling six conference titles in the 200 back, 200 IM, 400 medley relay, 200 free relay and 800 free relay. At that point, getting named the Pac-12 Championships Swimmer of the Meet was just a formality. A few weeks later, he wasn’t able to secure any national titles at the NCAA championships but set the school record in the 200 back anyway with his mark of 1:40.70. He took home a cool seven All-American honors as well. He was later the runaway selection for the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Award.

July 7, 2012: Nolan doesn’t see much success in the first Olympic trials of his swimming career, swimming well slower than his standards in the 100 back (55.58), 200 free (1:49.95) and 200 IM (2:04.91), failing to make the cut into the field of 26 swimmers that would represent the United States at the 2012 Olympics in London.

March 6, 2013: A year later, Nolan didn’t have as sizzling of an all-around meet at the Pac-12 Championships as he did in his freshman season, but when you set the bar so high, there’s only so much you can do. And that’s really only if you count a Pac-12 Championships record in the 200 back and a defense of his conference title in the 200 IM as “disappointing,” which just goes to show how sky-high the expectations for Nolan were throughout his collegiate career.

Nolan has his eyes set on Rio for next summer,  hoping to earn a spot on the Olympic roster after missing London. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)).
Nolan has his eyes set on Rio for next summer, hoping to earn a spot on the Olympic roster after missing London. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)).

March 30, 2013: Nolan clinched two of his three career national titles with first-place finishes in both the 200 IM with a school-record time of 1:41.21 and in the 100 back with his 44.99. Although he didn’t take away a national title in the event, his 200 back time of 1:39.31 was also record-setting, as it broke the old Stanford record. This would mark the most productive of his four career NCAA championship meets, although the real historic fireworks wouldn’t come until two years later.

March 8, 2014: Nolan became just the third athlete in Pac-12 history to notch a hat trick in the 200 IM, as he swam a 1:41.49 to set a Pac-12 record and claim his third consecutive conference title in the event. That would be it for the junior as far as conference and national titles went, however, as he set school records in both the 200 back (1:39.17) and the 800 free relay (6:15.67) but ultimately walked away with bronze medals in both events at the NCAA championship meets a few weeks later.

March 7, 2015: Get out of the way, Ryan Lochte. Nolan broke the Stanford, Pac-12, NCAA and American records in the 200 IM with a blistering time of 1:40.07 in the event at the 2015 Pac-12 Championships, which broke the 2009 NCAA record of Florida’s Bradley Ally (1:40.49) and the 2007 American mark set by Lochte (1:40.08). The senior became the only swimmer in Pac-12 history to sweep the event in all four years of his collegiate career. Can’t get much better than that, right?

March 26, 2015: Wrong. The poor record books didn’t stand a chance against Nolan and his dogged determination in the senior’s final meet for the Cardinal, as he smashed every existing record thoroughly and astonished the swimming world with a 1:39.38 in the 200 IM, becoming the first man ever to swim a sub-1:40 time in the event. That’s a mark that might very well never be broken in the future of collegiate swimming. Ever. That’s a mark that makes you stare at your screen in shock for five minutes before you ultimately decide it must have been a typo. Talk about going out with style.

There’s fast. There’s faster. And there’s 200 IM American record holder David Nolan. #GoStanford

Posted by Stanford Men’s Swimming and Diving on Thursday, April 2, 2015

June 14, 2015: Because being one of the best swimmers in the world isn’t enough, Nolan will graduate with a degree in biomechanical engineering and a minor in computer science. He’ll depart Stanford with three school records, nine Pac-12 titles and 17 All-American honors. All in four years’ work, right?

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’

Do-Hyoung Park '16, M.S. '17 is the Minnesota Twins beat reporter at, having somehow ensured that his endless hours sunk into The Daily became a shockingly viable career. He was previously the Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager at The Stanford Daily for FY17-18. He also covered Stanford football and baseball for five seasons as a student and served two terms as sports editor and four terms on the copy desk. He was also a color commentator for KZSU 90.1 FM's football broadcast team for the 2015-16 Rose Bowl season.

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