By James Hemker
This article is part of a running series The Daily sports staff will be publishing on Stanford sports teams.
The 2018-19 men’s swimming and diving season culminated with senior Abrahm DeVine’s defense of his NCAA individual title in the 400-yard IM. While the team finished a humbling 15th place at NCAAs, the individual successes this season proved that the team has the pieces to be a contender next year.
Eleven swimmers and a diver earned All-America honors, with DeVine (400 IM, 200 IM, 800-free relay), freshman Mason Gonzalez (800-free relay, 200 free relay), sophomore Alex Liang (400 IM, 800-free relay) and freshman Noah Vigran (three-meter, platform diving) earning multiple honors.
The rest of the awards went to sophomore Johannes Calloni (1650-free), senior Cole Cogswell (200-free relay), redshirt senior Patrick Conaton (200-free relay), junior James Murphy (800 free relay), junior Hank Poppe (100-breast), freshman Daniel Roy (200 breast), junior True Sweetser (1,650-free) and senior Brad Zdroik (200-free relay).
Senior Matt Anderson was also named the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year. Anderson is one of 11 Stanford athletes to have won the award for their respective sports this academic year.
Of those 12 All-Americans, eight will be returning for next season. Notably absent from that list of top-tier swimmers are freshman Jack LeVant and junior Grant Shoults. Both swimmers were victims of injuries that did not allow them to compete at NCAAs. Shoults tore his labrum fairly early into the dual meet season, and LeVant announced that he would not be traveling to NCAA’s due to an undisclosed medical reason.
Both swimmers hold school records, and they are two of the five members of the squad representing Stanford on Team U.S.A., along with DeVine, Sweetser and Roy. LeVant set a new school record in the 200-yard freestyle during the opening leg of the 800-free relay at the 2018 Texas Invitational. Shoults set his 500-free record of 4:10.02 at NCAAs a year ago. Just the addition of these two in the pool will make the Cardinal much more competitive next year.
Perhaps the greatest sign of good things to come is located not in the pool, but on the boards. Vigran and his classmate Conor Casey put together a remarkable freshman campaign that saw Casey win three-meter diving at Pac-12s and Vigran earn two All-America honors. Vigran, who earned silver in all three diving events at Pac-12s, was named both the Pac-12 Freshman Diver of the Year and the Pac-12 Diver of the Year. He went on to place sixth on the three-meter and 16th on the platform at NCAAs.
For his efforts coaching the young divers, head diving coach Patrick Jeffrey was named Pac-12 Diving Coach of the Year, the second time he has won the award.
As far as competition went, the team finished its dual meet season 5-1, with its sole loss coming at the hands of eventual national champions Cal. The Cardinal steamrolled Utah in the fall, and then Pacific, Arizona, Arizona State and USC in the winter. The average margin of victory during those five meets was 74.4 points.
At Pac-12’s, Stanford earned its 38th consecutive top-two finish, again coming up short against the Golden Bears. The meet was highlighted by Casey’s aforementioned three-meter victory, as well as Murphy’s second-place finish in the 1,650-free.
Two weeks later, 17 members of the team, 11 swimmers, two divers and four relay alternates traveled to Texas to duke it out with the nation’s best.
DeVine first placed fifth in the 200 IM before successfully defending his 400 IM title against a brand new field of swimmers. The win capped a stellar career for DeVine, as he leaves the Farm with two NCAA individual championships, 15 All-America honors and the school record (3:35.29) in the 400 IM.
Liang swam a personal-best 3:42.19 in the 400 IM prelims, the third-fastest time in program history. Junior Hank Poppe also had a breakout showing during NCAAs, winning the B-final of the 100 breast with the second-fastest time in Stanford’s history (51.93). Sweetser had an impressive swim in the 1,650 free to claim seventh overall.
After the season concluded, it was announced that head coach Ted Knapp would be stepping down after 35 seasons as a coach with the team. His replacement will be Hawai’i’s head coach Dan Schemmel. Just the sixth director of the program in its 102-year history, Schemmel will look to return Stanford men’s swimming to its rightful place at the top of the nation.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.