Stanford artistic swimming (1-0, 1-0 MPSF) may have escaped the threat of discontinuation, undergone a change to the name of the sport and had to adapt to a new season schedule, but in the pool, the swimmers didn’t miss a beat. In the team’s season opener against Wheaton College (0-1, 0-1 MPSF) artistic swimming swept every event by a healthy margin over the weekend, nine months after winning the national championship.
The homecoming for the national champions kicked off with a ring ceremony, in which head coach Megan Abarca recognized the members of last year’s championship team in front of a healthy crowd at Avery Aquatic Center. Though three members of last year’s squad are no longer part of Stanford’s roster, having them return to the pool was a moment of pride and achievement for the program, Abarca said.
“It felt like a long time coming for them, and I know they were really excited to finally have that moment,” she said. “Three of our athletes are not with the team anymore so it was just really nice to have all of the group from last year back together again.”
The meet began with the trio event, where two Cardinal trios — one of junior Audrey Nguyen, fifth-year Jacklyn Luu and sophomore Emmanuella Tchakmakjian and the other comprising junior Emily Brieant, junior Natalie Greenfield and senior Sabrina Walsh — logged opening scores of 75.0500 and 71.2500. Wheaton’s singular trio fell short, scoring a 63.7500.
Throughout the events, the Cardinal performed only half of their full routines. Abarca said that by the next meet, the artistic swimmers will have prepared their complete routines.
But the shortened performances did not seem to hinder the team’s ability to dominate. In duets, both Stanford groups bested Wheaton’s score by more than 10 points, with junior Hailee Heinrich and freshman Nicole Goot recording the highest score of the morning with a 76.8500.
Though the team is without three members of last year’s national championship team, Goot and freshman Lindi Schroeder, who recorded the top score in solos with 76.7500, showed that the program’s future is in good hands. Both artistic swimmers join the program on two-year deferments from the U.S. national team.
“They bring with them a lot of really strong skills and we’re excited to see them contribute so greatly right off the bat,” Abarca said. “But I think collegiate artistic swimming is much different than the national team environment, so I think they’re learning quite a bit from our athletes.”
It will be hard for the team to follow up the emotional success of last year’s national championship run, but returning swimmers Tchakmakjian and Luu have been impressed with the energy and closeness of this year’s team.
“We’ve done a really good job banding together and just doing what we always do at practice just in a competition setting,” Tchakmakjian said. “I think that’s really powerful and we can take that onto the next meet.”
“We’re trying to improve every day because with COVID and everything happening, you never know when you’ll have your last swim, and we are very aware of that,” Luu added.
The team will look to recreate Saturday’s success when they travel to Texas on Jan. 28 to take on the University of the Incarnate Word. The Cardinal will be at home next on Feb. 12 when they attempt to capture the MPSF Championship title.