Season opener sees the Cardinal leave Utes in their wake

Oct. 15, 2022, 2:48 p.m.

Stanford’s men were quick off the starting blocks to kickstart their 2022-23 season in style with a dominant win over Utah, charging to their largest ever margin of victory over the Utes with a score of 199 to the visitors’ 97.

Supporters – the majority decked out in Stanford gear – gathered in the Avery Aquatic Center’s sprawling, sun-soaked stands as the clock struck 2 p.m. and the swimmers hit the water to compete for the first time this season. The season opener also marked the annual Breast Cancer Awareness meet, for which all proceeds benefit the Stanford Medicine Women’s Health Center.

The Cardinal didn’t have to wait long for their first win of the season. The schedule began with the 200-yard (4×50) medley relay, in which the team of senior Leon MacAlister and juniors Ethan Dang, Ethan Hu and Luke Maurer touched first in a time of 1:27.91. Stanford’s second (of the two relay teams allowed per school) quartet finished in third place with 1:29.13 – only 0.04 seconds behind Utah’s top team in second place.

Clean sweeps and fearless freshmen

In several of the events that followed, the podium places belonged to Stanford and Stanford alone. The 100, 200 and 1000-yard freestyle events saw the Cardinal earn coveted 1-2-3 finishes, with many of those placings coming from members of a promising freshman class who are already beginning to deliver on pre-season potential, and seem to be shaking off any nerves of their first college competition with ease.

Freshmen Liam Custer and Henry Morrissey joined junior and event winner Preston Forst (9:11.51) on the podium in the long-distance race of the day, whilst fellow first-years Rafael Gu and Andrew Dupont found themselves in the top three for both the 100 and 200 events. Gu (1:35.77) took top spot – by more than a second – over 200 yards in his first race for the Cardinal, followed by MacAlister and Dupont. In the 100, meanwhile, Gu and Dupont had to settle for second and third behind teammate Maurer, who posted a winning time of 43.98 seconds.

Winning ways and strength in numbers

In fact, Stanford’s men won all 16 of the day’s events as they racked up their near-200 point team score, showing their squad’s depth and range across the field. One of the most impressive showings of this depth in the individual events was in the 100 butterfly – and this time, it was the more experienced swimmers’ time to shine. Hu (Stanford’s only designated points scorer in the event*) brought home all the glory in first place with a time of 47.82 – but junior Jonathan Affeld, MacAlister, sophomore Avery Voss and senior Neel Roy, all competing as ‘exhibition-only’, each swam sub-50 seconds in times that would have been fast enough to place them second, fourth, fifth and sixth on the day.

It was a similar story in the last individual event of the day, the 200 individual medley (IM) – a real test of swimmers’ versatility – which saw senior Shane Blinkman, junior Aaron Sequeira and sophomore Hayden Zheng (though all again competing for times only, without scoring team points) swim fast enough for second, third and fifth respectively in the race. None were quicker, though, than sophomore Ron Polonsky, whose 1:48.72 earned him the win.

Polonsky also took his turn to swim exhibition in the 200 breast – but the breaststroke events were really all about Dang, who claimed gold (well clear of the rest of the field) in both the 100 and 200-yard distances of his specialty stroke.

The full results from Stanford’s season opener, including the rest of the team’s individual performances, can be found here.

Divers deliver

Not to be outdone, Stanford’s two divers for the day – sophomore Jack Ryan and junior Ethan Foster – also raked in the points, even in a field where the Cardinal were outnumbered two to one. Ryan won both the 1- and 3-meter events with ease, as Foster also chipped in to the team’s points total with third and fifth-place finishes in the 1 and 3 meter dives respectively.

Start – and finish – how you mean to go on

Finishing the day just as they began in the relay events, Stanford came out on top in the meet’s final event: the 400-yard (4×100) freestyle relay. Energized by bellowing chants of ‘Stanford, Stanford, Stanford, relay, relay, relay (x2) – go, go, go!’ from the team area, and launched into the lead by MacAlister’s 43.65 first leg split – a time fast enough to have won the individual 100 freestyle event – the Cardinal’s ‘A’ relay never let up.

The torch was passed to star freshmen Gu and Dupont, before Maurer (43.42) closed out with the fastest split in the field to give his team a nearly 4 second advantage as they clocked in with a final time of 2:55.16. Even with the Cardinal choosing to swim their other two relay teams in the event as exhibition, that final victory was more than enough to cap off a stellar 2022-23 opening meet – and head coach Dan Schemmel emphasized how pleased he was with his team’s first performance of the season.

“We are very proud of the effort and competitiveness the team showed against Utah. There were several strong performances in the pool and off the boards. This was a great start to the season,” Schemmel said, adding that a few swimmers in his squad are currently recovering from injuries or other illnesses and therefore did not compete this weekend – making the team’s opening day resounding victory all the more impressive.

With a comfortable season-opening win, the Cardinal extends its 100% winning streak in the Utah dual meet matchup as they sit at 5-0 all-time. The result also, of course, gives the team a 1-0 start to the 2022-23 season – a winning record which they will hope to maintain when they host Cal, another Pac-12 rival (and reigning NCAA champion), in a special ‘Triple Distance Meet’, starting at 2 p.m. PT on Friday, Nov 4.

Exhibition and time trial swims

According to NCAA meet rules for these 16-event competition line-ups (the traditional college dual meet format), athletes are limited in the number of events which they can score points in. In addition to the 2-per-team relay rules outlined above, teams are also limited to three individual entries per event.

Athletes are permitted to swim outside of these rules, but any additional events or entries must be exhibition time trials only, with their results not counting towards the overall team points totals. Per Pac-12 rules, some swimmers may also swim ‘exhibition’ (non-scoring) for an entire meet, as only a certain number of swimmers can score points per meet.

Additionally, if the overall meet result becomes clear in terms of points difference, the winning team may decide to score only their highest placing swimmers per event, and exhibition the remaining swimmers to avoid simply ‘running up the score’ on the opposing team. For clarity, event scoring is as follows:

  • Individual events: 9, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 points for first place, second place, …
  • Relay events: 11, 4, 2, 0 points

Alex Dakers is a contributing writer in the sports section and a first-year masters student studying Journalism. He is from the Cayman Islands (and more recently, an undergrad in the UK). You can catch Alex in the gym, at the pool or trying to find somewhere to watch the Premier League games — if he can wake up early enough to watch them! Contact him at sports 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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