Showdown in Sparta: Women’s swimming & diving extend undefeated start to 3

Nov. 6, 2022, 9:23 p.m.

A sunny Friday afternoon in the South Bay served as the battleground for a showdown between two unbeaten teams hoping to continue their winning ways to start the 2022-23 season – but only one could emerge victorious.

Both entering the meet with a 2-0 record, it was Stanford’s women who came out on top against San Jose State — the nation’s current No. 2 ranked swimming & diving squad maintaining a 100%-win rate with 3/3 dual meet victories in the last four weeks. The Spartans came close to defending their turf (or, pool!) on a few occasions, but the Cardinal once again triumphed in each of the day’s events on their way to a commanding 162-63 team win. The result was a relatively comfortable one, and extended Stanford’s unbeaten record in that dual meet matchup to 10-0.

Starting off as strong as ever in the relay events, the Cardinal’s only team in the 200-yard medley relay won the event by over five seconds. Sophomores Torri Huske and Sam Tadder opened up a sizeable lead over the competition by the halfway stage — a lead which freshman Gigi Johnson extended on the butterfly leg before Stanford’s sprint star senior Emma Wheal cruised home in a 22.39 freestyle split, clocking the quartet in at 1:41.07.

Keeping the visiting team’s momentum going, graduate student Morgan Tankersley (10:11.75) and Meghan Lynch (10:16.59) went 1-2 for Stanford in the 1000-yard freestyle in the very next event. Both swimmers also took on a gruelling distance double header, with Tankersley touching first in 4:59.05 to Lynch’s exhibition time of 5:00.76 as they duelled again in the 500-yard freestyle later in the session (after the dual meet mercy rule had been enacted for third meet in a row, only seven events in).

Fine margins and new winners

The efforts of Tankersley and Lynch handed sophomore Aurora Roghair a reprieve following her 1000-yard exploits against the Washington State Cougars last week. Instead, Roghair dropped down to the 200-yard freestyle where she, along with Huske and Johnson, took part in the closest-fought race finish of the day.

The third event of the day saw Stanford claim first, second and third yet again this season — but that by no means meant the race lacked excitement. Roghair trailed Huske at the halfway mark, 52.83 to 52.22, but made up almost all of that deficit over the second half of the race to touch just behind her sophomore teammate with a time of 1:48.86 to Huske’s 1:48.80.

However, it was Johnson who claimed top spot.

Swimming a near-perfect even split (54.17, 54.58), the freshman was almost two seconds back from Huske’s lead after 100-yards, but charged home to out-touch her teammates at 1:48.75. With just over a tenth of a second separating first through third, the event proved the most exciting finish of the day – and a promising showcase of Stanford’s depth over 200 yards, as they’ll aim to repeat as 4×200-yard freestyle relay champions at NCAA Championships in the new year.

Johnson was one of many double event winners for Stanford, also coming away from the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center pool as the meet’s fastest 200-yard breaststroker — her time of 2:19.09 beating out the Spartans’ Cali Rowland.

In the absence of freshman and 100-yard backstroke stalwart Claire Curzan, it was senior Alexandra Crisera who stepped up, claiming her first individual victories of the season as she swept the backstroke titles with wins in the 100 (54.78) and 200-yard (1:57.27) events. Junior Janelle Rudolph (55.34) and freshman Kirsti McEnroe joined Crisera to complete a Stanford sweep of the podium in second and third respectively over 100-yards, while Rudolph’s exhibition time of 2:03.79 in the 200-yard backstroke later saw her touch third behind Crisera and Roghair (2:01.95).

“I’m super pleased with how my races went — there’s always room for improvement, but it’s given me a little more confidence in my abilities to accomplish my goals for later in the season,” Crisera said, explaining how important it is to celebrate the little wins while keeping one eye on their conference and national championship meets down the road.

As a senior, the 2022-23 season will be Crisera’s last competing for the Cardinal. That knowledge is bittersweet, she says, but she remains as excited as ever for what’s ahead.

“I’m just looking to have fun and race alongside the best teammates I could have. We have some really exciting competitions coming up in Greensboro [the NC State Invite later this month] and the winter quarter.” She continued, “we’ve all been working really hard the last few months and I’m super excited to see it pay off.”

Double trouble everywhere

The Cardinal were competing with a depleted squad, missing several of their squad members from last week’s win at Washington State through illness. Rising to the challenge, many of the team that made the short trip to San Jose impressed in more than one event. As well as Tankersley (500, 1000-yard freestyle), Johnson (200-yard freestyle & breaststroke) and Crisera (100, 200-yard backstroke), freshman Charlotte Hook claimed first place in both the 200-yard butterfly (1:57.73) and 200-yard individual medley (2:02.74). Fellow freshman Lucy Bell joined her in both events, with a second-placed finish in the butterfly (2:01.13) and an exhibition time fast enough for third in the individual medley race (2:05.44) behind Hook and Tadder (2:04.50, exhibition). With a hefty individual event schedule, Bell (55.44, exhibition) also finished runner up to Huske (53.72) in the 100-yard butterfly.

With her win in that race, her signature event (she is, of course, the reigning long course 100m butterfly World Champion), Huske marked her third podium finish of the day following her lead-off in the winning medley relay to open the session, and second in the hotly contested 200-yard freestyle. 

“That’s one of my favorite events to swim,” Huske said of the 100 butterfly — an event the defending World Champion looks forward to swimming at NCAAs amongst an ever-growing stacked event lineup. “The competition is always really amazing, and I feel like we all bring out the best in each other.”

Huske was also keen to speak to her team’s bonding and cohesiveness, their work ethic in and around the pool, and the importance of what they do day in and day out.

“It’s comforting for me,” she said. “When it comes time for the big meets, knowing that I’ve had this tough training and that I can look back at it and know that I’ve put in the work — it really helps me trust the process.”

The rest of the day’s events saw Tadder (1:03.97) reclaim 100-yard breaststroke glory by 0.07, a season-best 22.90 in a dominant 50-yard freestyle victory from Wheal, and an individual 100-yard freestyle win for McEnroe with a time of 50.82. Sophomore Anna Shaw swam to second place in both of those sprint freestyle events (23.98, 51.13 exhibition).

Can anyone stop the Cardinal?

That is a question which has remains, as yet, unanswered. Going out with a splash, Stanford’s main competition in the last event of the day was themselves. The 400-yard freestyle relay pitted Wheal, senior Kira Crage, Tankersley and Shaw against Rudolph, Roghair, Crisera and McEnroe — and it was the latter team that prevailed, stopping the clock at 3:23.38 ahead of their fellow Cards (3:25.37) and the Spartan’s A team (3:30.51).

After three dual meets in quick succession, Stanford’s women next travel to Greensboro, NC. There, they will throw down at the NC State Invitational from Thursday, Nov. 17 to Saturday, Nov. 19, as their diving teammates head to Austin, TX for the Texas Diving Invite in what is scheduled to be the final competitions of the quarter (and indeed, the calendar year).

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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