Buoyed by season and lifetime bests, as well as a handful of records, the No. 3 Cardinal (8-0, 7-0 Pac-12) carried forward their unbeaten form into the first of two stops this postseason to retain their Pac-12 crown.
Greg Meehan’s squad and their conference rivals descended on Federal Way, Wash. for four days of competition beginning last Wednesday — but Stanford’s swimmers and divers led in the team standings from day one and never let up, their final team score of 1725.5 points well over 400 clear of second-placed USC (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12).
Twice throughout the week, sophomore diver Lauren Burch was Stanford’s highest-placing finisher in the diving well, taking sixth in the ‘A’ final of the 1-meter event and eighth in the 3-meter event.
Just behind Burch in the latter was freshman Emilie Moore in ninth place to win the ‘B’ final, while senior Julia Wortman clinched sixth place off the platform, with Burch taking eighth.
In the racing pool, a pair of relays kicked off the action in Federal Way during a timed finals session on Wednesday evening.
In the 200-yard medley relay, Stanford’s team of freshman Claire Curzan (23.34) and seniors Allie Raab (27.33), Emma Wheal (23.19) and Taylor Ruck (21.56) clocked in at a season-best 1:35.42 for second place, just 0.02 seconds behind Cal (7-2, 5-2 Pac-12).
Graduate student Morgan Tankersley, sophomores Torri Huske and Lillie Nordmann and freshman Kayla Wilson then teamed up to defend the Cardinal’s 800-yard freestyle conference title, notching another season-best mark at 6:53.90. That time grabbed the team top spot by a margin of almost five seconds, and also stands as the fastest time in the NCAA so far this season.
Thursday — a gamble pays off as Huske is crowned sprint champ
Tankersley returned to the podium in the very first event the following day, dropping four seconds from her prelims performance to take second place for the second year running in the 500-yard freestyle ‘A’ final in a time of 4:38.36.
After a strong morning swim, sophomore Aurora Roghair (4:39.77) lowered her lifetime best twice in a day to secure fourth place in that final, while Wilson (4:42.78) and fellow freshman Natalie Mannion (4:43.27) finished up seventh and eighth, respectively.
Facing the prospects of a tough back-to-back, top seed Huske scratched from the 200-yard individual medley, leaving three freshmen — Lucy Bell, Gigi Johnson and Charlotte Hook — as the Cardinal’s top representatives in the event.
All three improved on their entry times to qualify for the fastest heat in the finals session, where Bell finished fifth, Hook seventh and Johnson eighth.
In the end, the decision to opt instead for the 50-yard freestyle proved a good one for Huske, who threw down a 21.67 in both prelims and finals to grab Stanford its first individual title of the meet. Ruck (21.87) improved on her morning swim and entry time to take second spot, as sophomore Amy Tang (22.33) placed seventh with a season-best time.
To close out the first full day of competition, the Cardinal climbed atop the relay podium once more, courtesy of a 1:25.98 effort from Curzan, Huske, Ruck and Tang. After electing to swim the individual 50-yard freestyle as an exhibition-only swimmer in the morning, clocking a 21.90, Curzan dropped a 21.59 to lead off that relay.
Friday — Huske, Ruck and Curzan take one apiece
On Friday, Bell grabbed a podium placing in the 400-yard individual medley, posting a lifetime best 4:06.28 to take the bronze medal spot and become the Cardinal’s highest points scorer in both medley events. Hook joined her fellow freshman in the individual medley once again, taking sixth spot in 4:10.22, two tenths of a second behind sophomore Sam Tadder (fifth, 4:10.01).
Huske then made it two Pac-12 titles in as many days with a new meet record in her signature event, the 100-yard butterfly. The sophomore’s time of 49.27 saw her win by over two seconds — in part due to Curzan, who was the second-seeded swimmer in the event, being handed a disqualification for a false start. Johnson dropped time in both her preliminary and finals swims, finishing up in fifth place at 52.38, while Wheal’s 52.67 earned the senior seventh place.
Defending NCAA champion Ruck, one of three Cards to put up season bests in the 200-yard freestyle ‘A’ final, claimed top spot in the event with a 1:43.04. The other two, Wilson and Tankersley, touched in 1:43.74 and 1:44.04 for second and third, respectively, to give Stanford a sweep of the podium. In all, there were five from The Farm in that fastest final heat, with Nordmann and Mannion (who dropped a lifetime best that morning) taking sixth and seventh.
In the 100-yard breaststroke, Raab was the Cardinal’s highest placed finisher in fourth, the senior’s time of 59.57 just two tenths from a bronze medal. Seeded twentieth-fastest coming into the preliminary heats that morning, Raab dropped almost three seconds from her entry time to soar up the event rankings.
Curzan bounced back in style from the disappointment of disqualification in the butterfly sprint, dropping a lifetime best of 49.46 to win the 100-yard backstroke and dip under the previous meet record. Graduate student Lucie Nordmann joined the freshman on the podium, improving on her prelims time to grab third place in 51.91, with senior Alex Crisera (fifth, 52.60) and Johnson (eighth, 53.16) also earning berths in the top eight.
After clinching an individual title apiece on day three, the trio of Curzan, Huske and Ruck (in those same stroke assignments from their individual wins, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle) teamed up with breaststroker Raab for the 400-yard medley relay crown. Their winning time, a season-best 3:25.79, was over five seconds clear of second-placed Cal.
Saturday — records and bests continue to tumble
Exerting her distance event dominance once again this season, Roghair dropped over seven seconds from her entry time to take first place in the 1650-yard freestyle by almost 13 seconds, clocking a 16:02.28. Fourth place went to Tankersley, who came in at 16:18.33.
Picking up where she left off the previous day, Curzan hit another lifetime best mark to win the 200-yard backstroke and retain her status as the fastest in the nation in that event so far this season. The freshman’s new best, a speedy 1:47.43, also earned her another meet record and put the NCAA, Pac-12 and American records (all within three tenths of a second) on notice.
The Cardinal owned the majority of lane-space in that ‘A’ final, with Crisera, Lucie Nordmann, Ruck and Mannion finishing fifth through eighth, respectively.
Solidifying her ‘Swimmer of the Meet’ status, having won every event she contested, Huske repeated as Pac-12 champion in the 100-yard freestyle, clocking 47.18 for the win. Putting together an impressive first college championship meet, Wilson raced onto the podium once again to join her sophomore teammate, with a lifetime best performance of 48.21 that was good for the bronze medal spot, while Tang’s 48.89 earned the sophomore eighth place.
Raab dropped a sizable chunk of time for the second day running, placing fourth in the 200-yard breaststroke at 2:08.64. That time, a new season best, was over five seconds quicker than the senior’s entry time to begin the day. Tadder also dropped from her prelims performance, the sophomore coming in just behind Raab at 2:11.01 for fifth place.
Half of the top six places in the 200-yard butterfly ‘A’ final were occupied by Stanford swimmers, as Hook (second, 1:52.90), Lillie Nordmann (fourth, 1:53.89) and Bell (sixth, 1:54.93) all improved on their swims from the morning session.
Sealing an emphatic conference championship victory to make it two in a row for the Cardinal, the 400-yard freestyle relay team of Ruck, Wilson, Huske and Curzan dropped yet another season best, stopping the clock at 3:08.83 to win by a comfortable five-second margin.
Full results can be found here.
The final challenge of the 2022-23 season awaits in Knoxville, Tenn. On March 15, the Cardinal will begin its fight for a 13th national title at the 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.