The No. 10 Cardinal (4-2, 3-2 Pac-12) fought through a stacked field at the 2023 Pac-12 Men’s Swimming Championships to claim third place in the overall team standings, beaten only by the nation’s top two teams this season: No. 1 ASU and No. 2 Cal.
Wednesday — the good and the bad
On Wednesday, the first of the meet’s four days in Federal Way, Wash., Dan Schemmel’s squad was on track for a season best in its very first event, the 200-yard medley relay, had it not been for slightly early relay exchange leading to disqualification. (Stanford was one of four teams in the race to suffer such a fate, including Cal.)
But the Cardinal bounced right back, as sophomore Ron Polonsky, freshman Andres Dupont and juniors Luke Maurer and Preston Forst put together the team’s fastest 800-yard freestyle relay of the season by over six seconds, stopping the clock at 6:11.08. That time earned Stanford an ‘A’ cut for the upcoming NCAAs, and third place on the day.
Thursday — two bronze medals highlight a day of season bests
The season bests continued on day two, with Forst taking seventh spot in the ‘A’ final of the 500-yard freestyle at 4:15.01. Stanford also had the 10th, 11th and 12th fastest times overall, through senior Andrew Matejka and sophomores Gabe Machado, and Matt Fenlon, respectively, all of whom also improved from their entry times.
The 200-yard individual medley that followed saw Polonsky hand the Cardinal their first individual podium place of the meet. Coming in at 1:40.42, just half a second shy of his lifetime best from last season’s national championship meet, the sophomore took third, while junior Jonny Affeld finished eighth.
Junior Andrei Minakov threw down two season bests en route to another third-placed finish, clocking 19.07 in the 50-yard freestyle ‘A’ final before joining Affeld, Maurer and freshman Rafael Gu on the Cardinal’s fourth-placed 200-yard freestyle relay. That quartet gave Stanford an NCAA ‘A’ relay standard for the second day running, with their final time of 1:16.24 the quickest the Cardinal has been so far this season by almost one and a half seconds.
Friday — Cardinal crowd the butterfly podium, crack multiple lifetime bests
Polonsky kicked off the action on day three in another medley ‘A’ final, taking sixth with a season-best 3:40.97 in the 400-yard individual medley. In the event’s ‘B’ final, meanwhile, junior Rick Mihm and freshman Liam Custer built on big time drops in the preliminary heats that morning to take 11th and 13th overall.
Next up was the 100-yard butterfly, and the Cardinal showed up big to fill the podium.
Minakov, the defending champion from last year’s Pac-12s, recovered well from a mistimed turn at the halfway point to race onto the podium for the second time, and his (and Stanford’s) first event title. The junior was the only swimmer in the field to break 45 seconds in either the final (44.51) or the morning (44.34) heats, with the latter time standing as a season best. Sophomore Aaron Sequeira improved on his lifetime best from prelims to earn second in the final at 45.09, while Gu, mere hundredths shy of his own lifetime best from earlier that day, tied for third place in 45.13.
Affeld, who himself managed a season best in the preliminary heats, finished up in eighth place that evening to make it such that half of the ‘A’ final lanespace belonged to Stanford, while junior Ethan Hu grabbed 11th overall.
Just one one-hundredth of a second off his relay split from the opening night, Dupont grabbed seventh place and a new best time of 1:33.36 in the 200-yard freestyle’s ‘A’ final, dropping over a second from his entry time previous lifetime best earlier this season. Despite swimming in the ‘B’ final based on his time in the qualifying heats, Maurer put up the fifth fastest time in the event overall. The junior’s 1:32.47 was also a lifetime best, and by far the best he’s been so far this season.
In the 100-yard breaststroke, freshman Zhier Fan swam the Cardinal’s third fastest time in program history to take fifth place in a lifetime best of 51.97. Junior Ethan Dang won the event’s ‘B’ final, taking ninth overall with his own lifetime best of 52.46.
Sequeira, having that morning swam a lifetime best 45.44, took sixth place in the 100-yard backstroke at 45.45, ahead of senior teammate Leon MacAlister (seventh, 45.85). Freshman Josh Zuchowski’s lifetime best 46.41 was good for 11th overall, while freshman Hayden Kwan and senior Shane Blinkman closed out the ‘B’ final at 15th and 16th.
Stanford ended the penultimate day of racing back on the relay podium, taking third with another big season best mark and NCAA ‘A’ time at 3:02.71, earned by MacAlister, Polonsky, Minakov and Maurer in the 400-yard medley.
Saturday — third place secured
In the longest event of the four-day meet, sophomore Gabe Machado was the Cardinal’s top performer. Machado dropped 27 seconds from his entry time and lifetime best to take fourth place in 14:50.02, just a second back from a top-three spot.
Sequeira continued his impressive showing at these conference championships, twice bettering his old lifetime best in the 200-yard backstroke and ending up fifth in the ‘A’ final at 1:39.94. As in the 100-yard event the day before, MacAlister was right behind him to take sixth place at 1:40.16, with Zuchowski’s time of 1:40.68 earning the freshman seventh place and his second lifetime best in as many days. Kwan and Blinkman moved up a couple of spots from the 100’s rankings on day three, finishing 11th and 14th.
Minakov edged under his season best from the morning’s heats to claim sixth place in the 100-yard freestyle ‘A’ final at 42.01, while Maurer (42.27) and Dupont (42.29) both managed lifetime bests that secured the top two spots in the ‘B’ final.
In the 200-yard breaststroke, Polonsky’s season best 1:53.53 earned the sophomore seventh, while Dang recorded a big lifetime best of 1:54.01 in the ‘B’ final to take 10th, and Fan finished 13th.
The standings in the 200-yard butterfly, the final individual event of the competition, told a similar story. Affeld’s season best 1:42.83 was the sixth fastest in the ‘A’ final, and Hu, slightly off his own season best from prelims, finished eighth. In the ‘B’ final, Mihm and sophomore Matt Fenlon were 10th and 13th respectively.
Stanford was on the receiving end of another disqualification, this time in the 400-yard freestyle relay, to end the meet — which will no doubt leave Schemmel’s men eagerly awaiting the national championships in a few weeks to right those wrongs.
Divers highlighted by silver from Ryan
A week prior, the program’s diving contingent took to the boards in Federal Way.
Sophomore Jack Ryan’s second-place performance in the 1-meter event was Stanford’s best of the three days, while freshman Peyton Donald was the fourth highest scorer.
In the final of the 3-meter event, Ryan (fifth) was again the Cardinal’s top performer, while senior Ethan Foster (seventh) took on that role off the platform.
Full results, for both diving and swimming, can be found here.
The Cardinal will close out the 2022-23 season at the 2023 NCAA Championships, beginning March 22 in Minneapolis, MN.