After another unbeaten season and a successful Pac-12 title defense, the Cardinal (8-0, 7-0 Pac-12) claimed the third spot in the nation for the second year running at the 2023 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Knoxville, Tenn.
Bolstered by nine medals (including three in the relay events) at the four-day competition from March 15-18, Stanford also continued its streak as the only program in the country to have never finished outside of the top 10.
While finishing third in the nation with 37 All-American honors is no mean feat, head coach Greg Meehan (who was named the Pac-12 Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year) is confident that even greater things could come from his group.
“Our ‘good’ was phenomenal,” Meehan said, pointing to multiple lifetime bests and school record performances. “Unfortunately, our ‘misses’ really hurt from a points perspective. We will celebrate a top three finish at NCAAs and at the same time, we know we can be better.”
Relays rake in points
The first of Stanford’s nine podium finishes came on opening night, as sophomores Torri Huske and Lillie Nordmann, fifth-year Taylor Ruck and freshman Kayla Wilson combined for a silver medal-winning 6:50.77 in the 800-yard freestyle relay. They may have been out-touched by the dominant Virginia Cavaliers (who won each of the five relays contested en route to their third straight national title), but that time still marked a season best by just over three seconds for the Cardinal.
Also that day was the 200-yard medley relay, in which freshman Claire Curzan, fifth-year Allie Raab, senior Emma Wheal and sophomore Amy Tang placed ninth, one position better than Stanford’s 10th-place finish a year ago. Later in the meet, Huske and Ruck then subbed in for Wheal and Tang in the 400-yard medley relay, which saw the Cardinal finish less than a second shy of the podium, their 3:26.10 good for fourth place.
A 1:25.70 in the 200-yard freestyle relay, courtesy of Huske, Curzan, Ruck and Tang, marked both a season best and a huge leap up the standings from Stanford’s sixth-place performance at the national championships last year, earning the Cardinal a silver medal in Knoxville.
On day four, that same foursome of Huske, Ruck, Tang and Curzan battled final day fatigue to defend the Cardinal’s silver medal in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a season best 3:08.54.
Huske goes three for three individually as Curzan grabs first national title
On day two, Huske grabbed her first of three individual medals with a silver in the 200-yard individual medley, repeating her placing at last year’s NCAAs. Not only was the sophomore’s new school record time of 1:50.06 for that medal more than three seconds quicker than her season best coming into the meet, it also stands as a lifetime best, beating her 1:51.81 performance at last year’s national championships and even dipping under the previous NCAA record.
Huske, who was named Pac-12 Women’s Swimmer of the Year, then went on to medal in her remaining two individual events with a further two lifetime bests: a 48.96 for the 100-yard butterfly bronze (and another school record) on day three, and a 46.46 for the 100-yard freestyle silver on day four. In the freestyle, Huske became the 10th fastest performer of all time as she jumped all the way up from the event’s ‘B’ final last year.
Unfazed by the pressure of her first national championships, Curzan threw down a 1:47.64 for the gold medal in the 200-yard backstroke on day four, smashing the pool record and landing at the sixth fastest time in the event’s history, just off her lifetime best and school record mark from Pac-12s.
The day prior, the freshman completed a tough double of the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke. After being beaten to the podium by Huske in the butterfly by a tenth of a second, Curzan bounced back for the bronze medal in the backstroke sprint, clocking a 50.08. Those performances, on top of the regular season and a stellar showing at the Pac-12 Championships, saw Curzan named the Pac-12 Women’s Freshman of the Year.
Other highlights: Ruck repeats as national champion as underclassmen shine
Closing out her collegiate career in style, Ruck dropped season bests in both the preliminary heats and the final to retain her 200-yard freestyle national title, touching first in 1:42.36. The fifth-year was joined in the ‘A’ final of that event by Wilson, who put together a lifetime best 1:42.90 to earn fourth place.
Alongside Wilson and Curzan, the three other Cardinal freshmen that joined the team in Knoxville also proved valuable assets to the team’s performance.
“Our freshmen and sophomores were great,” Meehan said. “We had five freshmen at the meet and all of them scored individually — this is the first time we’ve done that in my 11 years [with the team].”
Freshman Natalie Mannion set a lifetime best by more than two seconds in the heats of the 500-yard freestyle to kick off the meet’s individual events, and followed up that swim with an eighth-place finish in the event’s ‘B’ final that evening.
Fellow first-year Lucy Bell, meanwhile, lowered her own lifetime best in the 400-yard individual medley twice in a day, finishing up at 4:05.56 for seventh place overall.
On the final individual event of the final day of competition, Charlotte Hook then made it five freshmen points scorers out of five with a sixth-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly, stopping the clock at 1:53.17.
Full results of the 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships can be found here.
That’s a wrap for the 2022-23 collegiate season — but it is far from the last time that the Cardinal’s swimmers will hit the water this year.
Be sure to follow @stanfordwswim on Twitter for updates on where in the world Stanford’s swimmers may be headed next, from the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis to the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, this summer.