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Men’s swimming & diving faces upstart NC State in last dual meet of fall season

This Saturday, No. 7 Stanford men’s swimming will take to Avery Aquatic Center once again to compete against No. 5 NC State in what will be the last dual meet of the fall season and the biggest challenge the swimmers will face at home.

Junior Max Williamson (above) heads a strong group of Cardinal swimmers in the individual medley races. This season, Williamson will look to best his top time of 3:43:36 in the 400M IM (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/stanfordphoto.com)

Junior Max Williamson (above) heads a strong group of Cardinal swimmers in the individual medley races. This season, Williamson will look to best his top time of 3:43:36 in the 400M IM (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/stanfordphoto.com)

“It’s a real advantage for us to have that kind of competition in the fall,” said head coach Ted Knapp. “You can’t set anything like that up in practice. We want to make their trip out here worth it, and we want to race to win.”

Posing a challenge to the Stanford program is no easy feat. Stanford men’s swimming has produced eight NCAA titles, 62 conference crowns, over 100 All-American athletes, dozens of Olympians and nine world-record holders. Stanford has finished in the top 10 at the NCAAs for 35 consecutive years, including top-five finishes in 30 out of those 35. Last year, the team finished sixth in the NCAA and second in the Pac-12. This team looks to continue that legacy of success into the 2015-16 season.

NC State, on the other hand, does not nearly have the same name recognition as Stanford in the world of collegiate swimming. Nevertheless, the Wolfpack have been a breakout team over the last few seasons, concluding their 2014-15 season with an eighth-place finish in the NCAAs, their first time breaking into the top 10 since the 1975-76 season. Under Braden Holloway, the head coach since 2011-12, the Wolfpack have moved from the middle of the pack in the ACC to the top, going undefeated in their 2014-15 season. With the help of recent recruits, NC State promises to be a formidable competitor on the national level.

However, for whatever it’s worth, NC State comes in two spots ahead of Stanford in the most recent polls. While fall season dual meets are generally treated by Stanford as quality practice sessions as opposed to intense competitions, Saturday will be a display in which spectators can expect to see the true athleticism of Stanford swimming unleashed at home for the first time.

“We’re getting into a position to try to go for best times, which is not a common thing for swimming until the later meets. We’re asking for a lot more,” said Max Williamson, who will look to be one of the team’s top IM swimmers this year.

The men will have to focus on team strategy as opposed to individual matchups as a result of the even playing field. According to team members, a challenge Stanford faces will be getting long-course swimmers (used to swimming in 50-meter pools) who post their best performances in national competitions to perform in the short-course pool (25 meters) of Avery Aquatic Center.

Despite this adjustment, Stanford has been consistently strong in the individual medley races, placing five athletes in the A final at the Pac-12 Championships last year, with athletes such Williamson, Curtis Ogren and Gray Umbach promising to continue this strength into the upcoming season. Stanford also has new strength in the sprinting events, particularly among freshmen and sophomores. A less quantifiable strength is also apparent in the sense of team spirit amongst Cardinal swimmers — the men are focused on winning as a team, and this contributes to an environment of support and collective purpose in the water.

“We have a team saying, ‘Gimme the guac,’ and that’s because we’ve got a chip on our shoulder and we’re always asking for more,” said Williamson with a smile. “Our mentality is to stay hungry…We’re not taking no for an answer.”

 

Contact Kit Ramgopal at kramgopa ‘at’ stanford.edu.