Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 27, 2014

An influx of talent shows a bright future

Stanford coaches get a good look at some of their future swimmers at Santa Clara Grant Prix meet

by Rick Eymer

The Arena Grand Prix at Santa Clara showcased much of what makes Stanford a perennial national contender in both men's and women's swimming.

From grads like Bobby Bollier, Eugene Godsoe, Maya DiRado and Felicia Lee to incoming freshmen like Simone Manuel, Curtis Ogren, Ally Howe and Andrew Liang, it's apparent why the Cardinal attracts such talent.

Stanford finished a surprising second at the NCAA women's championship meet this spring and the men finished ninth. Despite significant losses to graduation, there are enough returning swimmers and talented newcomers to allow both teams to dream large.

"The team has all the components to be a top NCAA contender," said Cardinal sophomore Max Williamson, who swam in two championship finals (400 IM and 200 IM) over the weekend in Santa Clara. "We have a good mix of youth and experience and some of the top coaches in the nation."

Manuel, the top high school sprinter in the nation this year, beat Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin in the 100-meter free. Manuel also finished third in the 200 free and fourth in the 50 free.

"I just want to compete the same," Manuel said. "Stanford has such a strong tradition and all the swimmers have a lot to give. It will be great competition."

Manuel will also be joined by top sprinters Janet Hu, Lindsey Engel and Howe, the recent Sacred Heart Prep grad who helped the Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics finish fourth in the 400 free relay and 800 free relay.

Olympic gold medalist and world recordholder Katie Ledecky will join the Cardinal in the fall of 2015. She gave Stanford her verbal commitment in May. Last weekend, she broke her world marks in the 800- and 1500-meter freestyles in Texas.

At the NCSA Junior National Championships in March, Hu beat Manuel in the 100 fly and Manuel beat Hu in the 100 free.

At Santa Clara, Stanford senior Maddy Schaefer finished seventh in the 100 free and fifth in the 50 free. Cardinal sophomore Lia Neal also competed in Santa Clara. Junior Sarah Haase qualified for the championship final of the 100 breast but did not race.

Sacred Heart Prep grad Tom Kremer, a junior at Stanford, finished fifth in the 200 fly race.

"We have a lot of versatile swimmers," Williamson said. "It's easy to get caught up in the top guys but the difference makers are those guys who can score points between ninth and 16th at the NCAA meet and we have a whole sleuth of them. We have a really fast freshmen class coming in."

Williamson swam Stanford's best 200 breast time of the college (short course) season at 1:56.15 and was second, to senior David Nolan, in the 400 IM. He also has reliable times in the back and fly.

Ogren and Liang, both of whom swam on PASA's 400 free relay and 800 free relay, are both looking forward to helping the Cardinal improve its national ranking.

"It should be one of the best incoming classes across the country," Ogren said. "I'm definitely looking forward to swimming under Ted (Knapp) and Scott (Armstrong)."

Liang, who swam in his first Grand Prix, also thinks Stanford will be even better next year.

"I'm excited to see what will happen," he said. "This meet was good experience and now I'll take the next step in my career."

Manuel, who became the first Under-18 swimmer to break the 25-second mark in the 50-meter free at last year's FINA World Championships, joins an already world-class group of sprinters.

Schaefer shares the school record for the 50-yard free (21.78) and Neal is ranked fourth (21.98). Neal holds the Cardinal record (47.17) for the 100 free, while Schaefer ranks fifth (47.75).

Manuel, the American recordholder in the 100-yard free (46.83), went 54.44, edging Franklin by .07 seconds, to win the 100-meter free at the George Haines International Swim Center.

"I felt pretty good," Manuel said. "I wanted to go out fast and keep my stroke long. I know Missy is a back-halver so I tried to stay in the middle of the lane."

Schaefer finished eighth in the same race, swimming a 55.74.

"She's incredible," Schaefer said of Manuel. "She's super nice, works hard and will bring energy to the team, especially the sprinters. I know she will help me and Lea and the other sprinters get better."

Stanford senior Drew Cosgarea, swimming unattached in Santa Clara, was 10th in the 200 back in 2:03.01, a time that would have placed him eighth in the championship final.

Bollier finished second in the 200 fly and eighth in the 100 fly. Godsoe was third in the 100 fly and third in the 100 back.

Stanford grad B.J. Johnson was third in the 200 breast and eighth in the 100 breast. Cardinal grad Alex Coville was eighth in the 50 free and Geoff Cheah was seventh in the 100 back.

DiRado, one of the top swimmers during the NCAA meet, competed at the Grand Prix but had been sick recently and wasn't up to speed. Lee won the 100 fly and was ninth in the 50 free.

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