By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
For the past 35 school years, at least one Stanford University athletic team has won an NCAA title. On Friday, the Cardinal will add its 17th consecutive Director's Cup to its trophy case. In both cases, Stanford has set a precedent that will be difficult to duplicate.
They've all been special, of course, and the men's gymnastics' national championship just made it all the more spectacular this school year while attaining the school's 100th NCAA title.
The Cardinal women's water polo championship team (No. 101 for those counting) put the finishing touches on this year's highly successful season. Points yet uncounted from the men's and women's track and field teams and the softball and baseball teams are icing on the cake in the case of the Director's Cup.
Stanford accumulated 1,387 1/2 points by June 2nd's standings. By that time, only Ohio State and North Carolina retained mathematical possibilities to the crown. Those chances were erased with a pair of top-10 finishes in track and field and berths in each the softball and baseball Super Regional.
The Cardinal accepted the good, the bad and everything between along the way to its never-ending search for athletic achievement. There were quite a few 'almost championships' along the way as well as disappointments, tragedies and adversity.
Teammates rallied around each other in the face of seemingly unbearable sadness and pain. They also celebrated emotional comebacks, great performances and the joy only those who have been together and worked hard for each other can feel.
Individuals like gymnast Allyse Ishino, swimmer Austin Staab, basketball player Josh Owens and football's Andrew Phillips were forced to face life-changing circumstances. Their stories may not become common knowledge but you know they worked through difficult times and had the support of their teammates.
Any competitor who has had to miss significant time due to injury, illness or personal loss understands what it means to feel helpless, frustrated and/or alienated. There is, however, strength in numbers.
Andrew Luck knows all about numbers, both in personnel and in production. The redshirt junior quarterback threw for 3,338 yards and a school record 32 touchdowns in a year that ended with an Orange Bowl championship, a school record 12 victories and untold accolades.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1,137 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. In any other year he would have been the major star.
Two-way player Owen Marecic, linebacker Shayne Skov, utility James McGillicuddy, defensive backs Michael Thomas, Delano Howell, Richard Sherman and wide receiver Ryan Whalen all added their unique personalities to a closely-knit team that scored a school record 524 points and allowed 226.
Luck finished second in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. Horning Award winner Marecic received enough votes to finish 10th. Chase Beeler was a first-team All-American. Sione Fua, Whalen and Marecic were invited to play in all-star games.
Whalen, Sherman, Fua and Marecic were drafted by the NFL. Coach Jim Harbaugh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers.
The Stanford football team kicked in 80 points toward the Director's Cup, a number matched by the men's cross-country team, which placed fourth in the nation. Chris Derrick and Jacob Riley finished fifth and sixth individually.
The women's cross-country team added 51 points for its 13th place finish, accomplished without top runner Kathy Kroeger, and the women's field hockey team, with two-time All-American Xanthe Travlos, added 25 points to the total after qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
The women's soccer team had another tremendous year, finishing second in the nation and adding 90 points. Christen Press earned national Player of the Year honors, a year after former teammate and current U.S. National Team member Kelley O'Hara won the same award.
Through the fall season Stanford had reached the equivalent of three Final Fours. No other Division I school could claim that distinction. Imagine if the men's soccer and water polo teams would have repeated the previous year's success.
Bobby Warshaw left the soccer program as a three-time first team all-Pac-10 pick. He was drafted in the first round of the MLS. Ryan Thomas went in the MLS supplemental draft.
The men's water polo team reached the championship match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament before losing, 8-7, in sudden death. Jeffrey Schwimer, Jacob Smith and Sage Wright were all named second team All-Americans.
Stanford's women's volleyball team also had its season ended by USC but not before the Cardinal added 73 points to the Director's Cup total.
Stanford All-Americans Alix Klineman, Cassidy Lichtman and Gabi Ailes left their marks in the history books and on the program. Coach John Dunning continued to make a case for his Hall of Fame career while earning induction honors into the AVCA Hall of Fame.
With football and women's volleyball added in the final fall totals, Stanford took over first place in the Director's Cup standings and never looked back.
The Stanford women's squash team finished sixth in the nation, matching its best finish at the Howe Cup. Pamela Chua, Kyla Sherwood and Serena Fagan all won their final matches.
The winter season brought more success, with the men's gymnastics team leading the way. Alex Buscaglia added an individual NCAA title in the horizontal bar, one of six Cardinal gymnasts to earn All-American honors with Tim Gentry, Josh Dixon, Eddie Penev, Cameron Forman and Chris Turner.
Men's swimming and women's basketball each finished third, women's swimming was fourth, and the indoor track and field teams earned points. Women's gymnastics, fencing and wrestling also contributed.
Seniors Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen led the Cardinal women to the brink of a national championship, ending Connecticut's record winning streak en route.
Staab was a national champion for the Stanford men's swim team setting a pool record in the 200 IM. He also helped the 200 free relay team, which included Alex Coville, Jake Allen and Aaron Wayne, set an American record. Bobby Bollier finished second in each the 500 free and 200 fly and Chad La Tourette was second in the 1,650 free.
Kate Dwelley and Maya DiRado each recorded a second-place finish for the women's swim team.
Elliott Heath won the NCAA 3,000 indoor title and Stanford was eighth in the men's meet and 15th in the women's meet. Katerina Stefandi was the national runnerup in the pole vault.
Stanford's 11th place finish at the NCAA wrestling championships was the highest in program history. Junior Nick Amuchastegui became just the second Cardinal wrestler ever to reach the NCAA finals in any weight class.
The Stanford fencing program had a big weekend at the NCAA Championships, placing 10th overall. Turner Caldwell, Max Murphy and Francesca Bassa earned All-American honors.
The Stanford synchronized swimming team finished second in the nation, with the duet of Maria Koroleva and Olivia Morgan earning the gold medal.
Stanford's spring teams are traditionally its strongest and it was no different this year. Seniors Amber Oland and Kim Krueger led the women's water polo team to its national title along with U.S. national team members Melissa Seidemann and Annika Dries, with Dries earning the Peter J. Cutino Award as the nation's top female collegian.
The women's tennis team had its remarkable 12-year home winning streak snapped at 184 by Florida in one of the most intense, grueling finals in NCAA tennis history. The second-place Cardinal has now lost exactly two home matches since 1995.
Stacey Tan reached the finals of the NCAA singles tournament, no small feat considering she played at No. 4 singles most of the year. Nicole Gibbs reached the semifinals. Hilary Barte and Mallory Burdette won the NCAA doubles title and were named ITA National Doubles Team of the Year.
The men's tennis team reached the national quarterfinals and the doubles team of Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher reached the NCAA finals.
Leslie Foard was named first team All-American and Lauren Schmidt was named to the third team for Stanford's women's lacrosse team, which reached the NCAA tournament.
The Cardinal set program records for wins (16) and highest national ranking (No. 6).
The women's golf team qualified for the NCAA championships, finishing 23rd. Sally Watson was Stanford's top golfer.
The men's golf team just missed qualifying for the finals. Andrew Yun was named a first team All-American.
The men's volleyball team missed a chance to defend its national title as Kawika Shoji and Brad Lawson were named first team All-Americans.
The men's rowing team had a national fifth-place performance and a 12th place finish overall.
Stanford sailors competed in the nationals, finishing among the top 15. Hannah Burroughs was named All-American.
The men's outdoor track and field team finished sixth nationally, with Derrick, Riley, Ben Johnson, Amaechi Morton and JT Sullivan earning first team All-American recognition.
The women's team finished eighth, led by All-Americans Kroeger, Stephanie Marcy, Eda Karesin, Stedfanidi and Whitney Liehr.
The women's rowing team finished second nationally as Elle Logan, Erika Roddy and Anna Dawson were honored as first team All-American, while Grace Luczak was selected to the second team.
The women's softball team reached a Super Regional in NCAA play and Ashley Hansen was named the National Player of the Year.
The Cardinal baseball team also reached a Super Regional, with Brian Ragira being named to the freshmen All-American team. Drafted players included Chris Reed, Jordan Pries, Brent Mooneyham, Scott Snodgress, Zach Jones and Danny Sandbrink.
The final tally for Stanford athletic teams was two national titles, four national runnerups, and five others among the Final Four.
Oh yeah, count that 17th Director's Cup too.