By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford women's swimming coach Lea Maurer stood in the bleachers alongside Belardi Pool at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center, surveying the area. An hour before finals began Wednesday, the deck was scattered with swimmers and a few spectators.
By the time races began, every inch of the place was swarming with people. Before then, though, Maurer had time to reflect on what it meant for Stanford to host the 2011 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships.
"With 1,800 people here, it's like we've cast a wide net," Maurer said. "Six of our seven recruits are here and they're excited. I see a lot of them wearing Stanford gear. The facility, the weather, the people . . . we're all excited about showcasing our pool."
The national swim meet is just the beginning. Stanford is also the host for next week's Speedo Junior Nationals, which also will showcase Stanford's incoming freshmen of both genders.
The Speedo Junior Nationals open Monday, run through Friday, and will feature preliminaries at 9 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m.
Cardinal men's coach Skip Kenney was also in attendance, watching his swimmers from past, present and future.
"It's always good to see how these guys perform in long course," he said. "Long course is all about technique and leg kick and it makes a difference in how they swim short course."
Neither coach, apparently, has to be concerned. Stanford grads, current swimmers and future Cardinal swimmers have all shown promise. It's at this meet where swimmers can see where they stack up against Olympians, world recordholders and American recordholders.
The futures of both Stanford swimming programs are on display these two weeks. There are many reasons for Maurer and Kenney to be smiling.
Stanford sophomore Maya DiRado and senior Bobby Bollier are perfect examples. Bollier won his first national title, splashing to victory in the 200-meter butterfly in 1:56.64 and likely thanking world recordholder Michael Phelps from skipping the meet.
DiRado, meanwhile, finished third in the women's 200 IM on Tuesday, going 2:11.92 to beat Stanford grad and Olympian Julia Smit, among others.
(Palo Alto High senior Jasmine Tosky, who could enjoy a big junior national meet, was 17th in the event. She was named Swimming World's Female High School co-Swimmer of the Year with Rachel Bootsma, who finished second in the 100 back. The two swimmers will go head-to-head next week. Each set a national high school record this season).
"She loves to race and she loves the night," Maurer said of DiRado. "She just introduced herself. When you put her in position, the best of Maya comes out."
DiRado, who swam at the 2008 Olympic Trials, thought the race helped her focus more on next year. She also thinks the atmosphere of the meet will help produce future Cardinal competitors.
"We're in a good place," she said. "Stanford sells itself. It's great to have the meet here. We have a good class coming in and we should be good for a number of years. The incoming freshmen are really good and we're just trying to show them how much fun it is and how excited we are."
Stanford senior Samantha Woodward, who helped the women's 400 free relay team set a championship meet record Wednesday night, echoed DiRado.
"It's big to have a chance to bond with the people coming in," Woodward said. "I celebrate the chance to swim with the seniors who have graduated and also for the chance to look forward to a new challenge next year. Some of the girls I've known for years and some I'm meeting for the first time. It's great."
Stanford grad Kate Dwelley, also on the record-setting relay team with sophomore Felicia Lee and Smit, might not be in the pool next year but her thoughts will be with the team.
"The future at Stanford?" she said. "It's going to be great."
Maddie Schaefer, considered the nation's 10th overall recruit by collegeswimmming.com, is headed to Stanford with PASA teammate Haley Sims, ranked 19th among recruits. Schaefer was the runner-up for the Swimmer of the Year national award.
Stanford's incoming class also includes No. 13 Annemarie Thayer, No. 18 Alexandra Gabor, No. 22 Mary Olson and No. 41 Mackenzie Stein.
Kenney, meanwhile, thought Bollier would not be rested enough to swim well in the 200 fly. Bollier attributed his victory to "training."
Bollier leaves for the Word University Games in Shenzhen, China, on Tuesday and has been training through the nationals.
"Training at Stanford is a lot different," Bollier said. "I had to adjust to go from yardage to pure quality. It's good to leave my legacy at Stanford. There has been a long history of fly swimmers, with the best being Pablo Morales, who is at this meet."
That history will likely continue next year and beyond. Bollier will be joined by incoming freshmen David Nolan, who has been called the best high school swimmer ever; Drew Cosgarea (No. 9), No. 12 Jonathan Edwards, No. 14 Robert Hommel, No. 20 Jack Lane, No. 36 Thomas Stephens, No. 38 Ethan Hallowell and No. 40 Erich Peske.
Nolan was named Swimming World's Male High School National Swimmer of the Year. National Diver of the Year Kristian Ipsen is also coming to Stanford.
"I absolutely hope for something special next year," Bollier said.
The Cardinal got a boost recently when it was learned David Mosko was granted a fifth year of eligibility.
Mosko, who finished seventh in the 200 fly, missed most of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
"It's going to be a special year," Mosko said. "We've already built a special bond with the freshmen. They are a solid, hard-working group."
Mosko, who submitted his application to medical school last week, has two more classes for his degree and will also take pre-med courses next year.
"I'll be just like a regular student with a full course load," he said.
Stanford is also awaiting word on the possibility of Austin Staab returning for an extra year of eligibility.
Nolan was seeded third in Friday's 200 IM, but moved up a spot when Olympian Ryan Lochte shut down his season after finishing third in the 100 back on Wednesday night.
Nolan, from Hershey, Pa., broke national public school records in the 100 free (42.34 relay), 100 back (45.49), 200 IM (1:41.39) and swam on the national record 200 medley relay that went 1:30.27 and the national record 200 free relay that went 1:21.01.
As for the junior nationals, Tosky is the No. 3 seed (59.43) in the 100 fly and Bootsma is the No. 10 seed.(1:01.09). Tosky and DiRado are No. 3 and 4 in the 200 IM. Cosgarea is the No. 3 seed in 400 free, Hommel is No. 3 in 400 IM, Nolan is the top seed in the 200 IM, No. 3 in 200 free and No. 2 in 100 back, Tosky is top-seeded in 200 fly, No. 3 in 200 free, Schaefer is No. 2 in the 50 free, DiRado No. 2 and Tosky No. 3 in 400 IM.