by Keith Peters
This may be unlike any year previous for Stanford women's swim coach Richard Quick, who has guided the Cardinal to back-to-back NCAA team titles. Only one women's coach has won three consecutive national titles heading in to this season, and it was Quick who accomplished that when he captured five straight while coaching at Texas.
However, while Quick has a chance to equal his own standard of excellence, he'll have to overcome an injury situation he has not faced before.
Eileen Richetelli, the two-time NCAA Diver of the Year, is redshirting this season after suffering from a narrowing of the spinal column near her neck. Senior Pam Minthorn is recovering from having shoulder surgery last spring and more recently a stress fracture in her back. And freshman Kerry O'Hanlon, the team's top recruit and the No. 4-ranked 100-meter backstroker in U.S. history, had shoulder surgery in September.
"These are major players who are questionable for the year," Quick said of Minthorn and O'Hanlon. "People ask, 'How's your team?' I say we're talented, but we're not a solid or established as we have been in the past."
Heading into its dual-meet opener on Friday against Arizona at 1 p.m. in deGuerre Pool--Stanford also will host Arizona State on Saturday at 1 p.m.--the Cardinal will missing five athletes who scored a combined 219 points at last year's NCAA meet.
Of course, Stanford still rates as the team to beat with nine other All-Americans and two freshmen who have won USS titles. That's 430.5 returning points, more than any other school in the country.
"I'm very optimistic that we'll have a good team," said Quick, who has won 37 straight dual meets since his arrival in 1988-89. "But I'm not sure if we're good enough to win again."
Quick, of course, will need the big points again from junior Jenny Thompson and senior Lea Loveless. The two combined for 189 of the Cardinal's 649.5 points at last season's NCAA meet, with Thompson winning the 50 and 100 freestyles and Loveless capturing the 100 and 200 backstrokes. Thompson went on to win six gold medals at the Pan Pacific Championships in Japan, earning U.S. Swimmer of the Year honors.
"We must have the performances from Jenny and Lea, as the leaders," Quick said. "But they can't do more than they're already done. If we're going to win this year, it's going to be a team thing."
Gone is Janel Jorgenson, who won both butterfly events at NCAAs last season. Gone, too, is school recordholder Lori Heisick (100 breast). Between them, they scored 143 points at nationals.
Quick has attempted to replace his graduated veterans with freshmen freestylers Sarah Anderson (200 and 500) and Michelle Jesperson (50, 100 and 200).
Aside from a weakness in the breaststroke, Stanford appears strong everywhere else.
Sophomores Lisa Jacob and Jane Skillman head the distance corps, juniors Mary Ellen Blanchard and Kendra Thayer provide depth in the 200 breast and individual medleys, juniors Becky Crowe and Julie Kole look to improve in the butterfly events, while senior Mary Edwards and sophomore Tammy Shannon join Loveless and O'Hanlon in the backstrokes.
Texas transfer Jessica Tong already has proven to be a potential point scorer in both the backstrokes and freestyles.
The top-ranked Stanford men's team, also bidding for a three-peat at the NCAA meet this season, will take a 4-0 dual-meet record into this weekend's meets against Arizona and Arizona State at deGuerre Pool following a convincing 133.5 to 109.5 victory over third-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Cardinal sophomore Joe Hudepohl won the 200 free and clocked the second -fastest time (44.01) in the nation this season in taking second to Olympic champion Gustavo Borges in the 100 free. Hudepohl also swam on Stanford's winning 400 medley and 400 free relay teams.
National leader Kurt Grote won the 200 breast, Ray Carey captured the 200 fly and Clay Tippins won the 200 IM to pace Stanford's efforts.
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