After Day Two at NCAA Championships, Greg Meehan Understandably Fired Up

Greg Meehan
Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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By David Rieder.

When Katie Ledecky arrived at Stanford just over six months ago, Greg Meehan was tasked with improving a swimmer who had just completed one of the most impressive performances in Olympic history.

To do that, he put Ledecky back in the pool with Megan Byrnes and Leah Stevens. Meehan’s tactics worked for his superstar—she has now thrice broken the American record in the 500 free, going to an unthinkable mark of 4:24.06—and also made an impact on Byrnes and Stevens, who finished ninth and 11th in the event, respectively.

“We hadn’t scored a point in the 500 in the last four years, and today we scored 35,” Meehan said. “That’s a product of them working together and the way we train. That was pretty fun to see collectively. For Megan to go 4:37 and for Leah to go 4:39 and to go first and third in that consolation heat, it was a pretty cool moment for our team.”

Meehan admitted that one of his favorite moments on the day came in the morning prelims, when Byrnes swam the 500 free in lane one. Clearly in her line of sight, Meehan and associate head coach Tracy Duchac were jumping and waving wildly as the freshman stroked by on her way to a best time.

After three victories during the day two finals session, the Cardinal has built a 77-point lead over Cal in the team race, and Byrnes has been among those riding the wave of that success.

“They’re a really close group, and they’re passionate about what they do,” Meehan said. “We’ve been on this path over the past five years, and even though she’s a freshman, she feels that. She feels that process, that trajectory the same way Lia Neal does as a senior.”

But as for some of his other freshman, Meehan figured that the emotions of the team race and the meet itself drained those unprepared for what to expect. Among Stanford’s other first-timers, Katie Drabot finished 28th in the 500 free, and Allie Szekely faded to eighth in her heat of the 200 IM, ending up 46th overall. Erin Voss also added four seconds in her 500 free.

“Allie and Erin and Katie Drabot, they’re so damn nervous. They’re spending a lot of energy trying to keep themselves calm, and the reason they get to that point is because they care so much,” Meehan said.

He’s Just as engaged with his team’s mission, but Meehan won’t get nervous this time—after all, it’s his fifth NCAA championships as a head coach. He insisted that he was not tired but instead seemed energized for what’s to come.

His swimmers enter day three as the heavy favorites in both the 400 IM (Ella Eastin) and 200 free (Ledecky and Simone Manuel), while Ally Howe will defend her American record in the 100 back.

Stanford has not won a women’s team championship since 1998, but the latest projections show the Cardinal finishing on top of the team race by almost 200 points. The meet is far from over, but Meehan seemed keenly aware of the circumstances his team finds itself in.

“We’ve worked really hard to put ourselves in this position, and we’re going to really enjoy every step along the way.”

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.