Regan Smith Will Defer Enrollment to Stanford for Olympic Redshirt Year

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Regan Smith at the 2019 U.S. national championships. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

World champion Regan Smith, the biggest recruit in the incoming freshman class, has decided to defer her first year at Stanford University, taking an Olympic training redshirt year.

Smith broke world records in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke events in 2019 and will spend 2020-21 training in Minnesota for the Olympic trials.

“I decided to defer this year because there are too many uncertainties with my training if I were to go out to school because of COVID-19,” Regan Smith told Swimming World. “I’m extremely bummed out about this decision, but I know it’s what’s best for me right now.”

Smith said she discussed the situation with Stanford coach Greg Meehan and her Riptide Swim Club coach Mike Parratto. She wanted to discuss it openly and make sure both coaches knew it was about the current situation with COVID-19, which still is affecting college fall sports and could also affect winter sports if the situation doesn’t improve.

“My decision has nothing to do with the coaching change from Mike to Greg going into an Olympic year,” Smith said. “I feel that I have more stability with my training and facilities here in Minnesota under the current circumstances.”

It is a big blow points-wise to Stanford, which has won the past three NCAA championships (the 2020 championships were cancelled by COVID-19). But other schools, led by the University of Virginia, have put together some impressive recruiting classes to try and close the gap. On the flip side, with the Olympics being pushed back, Smith might not be the only big name to defer.

Regan Smith became a big name in the world of swimming last year when she broke Missy Franklin’s world record in the 200 backstroke 2:03.35 — a 7-year-old record at the 2019 World Championships. Then, Smith led off the American gold-medal winning 400 medley relay in a world record of 57.57, breaking Kathleen Baker’s mark — plus the relay broke the world record in 3:50.40. She was named the 2019 Swimming World Female World and American Swimmer of the Year.

“I definitely surprised myself … I was so shocked and still don’t really believe it,” Smith said at the 2019 U.S. National Championships. “I never thought I would be at this level. I just wanted to make an individual final at worlds. I wanted to perform better for Team USA, that was my big motivation. I still don’t view myself in that way (the world’s elite). And I don’t want to lose that mentality.”

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