Columbus, Ohio - Stanford got off to an outstanding start at the U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships on Thursday. The day included the prelims of the solo, duet, and trio competitions.
The good effort by Stanford was reconfirmed by head coach Heather Olson. "Today was a very strong day. We were early in the draws, but our swims held up strong. We are looking forward to the finals."
Despite being the three-time defending national champions, Stanford came into the meet with an underdog feel having to face a strong Ohio State team at their home pool.
However, the Cardinal quickly adjusted according to Olson, "The pool has actually been great. We have a lot of parent support and we have been thriving on our crowd. It's been much better than we thought."
The morning began with the solo competition where Stanford's Sara Lowe tried to overcome a tough draw where she had to compete before most of her main competition. However, Lowe performed admirably, scoring 94.000 points to post a score that would hold up through the entire event. The first place finish in the prelims means Lowe will enter the final on Saturday as the top seed.
Gayle Lee also competed in the solo competition as an honoree (exhibition) and posted the eighth highest score of the session (85.167).
In the second event of the morning, two Stanford duets competed. First to go were Lowe and Courtenay Stewart, the three-time defending champions in this event. They did not disappoint posting the high score of the day at 95.500.
The final duet of the session was Poppy Carlig and Melissa Knight. With loud cheers from their teammates, the duo performed well to finish with 92.333 points. The score placed them in a tie for third with a duet from Ohio State that includes Courtenay's sister Caitlin Stewart as well as Michelle Theriault.
The tie score for third as well as the close proximity to second where Natalia Tarasova and Yulia Shepeleva (93.000) of Canisius College sit, sets up what should be an exciting final on Saturday.
Swimming as honorees (exhibition) in the duet competition were Debbie Chen and Taylor Durand who finished with the eighth highest score of 87.500.
In the final event of the evening, Stanford took to the top spot in the trios as well. The team of Lowe, Stewart, and Knight finished with a score 95.333 and will enter Saturday's final as the top seed.
The other Stanford trio team of Carlig, Durand, and Chen finished fourth with a score of 92.833. Finishing second and third were a pair of teams from Ohio State, less than a point ahead.
The National Collegiate Championships continue tomorrow with the elements and forms competitions in the morning. The evening will then showcase the semi-finals of the team competition.
Olson is looking for a strong effort again from the Cardinal. "They feel really prepared. We have had a lot of meets leading up to this and the team is feeling really good going into tomorrow."
Olson considers the lifts in the team competition to be the key. "The biggest challenge is with our lifts, Ohio State is very strong with their lifts and we want to be stronger."