Dana Kirk's 2008 NCAA Championships Blog

March 23, 2008

Former Stanford swimmer Dana Kirk blogged about the 2008 NCAA Championships from Columbus, Ohio. Check out what she had to say.

Sunday, March 23, 2008 (1:50 am, ET)

It's fun to be in the hunt. I was never lucky enough to be on a team that was in it at the end, but today we were, and it was the greatest feeling I have ever had in my life. Going into the day I thought that there was a chance we could manage second, but it was just as likely we would end up fifth. The girls got it done in the morning, but we weren't sure if it would be enough. But everyone in the morning stepped up. Then the divers took over and brought us within three points. Going into the 400 free relay we knew that if we were able to get two places up on Auburn we would get second.

There were a lot of things to be proud of. The mere fact that our team didn't roll over and die after the relay DQ was huge, a lot of teams in the past have. But being part of the Stanford tradition means that no matter what you step up. The girls in the 200 IM proved that by finishing 1-2-3 in the very next heat.

Julia Smit winning the 400 IM was another highlight as she took out the defending champion who also happened to swim for Auburn. The girls lit it up on the second night, but we still finished the day in fourth.

On the third morning it was all about getting it done and getting second swims. Kerry and Wadden really stepped up, but Kerry gets the swim of the morning in the 200 breaststroke.

But the divers get the performance of the meet, taking 2nd, 5th and 16th on platform taking us from 35 points back to three in the course of a single event. The team had gotten pretty interesting 'rally' jackets for Pac-10's and that was just what we needed going into the relay.

So that is how, at 9.08 Kate Dwelley lead off our relay with a 48.38, to tie the second fastest time ever swam by a Stanford woman in the event and she is just a freshman. It's impossible to describe how loud it was in that building or how much I wanted to jump in the water and swim for them. I think that is the most frustrating part, at that point all we needed was three points, but there were only four girls that had any say in the matter (eight I guess if you count the girls from Auburn).

Even though we ended up fifth in the relay, with Auburn fourth, it was the first time in five years that I have really felt like Stanford was in the hunt ... and we are only getting better from here. So third place, our highest finish in seven years is something to be really proud of.

Saturday, March 22 (5:12 pm, ET)

So going into the last night, the team is in a fight for third, and it is going to be really tough. It would have been a lot easier had our relay not been DQed. I am really proud of the team because they didn't focus on that, they never felt sorry for themselves and they fought back into a place where, going into the morning session, we thought we might be in a four-way fight for second. Barring a massive mistake on the part of Auburn, they may be out of reach, but A&M, CAL, and ourselves are within something like 20 points, which in a meet like this can be nothing.

How it stands without the mile and diving ... we are one more big final (someone in the top 8) and one more little final (bottom 8) than A&M. CAL has two fewer big swims than we do, and an even amount of little finals.

All three teams have qualified their relay in the big finals.

I think the swim of the morning goes to Kerry Kraemer, a freshman who was unseeded and is now 14th in the 200 breaststroke. But Wadden's 200 fly was pretty inspiring as well.

We got three divers into scoring position in the platform, which is the greatest thing ever. Tonight should be awesome ... Everything is in place for an amazing night!

Thursday, March 20 (9:24 pm, ET)

So sometime ago our head coach Lea told us a story about how, sometime during her time in college, Jenny Thompson had DQed their 200 free relay. Instead of condemning her, the team gathered around her and rallied, coming back from that 40 point deficit to not only win the meet, but to dominate it. Instead of it being an open and shut case, it was a team effort, where every point, every person, and every swim made the difference.

Our 200 Free relay was disqualified in tonight's finals, and a situation that felt pretty good and pretty comfortable all of a sudden looked like it might turn into a massive black hole, but that's not what happened. That's not what being a Stanford swimmer is all about. The team rallied and rallied big as Elaine Breeden, Kate Dwelley and Liz Smith brought home a 1-2-3 finish in the consolation finals of the 200 IM, the very next race. Stanford continued to rally as Julia Smit took fourth in the championship finals of the IM and senior captain Brooke Bishop moved from 15th in the prelims to 10th in the finals of the 50.

The ultimate rally came in the 400 medley relay, an event that Stanford had barely managed to sneak into with an eighthth place finish in the preliminary sessions this morning. Lead off by Smit, who was followed by Bruce, Breeden and Bishop (Stanford's Big Four), the group finished third in the event, an awesome effort. That ended everything on a high positive note going into day two, the longest and arguably the most difficult day.

Wednesday, March 19 (8:16 pm, ET)

I am here in Columbus and everything is good. They actually have a brand new SID working the meet, so I don't feel so bad in my first day on the jo. I talked to a few of the girls on the team today and here's what they had to say.

Julia Smit --- I think the team is gearing up right now. We know that there are six tough sessions coming up, and we need to step up and perform in the mornings so that we are in the right places to make an impact in the finals.

Elaine Breeden -- I'm fired up and ready to swim fast. This is such a good pool, it feels really fast, and I can't wait to see all of the team's hard work pay off.

Kate Dwelley -- We are confident and excited. It doesnt feel that different from a nationals right now, but I am sure that tomorrow when all the teams are here and cheer, then I am sure that it will feel different.

As for my thoughts ...

On my recruiting trip, before I had ever even qualified for the NCAA Championships, a bunch of the older girls started talking about what it was like to swim at 'The Meet'. The story that stood out the most was Misty Hyman's. The fact that she was my idol sharpened my focus just a tad. She talked about the Olympics, representing her country and winning a gold medal. Then she said that there wasn't a second at the Olympics that even competed with what it felt like to swim at the NCAA Championships. There you not only represent your teammates, you represent your friends and your sisters. There when you step up on the blocks it isn't for yourself. Every point you score, every person you beat, and every place you move up is for your team and your family, because that's what the team was to her and to every woman that has ever swam for Stanford. So now it is Wednesday night, the night before 'The Meet' starts, and you can feel the calm settle on the deck. You can see the focus in the eyes of the athletes and the coaches as game time approaches.

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