New Name, New Conference
Stanford Athletics announced a pair of exciting changes on Thursday, declaring that the synchronized swimming program will now compete as Stanford artistic swimming and join the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF).
With the addition of artistic swimming for the upcoming 2022 season, the MPSF now features a record-tying 11 active sports. The addition also marks the second sport in the last month after officially welcoming fencing in early August. The MPSF will be the only conference in the country to sponsor artistic swimming during the 2022 season.
"We are extremely excited to welcome in artistic swimming to the MPSF," says first year MPSF Executive Director Foti Mellis. "This sport has been incredibly successful around the globe for over a century, including its strong Olympic background. In collaboration with our national governing body USA Artistic Swimming, the MPSF looks forward to supporting our programs and further developing the sport."
The inaugural MPSF Artistic Swimming season will feature Stanford, Wheaton College, the University of the Incarnate Word, and Texas Woman's University. The Lyons and Pioneers each will be first-time members in the MPSF. The Cardinals, along with their fencing program, are also making their debut in the conference. Stanford, meanwhile, has been an MPSF member in numerous sports since the conference's initial season of 1992. The Cardinal currently competes in the MPSF in six sports - more than any other university.
The 2022 MPSF Championship will be held at Stanford, February 12-13.
"We are excited for the opportunity to join the MPSF for the 2021-22 season, and we look forward to strengthening our relationships with UIW, Wheaton and TWU through this new venture," Stanford head coach Megan Abarca said following the announcement. "We feel that this will give our student-athletes the best opportunity to compete at a high level across the conference. Thank you to Commissioner Foti Mellis for his support and inclusion of our sport in the conference!"
This past April in its own Avery Aquatic Center, Stanford claimed its ninth national championship in program history. The Cardinal also captured titles in 2016, 2013, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 1999 and 1998. Stanford is also one of just three teams in the nation to sweep first-place at the collegiate nationals in the solo, duet, trio, team, and overall competitions.
UIW placed seven student-athletes on the 2020 All-American list. Then, in a modified 2021 season which featured a series of virtual meets, the Cardinals competed in the national meet at Stanford where they placed third. While there, UIW garnered a Tech B title and a Collegiate Athlete of the Year award.
Wheaton, an NCAA Division-III program from Norton, MA, turned in a fifth-place national finish in 2019, its highest result since 2015. The 2019 Lyons recorded their fifth-straight regional title.
Texas Woman's, an NCAA Division-II school, announced the startup of its program in the summer of 2019. The Pioneers are coached by Sara Lilly, a two-time national championship coach and two-time USA Synchro Coach of the Year while leading the Stanford program. She was also a student-athlete on four- straight national championship teams with an All-American honor each year (2005-08).
Long known as synchronized swimming, the sport rebranded itself after the 2016 Rio Olympics. With the name change fully adopted by FINA, the organization formerly known as USA Synchronized Swimming for 41 years voted in 2020 to also change its name to USA Artistic Swimming. Stanford has now decided to follow suit, announcing the new name change and corresponding social handles - @Stanfordartswim on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.