Last season, the freshman sensation was only a year removed from an
obliteration of the American high school record in the event.
Nolan's high school time (1:41.39), in fact, would have been fast
enough to win the 2011 Division 1 NCAA title, so it's no surprise
that he felt "invincible" in 2012. The prodigy swam the race
accordingly, blitzing the opening butterfly and backstroke legs en
route to a lead at the halfway mark. But he paid for his overzealous
start, fizzling out down the breaststroke and freestyle stretch.
Final time: 1:42.85, over 1.5 seconds slower than his high school
performance, good only for a third-place finish and a valuable
A great competitor may be fooled once, but rarely twice. And the
blur-speed NCAA 200 IM was not able to play any tricks on Nolan in
his second go-round.
"I swam it smarter [this time]. Last year, I went out in a dead
sprint, but this year I paced it better," Nolan said. "I tried to
take the butterfly out with easy speed, and just go with the
excitement. You go pretty fast without trying too, too hard."
Nolan absorbed the IM's sudden stroke shifts with this deft early
approach, conquering transitions that swimmers typically dread under
aerobically taxing conditions. He handled one of swimming's most
grueling races with the discipline of a veteran. In short, the
pressure-cooker intensity of the NCAA swimming championships was no
longer a match for David Nolan in 2013.
Unlike last time, when his fatigue cost him the early lead, Nolan
entered the back half of the race behind Florida's Marcin Cieslak,
who had beaten Nolan in 2012. But the Stanford sophomore's
training and experience ensured there would be enough gas left in
the tank to surge ahead on the way to the finish.
"Coming off the wall in the breaststroke, I saw he was ahead of me,"
Nolan said. "I saw him underwater, and I said, 'All right, I have the
energy, let's do this.' And it was fun."
Fun indeed. Nolan finished in 1:41.21, ahead of Cieslak's 1:41.45
and about two-tenths of a second faster than his electric 2011 high
He followed that performance with a blistering 44.99
showing in the 100-yard backstroke, good for an upset of defending
champion Tom Shields of California and another NCAA title.
In the backstroke, Nolan burned out of the gates and "trusted his
training" to hold its own down the stretch. He also trusted the
advice of current Stanford volunteer assistant coach Eugene Godsoe,
who won an NCAA title in the same event three years ago. Godsoe
helped perfect Nolan's flipturns and underwater dolphin kick
activity between February's Pac-12 Championships and the big NCAA
championship show this past weekend.
"[Eugene's] a professional with swimming. Having him on deck is
incredible," Nolan said. "I think my turns at Pac-12s were pretty
bad. So right when we got back, we started working on them, and we
got over a second out of them."
Two full seasons of college training were also essential. Nolan was
rewarded for thousands of hours of work, including last year's
Christmas training sessions in which he logged 8,000 rigorous long
course meters meters in the morning, followed by 10,000 more
muscle-searing short course yards at night.
"My body would just stop working at a point," he said of
his first winter at Stanford. "We'd have little carbohydrate pouches
on deck just to keep going. And mentally, to get through it, I just
had to keep the end of the season in mind."
A pair of NCAA championships has ushered in the end of Nolan's second season. But he is already hungry for more.
"I don't want to take a break," he said. "I want to touch up my long
course [swimming] a little bit, work on the aerobic capacity some
more. I want to do some more tough training and get ready for World
The 2013 World Championships are in Barcelona, and Nolan is shooting
to qualify for the American national team that travels to that meet
before shifting attention back to his Stanford squad. The Cardinal
placed seventh at the NCAA championships in head coach Ted Knapp's
first year despite two disappointing relay disqualifications, so
they figure to be a force in 2014.
"One of the things Ted said [this year] was, 'Who can have the
biggest smile today?' That was the big goal for us. It helped us swim
fast," Nolan said. "Each year we lose a great bunch of guys, but we
also have some awesome freshmen coming. If we just take them under
our wings and let them know this is going to be a fun group of guys
to train with, then we're going to do well, no matter what."
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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