March 17, 2011
UPDATE: Senior Stephanie Sarandos opened the 2011 Women's NCAA Championships with a 49th-place finish in the 200 individual medley touching the wall in 2:02.02.
by Layne Herdt
For the third consecutive year, junior Stephanie Sarandos will represent Florida State at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. She will race against the best in the country for the right to become an All-American just like the previous two years. Yet, nothing about this trip to the NCAA meet is like the previous two.
"I think this year I'm grateful to have made it back," Sarandos said. "I didn't really have the cut at ACC's and I had to go to the Last Chance meet so I appreciate it more this year. The last two years I made it right away and I didn't realize how hard it is to make it."
On February 27, Sarandos stood behind the blocks at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center knowing this was her last shot. Just a week earlier the stands were packed with fans and the lanes to her left and right were filled with talented swimmers. On this day however, there were empty seats and empty lanes, she was on her own.
"Last Chance meet's you are pretty much by yourself," FSU assistant coach Katy Peterson said. "You have to have a lot of determination to want to go fast. She has been to the NCAA"s the last two years and made the decision that she wanted another shot and she went for it."
Last Chance meets are designed to give swimmers who are on the bubble for NCAA qualifying the opportunity to improve their time. You are allowed a morning swim and a night swim and the best time from the two swims is counted. The concept of a Last Chance meet is great, but the conditions not ideal considering there is rarely another competitor to race against and that was case for Sarandos when she hopped in for her morning swim of the 200 back.
"I went in with nothing to lose so I might as well go for it in the morning," Sarandos said. "If I didn't make it in the morning there would be a lot of pressure at night so I just went after it." The other difficulty about Last Chance meets is having no fan support, but luckily that was negated for Sarandos by having the Seminoles men's team who just finished their ACC meet at the pool cheering her on. "I think that helped a lot," Peterson said. "Last Chance's meet's you on your own and that support helped tremendously."
"I didn't think it would (help) but after the first 100 I saw the guys at the end of the lane and I knew I was doing something good so that pushed me along," Sarandos said. "I knew that previous swims they hadn't cheered like that so I figured I was doing something good."
She was, and when Sarandos touched the wall in a time that was nearly a second faster than her ACC Championship performance, she knew that would be good enough to qualify for NCAA's.
"She did well because she gave it her all and went to work the next week to go at it again," Peterson said. "She worked really hard this year and I don't think we've seen the best yet. I think she can go to NCAA's and swim a lifetime best and score top eight if she wants to."
While the Waukesha, Wis., native will not be seeded as high in the 200 back as in previous years, Sarandos believes this experience will help her at this year's NCAA Championships.
"All these girls are right around my time and faster so no matter what heat I'm in I'm going to be racing," Sarandos said. "I'm just going with the attitude that I have nothing to lose, I can only go up. With that attitude I'm just going to go for it."
After going for it and succeeding in an empty pool, there is no reason to think that Sarandos will not have what it takes to complete her goals against the best of the best.
Sarandos begins competition on Friday morning with the 100 back and will compete in the 200 back on Saturday. For results log on to www.seminoles.com.