Stanford athletes have won more than 600 individual championships in the 100 years since Flint Hanner, Class of 1922, MA ’30, threw a javelin 191 feet, 2¼ inches to claim the first one in June 1921. No other Division I school is within shouting distance of that total.
But until freshman Rachel Heck’s one-shot victory in Arizona in May, no Cardinal athlete had triumphed in women’s golf. Heck made more than Stanford history—she became just the third women’s golfer to sweep conference, regional and national championships. And she set a NCAA season scoring record in the process.
Her accomplishment punctuated a pivotal spring on—and off—the field for Stanford Athletics. In March, junior Shane Griffith became only the second Stanford wrestler to win an NCAA championship. Two weeks later, women’s basketball won a title for the first time in 29 years. Then, on April 17, men’s gymnastics and synchronized swimming raised championships on the same day—with junior gymnast Brody Malone also capturing a second consecutive individual national title.
The synchro and wrestling victories were particularly poignant because both sports were among the 11 varsity programs slated for discontinuation at the end of the 2020–21 academic year.
The synchro and wrestling victories were particularly poignant because both sports were among the 11 varsity programs slated for discontinuation at the end of the 2020–21 academic year, a decision reached last summer in response to the long-standing, pandemic-exacerbated financial challenges of maintaining 36 sports at nationally competitive levels.
But on May 18, the university announced that it would reinstate the 11 sports. “The financial challenges facing Stanford Athletics are still very real,” said university president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, provost Persis Drell and director of athletics Bernard Muir in a letter to the Stanford community. “But we have new optimism based on new circumstances, including significantly improved fund-raising potential in support of our athletics programs and improvement in the financial investment markets.”
The announcement was welcomed by student-athletes and alumni who had kept up sustained efforts to reverse the decision. University administrators had engaged with those groups, including 36 Sports Strong, a group of prominent alumni athletes from all 36 varsity sports who united to raise funds and lobby administrators. “My heart is full of joy for the students who are getting their teams back,” said Jennifer Azzi, ’90, a former member of the women’s basketball team and a representative for 36 Sports Strong, in the university’s announcement.
Ten days after the decision, women’s lightweight rowing—one of the 11 reinstated sports—won another national championship with its varsity four.
Sam Scott is a senior writer at Stanford. Email him at email@example.com.