HR 6: Breeden stays fly, three times over

During the summer months, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one. Gymnast Carly Janinga, soccer's Kelley O'Hara, football's Toby Gerhart, tennis' Hilary Barte and volleyball's Evan Romero were the first five members of The Bootleg's 2009-2010 Honor Roll. Next is a career 24-time All-American and three-time national champion, swimming's Elaine Breeden.

In a June 15 article, we released the 31 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll for the 2009-2010 school year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

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Some Honor Roll winners earn their spot on the list via the sum of their contributions. Our last two winners are perfect examples: Hilary Barte won at singles, she won at doubles, she inspired her team to a national championship, and it is for all those things we honor her. Evan Romero wasn't one of Stanford's ten best athletes on talent or production alone, but he is a Second Team All-American, he is graduating with a Pac-10 post-graduate scholarship, he was the emotional center of a team that completed an incredibly emotional, worst-to-first fairy tale, and he was recognized by the Stanford Athletic Department for his emotional leadership, and so his spot on our list is well justified. Indeed, Romero is the quintessential Honor Roll winner – uncommon leadership, inspirational accomplishment, love for his sport and school pride, a "only-at-Stanford" story – his biography is boiled down to its essence in our paragraph description of an ideal Honor Roll winner with which we lead each and every one of these articles.

Some Honor Roll winners, however, earn their spot on this list via sheer accomplishment so incredible it simply cannot be ignored. For an example with whom you are most familiar, look no further than Toby Gerhart. Obviously, Toby is a great leader, an inspiration, a representative of Stanford and a two-sport star, and we take nothing away from any of those attributes, but if anyone at Stanford runs for 28 touchdowns and 1,871 yards, they're on this list no matter what, so overwhelming is the accomplishment. Such is the case many times over for Elaine Breeden.

Our unofficial rule at The Bootleg is that if you win an individual national championship, you are on the short-list for making the final cut of 10. Still, years like this when there are more than 10 individual national champions, not to mention team champions and performances like Gerhart's that cannot be ignored, mean that we incredibly must snub individual national champions, so great is the depth of talent at Stanford. Fair enough. But a two-time national champion in 2010, a three-time career national champion, a 24-time All-American and an American record holder? There will always be room on the list.

So overwhelming are the accomplishments, even by Stanford Athletics' lofty standards, of graduating senior Elaine Breeden. (How about this Class of 2010, by the way? I have no way of quantifying this, but I think it's the most impressive class athletically in recent Stanford history, which would quite likely make it the most impressive class in Stanford history. Virtually all of men's volleyball, Gerhart, Appel, Fields, Janinga, O'Harra, Smit, Haber, Godsoe, heck, the majority of our Honor Roll and we're just scratching the surface. Gets even more impressive when you consider the Lopez twins entered with this class too.)

Breeden won NCAA titles in the 100 and 200 fly this year, the first swimmer to pull off that combo since Stanford's Misty Hyman in 1998. She won the 200 fly national title last year, won the 100 fly at Pac-10s this year and holds American, NCAA and school records in the 200 fly. Her five All-American awards in her senior year capped her career total at 24, and made her one of four finalists for the Honda Award, swimming's Heisman.

Breeden also saw Romero's Pac-10 post-graduate scholarship and raised him. She was one of just four Stanford student-athletes to earn an NCAA Postgraduate scholarships, joining swimming's David Dunford, gymnastics' (and fellow individual national champion) Carly Janiga and water polo's Jimmie Sandman.

Majoring in classics and minoring in Art History gives fans an idea for Breeden's eclectic academic interests, interests which she'll have the opportunity to further at the grad level, though we suspect Olympic tryouts may be in her future as well. Wherever the next lap takes her, we wish Elaine Breeden the best, and are confident that she'll get there faster than just about anyone in the world.

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