HR 8: Julia Smit, two times the world's best

During the summer months, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one. We have announced seven winners thus far: gymnast Carly Janinga, soccer's Kelley O'Hara, football's Toby Gerhart, tennis' Hilary Barte, volleyball's Evan Romero, swimming's Elaine Breeden and softball's Alissa Haber. In All-American position at eighth is 26-time All-American swimmer Julia Smit.

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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While the cut in swimming is actually 16th place, in many collegiate sports, the top eight finishers at NCAA Finals are deemed All-Americans. Thus, it is altogether fitting that 2010 graduate Julia Smit, a 26-time All-American, is our eighth announced Honor Roll winner.

Following in the footsteps of Mia Hamm and Jackie Joyner, Smit won the Honda Award, given annually to the nation's best female athlete in each of a dozen sports. (Essentially, the Honda Award is the Heisman for each of women's soccer, women's track, women's swimming etc.), Smit was a finalist for the Broderick Cup, presented annually to the best female athlete in all collegiate athletics. She was the Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year, the NCAA Championship Swimmer of the Meet and the Pac-10 Swimmer of the Meet.

First came the Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year honor, after Smit won five conference titles this past school year -- two relays, the 200 and 400 IMs and the 200 backstroke -- giving her 10 on her career. Then came the NCAA Championship Swimmer of the Meet honor, as Smit claimed national titles in two of the sport's toughest events: the 200 and 400 individual medleys. (For the non-swimmers amongst us, the IM has a swimmer perform all four strokes – breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle – and as such, is perhaps the truest test of a swimmer's overall talent.) Both titles were repeat championships, as Smit had won the 400 IM twice previously and the 200 IM last year.

Smit thus graduates Stanford not only with a major in anthropology and a minor in studio art, but with five national titles. In addition, after adding seven this year, Smit leaves the Farm with 26 All-American certificates, second-best all-time. Smit also graduates with five school records: the 100 backstroke, the 200 and 400 IM, and the short-course (25-meter, not 50-meter laps) 200 and 400 IM. In recognition of her honors, Smit was named a Stanford Athletic Board Award winner, earning the nod as the outstanding female senior of the school year, alongside soccer's Kelly O'Hara and swimmer Elaine Breeden, both fellow Honor Roll winners. And, of course, she won a silver and a bronze medal as a relay alternate in Beijing.

That's a haul impressive beyond words, and more than sufficient on its own for inclusion on our Honor Roll, but some of those records aren't just school records. Admittedly, records have been falling left and right with advances in suit technology, but the 200 and 400 IMs are American and NCAA records. Again, admittedly, the short-course 200 and 400 IMs aren't Olympic events, and, but Smit holds the world record – in both of them.

Stanford strives to be the home for the best and the brightest in every field into which it endeavors, and in no field is measuring exactly who is the "best" as precise as athletics. (Stanford may well have the best engineer in the world, or the world's best businesswoman, or perhaps even the smartest living person on the planet, but how could we measure that with certainty?) Luckily, in swimming, the stopwatch rules with an absolute grip, and its verdict is clear: Julia Smit is the best person in the world at what she does not just once, but twice over. Who better to represent Stanford than she?

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