After three events in the 2011-12 season, the Cal men’s swimming team has yet to face true competition from swimmers they don’t see in practice every day.
At the Cal Poly “King of the Pool” meet in September, Bear swimmers swept the top 15 spots on the leaderboard. In the first two dual meets of the season against Hawaii and Utah last month, Cal swimmers finished with the fastest times in all 28 events.
So with Wednesday’s ninth annual Triple Distance Meet against Stanford looming, the matchup isn’t about the clash of Cal against its biggest rival. It’s about competing with a team that will finally give it some competition in return.
“It’s going to be a very inexpensive way to get some racing in,” Cal coach David Durden said. “It’s not necessarily a team competition. It’s more just to allow our guys the opportunity to race three times pretty aggressively and just kind of evaluate where we’re at.”
Unlike a dual meet, the 2 p.m. Triple Distance meet at Spieker Aquatics Center does not factor in an overall score. Swimmers from each team are placed into one of six groups, and three races are swum in each category. The swimmers with the highest aggregate time in each group are named champions.
Stanford, like Cal (2-0, 1-0 in the Pac-12), has taken care of everyone on its schedule so far. The Cardinal (4-0, 1-0) are expected to be near the top of the NCAA Division I rankings when they are released this week. Like Cal, Stanford has won each of its events so far with ease.
“Stanford draws some good performances out of our guys,” Durden said. “We certainly utilize that competitiveness that they’ll bring to our environment to help put our guys in some stressful situations.”
The Cardinal have a number of swimmers who can put the Bears in stressful situations. All-American seniors Chad La Tourette and David Mosko are among the Stanford swimmers Durden expects to challenge Cal the most. Both swam for the Cardinal at August’s 2011 World University Games, and La Tourette was among the Stanford swimmers on the 2010 USA national team. Additionally, freshman David Nolan was the country’s top recruit from the class of 2011.
“You go down their roster, and it’s pretty much high school swimmers of the year, national high school record holders and such,” Durden said. “I think it’s a very good team.”
But for a rivalry with so much history, something seems lacking. Perhaps it’s because the two teams will meet again multiple times before this season is over — at February’s dual meet in Stanford, at the Pac-12 swimming championships and almost certainly at the NCAA championships in March.
“We’ve got a good little rivalry with those guys,” junior Tom Shields said. “They’re nice guys, and it’s cool how sportsmanlike it’s able to be.”
Though Cal will swim just one event in the two months following this meet, the Bears aren’t nervous about their last chance to prove themselves until December.
“We’re not really putting too much pressure on it,” Shields said. “This is our funnest meet of the fall.”