The Cal men’s swim team will be over 2,000 miles from Berkeley this weekend, its four-day trip to Georgia as far as any Bear will travel this season.
So it makes sense that No. 6 Cal will be making the most out of its trip. Current and former Bear swimmers will compete in not just one but two meets this weekend—the AT&T Winter Nationals in Atlanta, Ga., and the Bulldog Invitational an hour and a half away in Athens, Ga. With parts of the meets going on simultaneously, this will be the first time all year the team will split—each athlete will swim one meet or split time between the two.
Despite the need to split the team for each competition, one thing is clear: No matter who else is in the water, this will be the best competition the Bears have faced all season.
“You’re going to see guys that will be medaling at the (2012 London) Olympic Games,” Cal coach David Durden said of Winter Nationals, held Dec. 1-3 at Atlanta’s Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. “It’s going to be a tough test and some good racing.”
With months to go before March’s NCAAs, Durden usually emphasizes proper form over final times, stressing the need for swimmers to develop over the need to go all out in each race. Cal’s meets thus far have essentially been glorified practices, that won’t be the case this weekend. Post-college swimmers such as Ryan Lochte and Matt Grevers are slotted to compete, and the Bears won’t be backing down from the competition.
“We’re allowing our guys to have some good performances this weekend,” Durden said. “It’s a good gauge in what we need to do.”
In addition to its undergraduate team, Cal is also bringing a talented crop of post-graduate swimmers. Nine former Bears will be swimming as alums, including Olympic Gold-medalist Nathan Adrian. Though unable to compete in NCAA events, many of Cal’s alums have continued to train with the Bears to prepare for the Olympic Trials and the subsequent 2012 Olympics.
It won’t be just Winter Nationals that tests the Bears this weekend. Cal’s current swimmers will take on four ranked teams in the Bulldog Invitational, hosted by the University of Georgia. The No. 9 Bulldogs, as well as No. 14 Indiana and No. 21 Virginia will be among the teams competing in the invitational. No. 5 Auburn, just a spot ahead of Cal in the CollegeSwimming.com Coaches Poll, should provide the Bears with their closest competition.
This will be Cal’s best shot yet to jockey for a higher position in the national rankings.