In a matchup of teams ranked just a spot apart in the national rankings, No. 5 USC and No. 6 Cal were supposed to play it close. If either team was to blow the other out of the water, it would be the higher-ranked Trojans.
But in Friday’s dual meet between the two men’s swim teams, it was the Bears’ turn to shine under the Southern California sun.
Cal finished ahead of the Trojans in 12 of 14 swimming events, cruising to a 165-125 victory that wasn’t as close as the score suggests.
“We accomplished what we wanted today,” Cal coach David Durden said. “I thought we did really well … It’s going to help us as we move down the stretch.”
And the Bears (4-1, 3-1 in the Pac-12) have another reason to feel good about their performance.
No. 3 Stanford also took to the water Friday, competing with the other two schools in each event on an exhibition basis. But even if the Cardinal’s times counted, Cal would still have won 11 events. That bodes well for a squad that will face Stanford in each of its remaining meets: a Feb. 18 dual meet, the Pac-12 Championships in Long Beach, Calif., and the NCAA Championships at the end of March.
Still, the Bears remain more introspective, unconcerned with their rivals across the Bay.
“We don’t really worry about them too much,” Durden said. “With their bodies and their swimming, that’s where their focus is.”
Cal had strong performances throughout its lineup, the swimmers’ times reflective of the improvement they’ve shown throughout the season. The Bears won most of their events decisively, as most races were decided by a second or more. Cal swimmers finished 1-2 in seven events, and much of the competition was amongst themselves.
The best competition on the day, however, came between the Bears and the Trojans (3-3, 1-3). USC junior Alex Lendrum was leading the 200 back through the first half of the race. Cal sophomore Martin Tarczynski, more than a full second behind the leader, sat in sixth place behind Lendrum, his teammate Chase Bloch, and three other swimmers.
But in the last 100 meters, Tarczynski made his move. With 50 meters to go, Tarczynski had effectively caught up to Lendrum, touching the wall 0.03 seconds after the leader. In the final 50 meters, the sophomore pulled ahead, his final time just 0.2 seconds ahead of his competitor’s.
“I thought that was one of our best performances,” Durden said.
Tarczynski and freshman Adam Hinshaw each won two events on the day. Hinshaw, who won the 500 and 1000 free, swam three and five seconds faster than in his last meet against Stanford, November’s Triple Distance Meet.
Durden also pointed to junior Tom Shields — who had top times in the 100 fly and 200 free — as a symbol of the team’s improvement. His time of 46.53 in the fly was nearly a second faster than in his narrow loss to Arizona two weeks before.
“They raced tough,” Durden said. “They really raced tough.”