The Stanford men’s swim team has a tradition of excellence at the Pac-12 Championships. Since 1982, Stanford has won each conference championship, usually by a wide margin.
Cal also has a tradition. Since 2002, the Bears have finished second at each of those meets.
Both Bay Area rivals continued their traditions at this weekend’s Pac-12 Championships, as the No. 6 Cal men’s swim team finished second to the Cardinal once again, this year by a 939.5-808 margin. But with eight teams in the water — including four ranked in the country’s top six — the Bears’ result felt more like a victory than a defeat.
With wins in four events, including junior Tom Shields’ wins in the 100 and 200 fly, the Bears finished ahead of two higher-ranked opponents: No. 1 Arizona and No. 5 USC. Stanford won nine events overall.
Cal used its depth to its advantage from Wednesday to Saturday. Though the Bears won only two of the first 18 events, the squad stayed firmly in second place throughout the weekend. Cal swimmers finished second in seven events, and placed in the top three in 13 of the 18 swimming events.
Most events featured not just one strong Cal swim, but several. In 13 individual swimming events, 12 of them had two or more point-scoring Cal swims. The Bears finished sixth or higher in every swimming event.
The best measure of Cal’s depth came in Saturday’s 200 fly. Though Shields won the event for the second year in a row, four other Bears finished in the top nine. Freshman Will Hamilton and junior Austin Brown finished second and third, respectively. Out of 155 possible points in the event, the Bears took a whopping 73.
Cal’s wins in the four-man relays — worth double the points of individual events — showcased the squad’s stamina and depth. The Bears began and ended the weekend with relay victories, taking Wednesday’s 200 medley relay to open the competition and Saturday’s 400 free relay to close it. Just a quarter of a second ahead of second-place USC, the relay was the closest of Cal’s victories on the day.
The Bears won 10 events at last year’s Pac-10 Championships.