Even without the added pressure of scoring points, the triple-distance meet was full of high-quality and high-intensity races that are atypical of early-season competition. On Wednesday afternoon, No. 4 Cal men’s swim team competed against cross-bay rival No. 15 Stanford.
The exhibition meet welcomes back Bear senior Ryan Murphy, who put on a backstroke clinic at the Avery Aquatic Center. Since returning from Rio as a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a world record holder, Murphy has been all quiet on the water front. While considerably off his best times, Murphy swam a time of 46.08 in the 100-yard backstroke and 1:41.80 in the 200-yard backstroke, beating the field by a combined 7.99 seconds.
Fellow senior Long Gutierrez, however, has yet to dive off the blocks for Cal in competition this season. With just one meet left in the fall season, it’s likely that Gutierrez and transfer junior Matt Josa won’t compete until the second half of the season.
Despite being third in the 50-yard freestyle and second in the 100-yard, Cal freshman Michael Jensen gave his best Murphy impression in the 200-yard freestyle. Jensen exploded off the starting blocks and established an early lead that he never relinquished. Despite being off his season and personal bests, Jensen managed to stay close enough with Stanford junior Sam Perry through the 50- and 100-yard freestyles to be crowned champion of the sprint freestyle track.
While Stanford took advantage of its overwhelming strength in the distance freestyle events, the Bears seemed lackluster without sophomore Nick Norman. Junior Ryan Kao, who earned a NCAA berth last year, and freshman Shane Forker couldn’t muster the strength to keep up with Stanford’s quartet of distance freestylers.
In addition to distance freestyle, Cal also lost in the butterfly track. Bear junior Justin Lynch was the early leader after winning both the 50- and 100-yard butterfly races, but he struggled in the 200-yard distance and yielded the lead to Stanford senior Jimmy Yoder. Losing the 200-yard butterfly isn’t particularly indicative of worry for Lynch, who is known more as a sprint specialist.
Despite the label as an exhibition meet, the highly recruited youths on the Cal and Stanford teams showed they are ready to play with the big guns like Murphy in the NCAA. While the freshmen addressed some of the weaknesses on both teams from last year, new ones are sprouting and becoming more apparent.
Christopher Zheng covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].