Two undefeated teams enter, but only one will come out victorious. No. 1 Cal men’s swim heads down to Los Angeles on Friday to take on No. 8 USC in the Trojans’ final home weekend meets of the year.
Both teams last raced two weeks ago, with the Bears (4-0, 3-0) closing their home slate with a weekend sweep of Arizona and Arizona State and the Trojans (6-0, 2-0) holding it down against Wisconsin.
USC will be the highest ranked head-to-head opponent Cal has faced thus far this season. The Trojans have traditionally been a competitive team, finishing in the top eight at NCAAs in six of the past seven years. Last year in Indianapolis at the NCAA championship, they finished sixth and featured 10 All-American swimmers.
The Trojans are led by two stars in redshirt seniors Santo Condorelli and Dylan Carter. Condorelli, a freestyle and butterfly sprinter, represented Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics and finished fourth in the 100m free — 0.03 seconds behind the bronze medalist. Carter, a freestyler, has a hand in all five of USC’s team relay records and represented Trinidad and Tobago at Rio.
The top-ranked Bears will need contributions throughout the lineup, as they often have this season. Against both Arizona and Arizona State, the Bears had eight different winners in individual events.
“Dual meets (are) about wins in events to create spread,” said Cal head coach Dave Durden. “It’s those second-, third- and fourth-place finishes that you really need to gobble up. Between our guys in the pool, (and) our guys in the boards, we’ve got to make sure we’re battling for every single point.”
Cal has dominated USC in head-to-head competition in the past two decades, defeating the Trojans in all but one dual meet since 2000. The one loss was a dramatic one, as the Trojans came from behind in the 200 free relay to touch 0.04 seconds in front of the Bears. That was the final event of the day and gave USC just enough for a 149.5-148.5 win.
“We’ve been working on a small handful of things to do really well, and our guys have been really diligent about doing that,” Durden said. “Those are the things as a coach you’re really satisfied about. For us, it’s a continuation.”
Just as Cal seniors were honored two weekends ago at Spieker Aquatics Complex, eight USC seniors will be celebrated this weekend as their home slate comes to an end Saturday.
Among those Trojan seniors is diver Dashiell Enos, the defending Pac-12 3-meter springboard champion. Enos finished third overall at the UCLA Diving Invitational in January and presents a great test for the three Cal divers heading down to Los Angeles.
For some Cal swimmers, this will be their second visit to Uytengsu Aquatics Center this season. In October, seven Bears teamed up with four Trojans on the men’s side of the Pac-12 squad to defeat Team USA in the USA Swimming College Challenge, 326.5-286.5. Carter and Cal sophomore Quah Zheng Wen were both part of the winning relay team in the 800 free.
“I’m looking forward to how these next seven weeks are going to progress for our group,” Durden said. “It’s been fun to work with them. (The seniors) have really done an awesome job as a group in making this thing really special this year.”