Defending national champs, the Cal men’s swim team, prepares to take on Stanford

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After two weeks of rest, the Cal men’s swimming team (2-0) will travel to Palo Alto, California, to take on archrival Stanford at the Avery Aquatic Complex for a Triple-Distance Meet. The Bears cruised through their first two meets of the season, beating Pacific and Hawaii with relative ease. Their Wednesday match against Stanford (1-0) marks the first matchup with a Pac-12 opponent in the 2014-15 season for the reigning national champions.

While the meet does not count toward either team’s dual-meet record, both will compete for bragging rights in six event types: sprints, distance, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and the individual medley. Each event type consists of three races, and individual swimmers are recognized for their fastest cumulative time.

The Bears extended their dual-meet winning streak to 17 after downing the Rainbow Warriors at home Oct. 17. Cal as a whole has been nothing short of impressive thus far, earning 332 aggregate points and winning 24 of 30 races in two meets.

While the entirety of the Bears’ roster has been dominant, the sophomore class is in a league of its own. Standout Ryan Murphy has been dominant this season, going undefeated in his individual events and playing an integral role in the relays. With Murphy on a tear, the Cardinal will have its hands full for at least three events throughout the day. Murphy is joined by Long Gutierrez and Hunter Cobleigh, who led the Bears to victory in their regular-season opener against Pacific with two victories apiece. Look for the sophomores to deliver another notable performance on the road.

Stanford is fresh off a 179-106 victory over Hawaii in its first dual meet of the regular season. Led by senior captain David Nolan and sophomore Daniel Le, the Cardinal thrashed the Rainbow Warriors, claiming the top times in 11 of 16 events on the day. With victory assured after taking 11 of the first 12 events, Stanford opted to compete in the final four as exhibition matches, so Hawaii was awarded the points by default. The Cardinal must deliver another dominant outing to keep things close when it plays host to a rolling Cal squad.

Stanford’s highly touted freshman class also delivered a solid performance against a winless Hawaii squad. Their collegiate debut was headlined by Andrew Liang’s victory in the 100-yard backstroke, with fellow newcomer Patrick Conaton finishing fewer than one second behind. If Cal head coach David Durden does not plan accordingly, Liang and Conaton could potentially upset some of Cal’s finest swimmers.

While the storied rivalry between Cal and Stanford is well noted, it is not the only factor fueling the fire for this in-conference matchup. Cal and Stanford consistently vie for the top position in the Pac-12, with Cal emerging dominant since 2012: the Bears’ last loss to the then-top-ranked Cardinal.

“Our team has been moving in a great direction this year,” said senior Jesse Ryckman. “We are all really pumped for this swim meet and are always excited to test our progress against our rivals from across the bay.”

In a matchup featuring two national juggernauts, it’s likely to be a close meet. But it is difficult to imagine that any team can dethrone an overwhelmingly strong Cal team right now. Stanford needs nothing short of perfection to sink the defending national champions.

Christian Legg covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].