As the bright sun prepares to peek out from behind the rainy clouds of late on Wednesday, the Cal men’s swim team will participate in an exhibition meet at the Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford, California.
No. 4 Cal (1-0) will take on No. 15 Stanford in its annual triple-distance meet — different from its traditional dual-meet and invitational-style competitions. Each swimmer will compete in one of the tracks — the sprints (of one of the four disciplines), the individual medleys and the distance freestyles — and will be ranked by the aggregate time. The sprint track features races in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard races of a stroke, while the distance freestyle track includes the 200-, 500- and 1,000-yard events. Athletes participating in the individual medley events will race the 100-, 200- and 400-yard distances.
The Cal-Stanford matchups since this point last year have been quite interesting. At the last triple-distance meet, the Bears finished with the top times in 11 of the 20 events. In the dual-meet later that season, Cal outlasted Stanford 130-113. But the Cardinal took the conference title while the Bears were relegated to third place. Three weeks later, Cal finished in second place to Stanford’s 14th at the NCAA Championship.
The Cardinal, like the Bears, competed at the Pacific Invitational a week ago. In just one day of racing, Stanford outscored Cal — albeit with a smaller roster — by 261 points.
After two consecutive strong recruiting classes, Stanford is starting to develop its program back to the standards we’re accustomed to. Although the Cardinal still have a long way to go, they’re probably the most talented roster since David Nolan led the squad to sixth place at the 2015 NCAA Championship.
After sweeping the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle at the Pacific Invitational, Cardinal freshman True Sweetser was named CollegeSwimming’s Pac-12 Swimmer of the Week — an honor bestowed to Bear sophomore Nick Norman in mid-October while Cal freshman Michael Jensen earned the National Swimmer of the Week award.
With Sweetser and fellow freshmen Grant Shoults and James Murphy, Stanford is immediately upgraded in events ranging from 50-yard to 1,650-yard freestyle. Other recruits such as Benjamin Ho could also be vital pieces in the sprint events. His role, as either an individual or a relay swimmer, will be more defined as the season goes along.
Part of Stanford’s inability to keep up with teams like Cal at the NCAA Championship is due to its lack of several elite options for relays. The Cardinal are returning several important pieces such as sophomore Cole Cogswell, junior Sam Perry and senior Spencer DeShon in the sprint freestyle events.
Stanford returns talented individual medley swimmers such as sophomore Abrahm DeVine and junior Curtis Ogren, who should make the individual medley track interesting at the triple-distance meet. Cal has some exciting options for the track such as senior Ryan Murphy and sophomore Andrew Seliskar, but they’re both incredibly talented elsewhere so it’s difficult to predict which track they’ll be in.
The exhibition meet will give Cal and Stanford — teams full of young talent — a preview of each other as units. The two teams will face one more time in a dual meet at Berkeley in February before the Pac-12 and NCAA Championship, making the triple-distance meet a valuable experience for both teams.
Christopher Zheng covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].