No. 1 Cal men’s swimming heads to Arizona to face Wildcats, Sun Devils

Karin Goh/File

While the No. 1 Cal men’s swimming and diving team pulled off wins against Arizona and Arizona State (now No. 11 and No. 17 in the nation) in dual meets last spring, this year when it plays the Desert Duo it will have to deal with the fact that it is not competing in the familiar Spieker Aquatic Center.

The Bears will swim in dual meets for two days in a row, spending Friday in Tucson, Arizona, racing the Wildcats and Saturday in Tempe, Arizona, facing off against the Sun Devils. The threat of bad weather in Arizona may also play a factor in the races, challenging the athletes to work through the cold and rain.

This weekend, Cal will be flying 19 swimmers and one diver to Arizona where the meets will comprise two diving events, two relays and 12 individual events.

The overall scoring for dual meets places a lot of weight on the winner, who gains 9 points while the second- through fifth-place positions score four, three, two and one points, respectively.

While the result of a dual meet does not hold much significance on paper, a win or a loss can help shape the course of training and the mentality for the rest of the season.

“(A dual meet) does create confidence in terms of a win, and learning how to win is always a good thing,” said Cal men’s swimming head coach David Durden. “Even a dual meet loss can cause you to pivot and refocus as a group. More than anything else we are just looking for good race experience.”

In order to win the meets, Cal has to prioritize logging first-place finishes in as many individual events as possible. Another key element of a win is endurance. Each competitor is allowed to participate in up to four events, which can add up between the two days.

“We need to have guys be as fast and fresh in their first event as they are in their last event,” Durden said. “I think a little bit of our training over the last six weeks has lent itself for our guys to be able to sustain repeat performances over a very short amount of time.”

Both Arizona and Arizona State are solid teams that trailed Cal’s third-place finish in the 2016 Pac-12 Championships — but not by much, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.

Last year in the dual meets, the Bears triumphed over the Sun Devils, 183-107, and beat Arizona by a more narrow margin of 164.5 to the Wildcats’ 118.5. The weekend was characterized by impressive performances by now-senior Ryan Murphy and now-graduated Josh Prenot. Current sophomore Nick Norman also won the 1,000-yard freestyle in the meet.

“We have a couple guys come into the mix in the spring semester that weren’t racing in the fall, so that is going to be fun to see,” Durden said. “I am really curious to see how our relays will play out. We have a lot more versatility and combinations with relays.”

Above all else, the Bears are looking to create a positive atmosphere for the season and use the smaller meets as trainings for bigger championships to come.

Lucy Schaefer covers men’s swimming. Contact her at [email protected]