Last Saturday, the Stanford women’s swimming team, lead by Olympic freestyle star Katie Ledecky, made the trip up to Berkeley to defeat the Bears in a contentious meet, which ended with a score of 177-123. This weekend, Cal men’s swimming and diving doesn’t intend to have the same fate as the women.
Rather, it seeks to use its Olympians to boost itself over the Cardinal at Spieker Aquatic Center and seal its perfect conference record.
Along with the intensity of the Big Meet, there will be an added emotional component as the Cal seniors participate in the last home meet of their college careers. The seniors who will be honored at the beginning of meet are Hunter Cobleigh, Jonathan Fiepke, Long Gutierrez, Ryan Murphy and Dillon Williams.
For these seniors, who have seen Cal finish as a runner-up in the NCAA National Championships for the past two years, winning the national title is once again within the realm of possibility, given the arrival of freshman diver Connor Callahan.
Murphy reflected on his championship hopes next to the pool that has become his second home over the past four years.
“It will take every one of us swimming really well for it to happen,” Murphy said. “The main thing is just getting everyone moving in that right direction and trying to instill the confidence in them that they can do really great things come the end of March. ”
The Bears, however, will have no chance of achieving this goal if they don’t triumph over the No. 11 Cardinal on Saturday.
Stanford will be the toughest competition the Bears have faced yet this semester. The Cardinal have had no problem cruising past Pacific, No. 17 Arizona, No. 13 Arizona State and No. 15 USC in dual meet season.
Stanford’s prowess in the freestyle, IM and relays puts pressure on specific Cal swimmers who will have to step up Saturday in order to solidify a win for the Bears.
Sophomore Andrew Seliskar — recently named January’s Pac-12 swimmer of the month— will need to rise to the occasion in his IM event to challenge Abrahm DeVine, who won the 200-meter IM last weekend with a time of 1:46.50. This, however, should not be a problem given Seliskar’s personal best time in the event of 1:41.65.
Junior Ryan Kao and sophomore Nick Norman must watch out for True Sweetser, a Stanford freshman who took both the 1,000- and 500-yard freestyles against Arizona. Sweetser continues to shave seconds off his 1,000-yard freestyle time, as he went from 9:06.81 to 8:59.73 in the span of just two weeks. Facing Sweetser could be an unfamiliar challenge for Norman, seeing that he won the 1,000-yard freestyle by four seconds with a time of 9:11.11 against USC.
The 200-yard medley relay at the start of the meet could go either way, given the fact that Cal’s and Stanford’s average times for the event fall within a second of each other.
But no matter the relay result, the day is sure to showcase the work ethic that could eventually crown the Bears at NCAAs.