After three weeks of hibernation, the Cal men’s swim and dive team is ready to emerge from its lair and dive back into the water in a triple-distance meet against archrival Stanford.
Having kicked off the season with victories in each of its first three contests, Cal has shown why it came into the year ranked as one of the top swim and dive programs in the NCAA. The Bears will be facing a new level of competition they haven’t yet seen this season, though, as the Cardinal are also ranked among the top-10 squads in all of collegiate swimming.
Stanford heads into Thursday’s faceoff with a perfect record, with wins against Pacific and Utah — two programs that Cal has also defeated this season. To see how the two squads square up, let’s take a look at how the teams performed in their respective competitions against the Utes.
Both teams defeated Utah fairly easily, with Cal claiming a 191-100 victory and Stanford a 190-105 win. On an event-by-event basis, though, the Bears did considerably better against the Utes than the Cardinal.
In the 200-yard medley relay, Cal’s best group posted a winning time of 1:26.20, whereas Stanford’s fastest touched the wall more than three seconds later at 1:29.38.
In the 1,000-yard freestyle, Cal superstar Nick Norman zoomed to a 9:06.42 first-place finish, a whopping nine seconds faster than Stanford’s fastest competitor, Matthew Hirschberger.
Stanford doesn’t seem to have a breaststroker who can keep up with Cal freshman Reece Whitley, who posted an impressive 53.74 in the 100-yard breaststroke against the Utes. Hank Poppe, the Cardinal’s fastest breaststroker, recorded a 55.12 in the same event.
While the events listed are among the most significant time disparities between the two teams, Cal also bested Stanford in the 200-yard butterfly, the 50-yard freestyle, the 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-backstroke, among a plethora of others.
The only events in which Stanford’s fastest swimmers recorded better times than Cal’s were the 200- and 500-yard freestyles and the 100-yard butterfly.
After reviewing the outcomes of both Cal’s and Stanford’s matchups against Utah, it seems the Bears have the edge and are the favorites ahead of Thursday’s meet. It must be noted, however, that Stanford rested a few of its upperclassmen in its first conference meet in order to give its younger swimmers an opportunity to get on the starting blocks and gain some experience for the season ahead of them. Cal will undoubtedly be facing a much sharper and more experienced Stanford team than the group that edged the Utes last month.
While a lack of exposure to Stanford’s star upperclassmen leaves us with unclear expectations for Thursday’s meet, fans know that they can expect a level of competitive fire that they have not yet seen from either team this season. This is Cal versus Stanford: one of the most bitter rivalries in all of collegiate athletics.
With the title of “Best in the West” on the line, each team is going to come out ready to make a splash and claim the bragging rights they so covet. In their second road trip of the season, the Bears will make every effort to maintain their perfect record and fight for California.
Joey Patton covers men’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].