Though the final score wouldn’t indicate as such, Cal’s 175.5-120.5 win (with a one-relay exhibition) featured some great, hard-fought races. We’ll fast forward to the end of the meet, and the men’s 400 free relay.
There, USC’ Vlad Morozov, the defending 100 free Short Course World Champion, led off the Trojans in 42.64, giving USC well over a two-second lead. That first leg highlights the depth issues Cal’s sprint group is having this year now that Tyler Messerschmidt is officially redshirting. At the same time, it showed how good their top-end is to overcome those depth problems. A 43.2 from Seth Stubblefield on the 2nd leg cut the lead down by a second; he’s showing no lingering effects from an early-season injury.
(Edit: a previous version of this article incorrectly identified Shayne Fleming as the redshirted swimmer.)
Then a 43.6 from freshman Nick Dillinger made up another half-second for the Golden Bears ahead of USC’s Christian Quintero (44.1). Then, the only man who could possibly steal Vlad’s thunder at NCAA’s Tom Shields hit the water. He was up against German Olympian Dimitri Colupaev, and both swam very fast. At the final touch though, Shields’ 42.2 was just a fingernail better than Colupaev’s 43.15, as Cal took a .01 second victory in 2:54.41.
Shields, despite travelling around the globe for the FINA World Cup during the majority of the fall semester, is ready to be back and focused on his last NCAA Championships, and he showed that off at this meet. He won the 200 free in 1:34.68: a time that ranks him 5th in the country this year. He then swam a 45.85 to blow away USC freshman Maclin Davis (47.81) in the 100 fly. That swim for Shields is the 2nd fastest in the country this season, just .04 behind Arizona’s Giles Smith. That’s also a new Pool Record for Shields.
That relay wasn’t the only time Cal had a knack for just getting to the wall first. Jeremy Bagshaw won the 500 free in 4:24.50, gunning down USC’s Christian Quintero (4:24.59) in the last 25 yards.
His freshman teammate Josh Prenot also had a big meet, taking a win in the 200 breaststroke in 1:57.37 and the 200 IM in 1:47.35.
Morozov had very good swims outside of that relay, as he was the only Trojan to take more than one individual event victory. He won the 50 free in 19.32 and the 100 in 42.83. He also split an almost-surreal 18.34 at the back end of USC’s 200 medley relay. Still, another big Shields swim (a 20.19 on the butterfly) was too much for the Trojans as Cal was a 1:26.88 for the win.
The Trojans’ only other victory on the day came from freshman Morten Klarskov. He won the 100 breast in 54.99.
Olympic 100 free champion Nathan Adrian gave maybe the biggest thrill of the meet. He’s far from being ready to taper for World Championship Trials, but swam an 18.75 on exhibition during the diving break. That’s just a tenth of a second off of the time that won him the 2011 NCAA Championship in the event (18.66).