In what has to be deemed the most surprising dual meet result of the 2013-2014 season so far, as the #6 USC Trojans topped the #1 Cal Golden Bears 180.5-119.5 in Los Angeles at the not-quite-finished remodeled Uytengsu Swim Center.
Uytengsu Update: Most of the cosmetic pieces of the upgrade to USC’s pool are completed, though locker rooms aren’t quite completed. The official grand opening ceremony will be held on February 21st.
Throughout this meet, USC hit all of their races, while the Cal women looked largely pretty flat. While Cal still has enough superstars to win a few races, even in those races USC made it a closer battle than was expected.
Take the 200 backstroke. The defending NCAA Champion and American record holder Liz Pelton took the win in 1:57.00, but that was only after a furious come-from-behind finish to make up a full second lead from USC’s Joanna Stenkvist. Stenkvist was 2nd in 1:57.01, just .01 seconds behind Pelton.
Meanwhile, Pelton, who didn’t swim any relays, was only 4th in the 200 free in a 1:49.22, which was well behind USC freshman Chelsea Chenault’s winning time of 1:46.84.
That was one of two individual wins for USC; she also beat her Cal freshman counterpart Missy Franklin in the 500 free by time of 4:46.88 to Franklin’s 4:47.14.
Franklin’s only win of the day, either individually or in a relay, came in the 1000 free where she swam a 9:47.44 to start her meet. That beat Meghan Hawthorne’s 9:47.70 in another very close finish.
Though Franklin only won that single race in the meet, her distance freestyle continues to look better-and-better. That’s a lifetime best for her by 8 seconds in the 1000.
In her other individual event of the meet (she swam 3 individuals and 1 relay), Franklin was 2nd in the 100 free in 49.75. USC’s Kasey Carlson won that race in 49.24, as she’s carried over her great junior season into this year. Carlson also won the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.94 over teammate Andrea Kropp (1:02.94), and that time ranks her as the 6th-best in the spring semester so far.
Cal’s top breaststroker Marina Garcia was the victim of a timing error in this race, and was just a 2:17 in the 200 breast later in the meet.
The 200 breaststroke went to Stina Gardell in 2:12.55, with Kropp again taking 2nd in 2:13.41. Gardell was the runner-up in the 200 IM, behind another star Cal freshman Celina Li, who was a 1:58.93.
Kasia Wilk of USC was the only swimmer under 23 seconds in the 50 free, winning that race in 22.89 over Cal’s Farida Osman (23.18).
Kendyl Stewart took a sweep in the 100 yard backstroke (53.34) and 100 yard butterfly (53.74) at this meet. None of Cal’s three big underclassmen backstrokers swam the 100, but they are deep enough in this race that they still had some fast results from Stepahnie Au (53.81) and Cindy Tran (54.29) for 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
USC closed the meet with a 3:19.89 in the 400 yard freestyle relay, with Cal placing 2nd in 3:21.03. USC was paced by a 49.16 leadoff from Carlson, and with Wilk really coming into her own this season, USC has a powerful 1-2 sprint punch as she was a 49.33.
The two teams split diving. USC’s Natalie Kalibat won the 3-meter with a score of 302.50 in a very competitive flight where 1st through 5th was separated by only 23.5 points. On the women’s 1-meter Cal’s Anne Kastler won a more-spread out competition with a score of 285.05.
The Trojans have swum extremely well in-season all year long, and against a smallish Cal travel squad that continued. This will have to be a huge confidence boost for USC headed into the pivotal month of February, and all eyes will be on Cal to see how they bounce back on Saturday.
Cal will regroup to swim against UCLA on Saturday and then Stanford on February 15th to finish off their regular season. USC will try and carry their momentum against Stanford on Saturday, and then UCLA on February 17th, after this dominant-looking win.