This was an awesome conference championship meet, where every single swim made a difference. It was a true case of Cal winning the most battles, but Stanford winning the war. This marked a monumental 30th-straight Pac-10 title for the Cardinal. With the class that Cal is graduating, and the class that Stanford is bringing in next season, it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to take this crown from them for a long time.
Cal’s Tom Shields took one half of the spotlight with his NCAA-Record setting swim in the 200 fly, but sharing it with him was Staab with two wins, and two Championship Records. These two collided head-on in a 100 fly race that was a big momentum event about halfway through this meet.
All-in-all, Cal took Pac-10 titles in almost half of the events: 6 individuals and 4 relays;Y while Stanford won only 5: 4 individuals and 1 relay. Stanford also profited hugely from their impressive diving crew. As Cal made a huge push on the final day, including winning the last 4 swimming events, the inclusion of Stanford’s diving points made a monumental difference in this meet.
Though Stanford’s 47-point victory was a little bigger than I expected, it’s hard to deny that Cal still lines up better for NCAA’s. They emerge from this meet with three top-ranked relays (200 medley, 400 medley, and 400 free relay), a second-ranked free relay, and an 800 free relay that was better than expected at 8th-best in the nation, and should improve by at least two seconds at NCAA’s when they add Nathan Adrian.
Speaking of Adrian, he had a way better Pac-10 meet than he did the year before. I expect that, given the midseason Dubai World Championships and the fact that he started competing roughly a month later than he did last season, that he is on a different training cycle than he was last year. Given that, it’s hard to predict how he will do at NCAA’s based on how he did at this meet, but he certainly looked good enough here to still be a heavy favorite in both the 50 and 100 frees.
Adrian was pushed (surprisingly hard) by USC freshman Vlad Morozov, who was just outtouched at the wall in both sprint races. USC was clearly not at a full taper, given that they didn’t swim season-bests even in most of their relays, so there’s still a chance that he could upset Adrian at NCAA’s. I don’t think it will happen, but nothing that happened at Pac-10’s knocked him out of the race.
Arizona, like their women’s team, was a little disappointing at these Championships. Though really, only disappointing by other teams’ standards, because they probably didn’t have as high of expectations for their results as others might have. Chitwood, their best swimmer, didn’t swim a single season-best, but he was very close, so there’s no need for concern.
Both Cal Poly and UC-Santa Barbara had what have to be considered successful debuts in the Pac-10. Cal Poly got a second-place finish from Peter Kline in the 400 IM, which was a good swim for them to earn some recognition. UCSB had a similar breakout performance from Chris Peterson in the 50 free, where he was 4th in 19.62. Both of those swimmers should qualify individually for NCAA’s as invited swimmers, but more importantly for the Gauchos of Santa Barbara, they had great relay performances. UCSB placed 4th in the 400 free relay (including beating Arizona), and though they DQ’ed their 200 free relay, they swam a 1:18.29 on a time trial that looks to line up as right on the invite cut-line for NCAA’s.
1. Stanford 911
2. Cal 864
3. USC 534
4. Arizona 483
5. Arizona State 273
6. UC-Santa Barbara 184
7. Cal Poly 158
Championship, NCAA, and Conference Records
200 medley relay, California, 1:23.92-Championship Record (Old mark 1:23.98 set by Cal in 2009)
200 IM – Austin Staab, Stanford, 1:42.01-Championship Record (Old mark of 1:43.59 set by Cal’s Martti Aljand in 2009)
100 fly – Austin Staab, Stanford, 44.66-Championship Record (Old mark of 44.69 set by Staab in 2009)
200 fly – Tom Shields, California, 1:40.31-Championship, Conference, and NCAA Record (Old NCAA mark of 1:40.75 set by Florida’s Shaune Fraser in 2009)
400 free relay, California, 2:48.16-Championship Record (Old mark of 2:48.32 set by Stanford in 2009)
Races You Need to Know About
The men’s 100 fly was the race of the meet. This was a big test as to whether or not Stanford’s Staab was going to be in this meet or not, and whether or not he was serious in his return from a 6-month layoff from competition. Well, he was. He swam a 44.66 that was faster than he ever was in-season prior to his leave: even during his National Championship season. Shields was also very good in 44.78, which is better than he was at NCAA’s last season. With these two going at it, it seems that Staabs NCAA record of 44.18 might be in danger.
The men’s 200 fly didn’t have Staab, but it did have an NCAA record from Shields. This is the first men’s NCAA Record that has been broken since the outlawing of polyurethane suits after the 2008-2009 season. His time of 1:40.31 is over a full-second faster than he (or anyone) went last season. This guy’s potential is unbelievably high, and only Michael Phelps (and only on two occasions) has ever been faster in a yard’s distance.
Cal was really strong in the 100 breaststroke. Not only did they go 1-4 in this meet, but they now hold four out of the top 4 times in the country. This is spearheaded by Damir Dugonjic, the two-time defending NCAA Champion who won the Pac-10 title in 51.88. Cal has the potential to dominate this race at NCAA’s in a way that possibly no team has ever before dominated a single event.
Cal played the relays at Pac-10’s a little differently than I expect them to at NCAA’s. This included putting Nathan Adrian on the anchor of the 200 medley relay, versus the 800 free relay that he swam at NCAA’s last season. Josh Daniels was not what Cal needed him to be in this meet, so it was probably a good move, but he will be fine for NCAA’s. This was a demonstration of Cal’s versatility. It’s likely stressful for coach Dave Durden to try and fully optimize his elite swimmers into the best relay combinations, but it’s a great problem to have. They can probably put up 3 or 4 different relay groups that could win either medley.
Swimmer of the Meet-Austin Staab, Sr., Stanford-This was a really tough decision between Staab and Shields. Both pulled off wins in an event that the other wasn’t competing in, and Shields had an NCAA Record. Both were spectacular in their relay swims. But in their only head-to-head swim of the meet, Staab came out on top, and for this he wins the award.
Honorable Mention: Tom Shields, Soph., Cal
Coach of the Meet-Skip Kenney, Stanford-There’s no other way to go with this award than with Kenney. When he took over the program 32 years ago, the Cardinal hadn’t won a conference title in about 20 years. Within a few years, Kenney had built a powerhouse that hasn’t been bested at this meet since 1982. This is as much of a lifetime-achievement award as anything else, but his scheming and maneuvering at this year’s meet helped his team hold off what is legitimately a better team in Cal.
Freshman of the Meet-Vlad Morozov, Fr., USC- No, Morozov didn’t beat Adrian in either of the sprint freestyles, but he did certainly give the Cal superstar a big push. He was second in both the 50 (19.06) and 100 (41.93) freestyles, and also showed great versatility in the 100 backstroke, where he finished 3rd in 46.90. This kid has a huge future, and regardless of whether Adrian breaks Cielo’s records at NCAA’s or not, I feel like Morozov will come in and take them all.
Honorable Mention: Dimitri Colupaev, Fr., USC