This season, the Pac-10 has been an absolute monster of a conference. In the recently released final CSCAA poll, the Pac-10 had three out of the top four ranked teams (#1 Arizona, #3 Stanford, and #4 California). Coming into the Conference Championship meets, Pac-10 swimmers had the nation’s top time(s) in a large majority of the events.
Simply put, this meet is loaded.
Despite all of the teams’ high rankings, Arizona is the clear favorite, and it would be a huge upset for anyone else to win. To give an example of how head-and-heels above the competition Arizona is: Even in a loaded conference like the Pac-10, there are four events where the Wildcats have a very real chance, even a probability, to finish 1-2-3: The 200 backstroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM, and 400 IM.
Stanford’s chances took a huge blow with the loss of Austin Staab, the defending national champion in the 100 fly. They still have a stable of strong, All-Americans, led by Eugene Godsoe, who has the best 100 backstroke time in the Conference (46.67), and is one of the favorites to win the event at NCAA’s. Still, the Cardinal are giving up somewhere in the range of 50-60 points with Staab’s departure (and what’s really a shame is that they’re likely giving up at least that amount at the NCAA Championships), which seems to be nearly an insurmountable amount.
The California Golden Bears are lead by perhaps the strongest individual swimmer in the conference. Nathan Adrian is one of the best freestyle sprinters in the world, the American record holder in both the 50 and 100 SCY freestyles, and an Olympic gold medalist, and should lead the Golden Bears to at least one relay win. They also have a good group of sprint breaststrokers, including Damir Dugonjic and Nolan Koon, but Arizona is so strong that these men are unlikely to finish any higher than third.
Stanford and California will be in a dogfight for second place. Both have similar depth, and a small core of elite swimmers. This one is too close to call.
USC is probably fourth best in the conference. Clement Lefert will be the number two seed in the 200 fly and the 200/500 freestyles. Arizona State’s versatile Xavier Mohammed is a likely finalist in whichever events he ends up swimming, and could medal in the mile.
Races to Watch
- Nathan Adrian in the 100 freestyle. Adrian has already swum a 42.03 this season, which is the top time in the nation, and he hasn’t even tapered yet. Adrian, if not at this meet then at the NCAA Championships, could take a run at Casear Cielo’s U.S. Open record of 40.92, even without a super-suit.
- The 200 freestyle, which should see no fewer than five Olympians: Jean Basson (Arizona, South Africa), Clement Lefert (USC, France), Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or (Arizona, Israel), Nathan Adrian (Cal, United States), and Zoltan Povazsay (USC, Hungary).
- In the 20o freestyle relay, Arizona and Cal’s best times this season are separated by only .05 (Cal has the better at 1:18.13). Both squads like to swim their best swimmer first (Adrian for Cal, Jack Brown for Arizona), and Cal should get off to a sizeable lead. Arizona has much better depth in their relay, however, and will slowly reel the Golden Bears in to make it a very close finish.