1650 yard freestyle
It constantly amazes me how consistently the great distance swimmers can split their 50’s. Stanford’s Chad La Tourette was a prime example of that in this race. For blocks of 200 or 300 yards, his 50 splits wouldn’t vary more than a tenth of a second, and more than once he matched his split identically.
Many were curious in this race how he would answer Georgia’s Martin Grodski’s time of 14:36.9 from SEC’s. While La Tourette wasn’t able to beat that time, his 14:38.13 was good enough to establish a baseline that he would be in the battle at NCAA’s. This was the second-best time in the nation this season, and about four seconds faster than he went at NCAA’s last year.
The runner-up was USC’s Richard Charlesworth in 14:58.33. This appeared to be just a test-the-waters swim, as it wasn’t his best time this season. Based on this swim, and his swim in the 500 free, I’d expect huge drops from him at NCAA’s. Stanford picked up more points with a third-place finish from Michael Zoldos in 14:59.88, making him the sixteenth swimmer in the country to break fifteen minutes this season.
Although Stanford took four out of the top eight spots in this race, Cal’s Jeremy Bagshaw (who until this point appeared as though he might not be on Cal’s scoring team) finally broke through with a 4th place finish in 15:07.27: a career-best by 30 seconds. That’s the sort of potential we’ve known he had all season long, and it’s great to see him have a breakout swim. Cal also got a 6th place finish from Sophomore Ben Hinshaw to keep themselves within 50 points of Stanford.
200 yard backstroke
With how well Stanford’s Matt Thompson has been swimming in this meet, and how poorly Arizona’s Cory Chitwood had been, I saw this race as another Stanford win and a near meet-clincher for the Cardinal. Chitwood gutted out a great performance though, despite being obviously unrested, and touched the wall in 1:41.17. This was barely off of his season-best time that ranks him third in the nation this season. This was a great race, and at the 150 mark, it appeared as though Stanford sophomore Matthew Swanston would take this race. But his final 50 was his slowest, whereas Chitwood saved enough in his legs to make his final 50 his second-fastest in 25.54.
Swanston was the runner-up in 1:41.47, 4th-best in the nation, and Thompson was third in 1:41.97: 7th-best in the nation.
Cal’s top finisher was Chris Rogers in 7th, which was just enough to keep the meet within reach (about 70 points back) for the Golden Bears. But they would need a win in the 100 free.
100 yard freestyle
With Stanford having four A-finalists, versus Cal’s two, this race became a must-win for Nathan Adrian. Luckily, he’s the best in the country in this race, and he put up a no-doubt second 50 to put away the field in 41.75: not his best time, but still faster than anyone else in the country has been this season. Not to be overlooked in the excitement of the team-battle was that this was the second big showdown between the senior Adrian and USC freshman Vlad Morozov. Morozov again pushed Adrian, being nearly dead-even at the 50, but again Adrian was able to fight him off for the win. Morzov was second in 41.93, which sits just behind Auburn’s Adam Brown for the second-best time in the country.
Stanford’s Austin Staab was third in 42.46, was the third fantastic individual-swim he’s had in this meet. His teammates also finished 4th (Alex Coville 42.51), 6th (Jake Allen 42.79) and 7th (Aaron Wayne 43.29). Cal’s other A-finalist, Graeme Moore, was 5th in 42.71.
200 yard breaststroke
In the 100 breaststroke, Cal swept the top four positions. 100-yard champion Damir Dugonjic wasn’t in this race, and they didn’t pull off top four in this race, they were even more dominant here with six A-finalists. With Stanford holding the other two top-8 spots, this final was hugely important in jockeying for positions. Cal led the way with a 1-2 finish from Nolan Koon (1:54.42) and Nick Ferrif (1:54.57), which ranks them 4th and 7th in a tightly-packed national ranking. Stanford’s Curtis Lovelace, however, was able to break up Cal with a 3rd-place finish in a huge season-best time of 1:54.71. Cal also finished 4th (Trevor Hoyt-1:54.91), 6th, 7th, and 8th, with Stanford’s John Criste sneaking into 5th.
This dominant finish cut Stanford’s lead back below 40, but Cal wasn’t done chipping away yet.
200 yard butterfly
Cal’s Tom Shields was the clear favorite in this race, but I’m not sure that anybdoy expected a swim like this from him, not yet anyways. Shields won this race in 1:40.31, which gave him not only the win, but the NCAA record. This also makes him the second-fastest 200-yard fly swimmer in history, behind only two swims from the legendary Michael Phelps. With only a 1:44 in prelims, this swim was really a huge surprise. The old mark of 1:40.75 was set by Florida’s Shaune Fraser in 2009, and this is the first men’s NCAA record that has been broken since polyurethane suits were outlawed. As only a sophomore, it’s terrifying how good Shields can become in this 200 fly, and he’s now definitely a contender to take the second 200 fly spot from Tyler Clary at the 2012 London Olympics.
Despite the awesomeness of Shields’ swim, it was only one swim. Stanford’s Bobby Bollier, himself a National Teamer in this event, put up a great swim as well in 1:41.60. With that legal, second-place finish from Bollier, Stanford all-but sealed up the win. USC’s Clement Lefert was well-back in 1:44.91. Cal’s other two A-finalists in this race (also both sophomores) finished 4th (Austin Brown-1:45.75) and 8th (Ben Hinshaw, not long after racing the mile-1:48.26) respectively, but this wasn’t nearly enough. Being unable to take the lead after this race, and what we knew about Stanford’s 59-point platform diving performance, Cal wouldn’t have enough room to catch them even with a Stanford relay DQ.
400 yard freestyle relay
Despite the meet being sealed for the Cardinal at this point, there was still one very important relay to be swum: the 400 free relay. Cal had Adrian on the anchor leg, but Stanford had the depth of four individual A-finalists in their stable. Both teams ended up with back-loaded relays to increase the drama, with Cal putting Shields and Adrian third and fourth, and Stanford making Aaron Wayne and Austin Staab their last two.
After a great 42.3 second leg from Jake Allen, Stanford held a solid lead in this race. Then Cal’s Tom Shields, who has been having as great of a meet as anyone, hit the water against Stanford’s Aaron Wayne. Wayne was up to the challenge and swam very well: splitting 41.98. Shields was just a little better in 41.83, but Stanford still held the lead. The question then became whether or not Staab, who was lights out up until this point, could hold off Adrian: the best sprinter in the country.
The answer to that question was clear pretty quickly, as it took Adrian only about 40 yards to surpass the Stanford relay. He ended up splitting a 40.6, to Staab’s 41.39, Cal’s final time was 1:48.16, and Stanford’s 1:48.51. These two are, by far, the best time in the nation this season (Auburn is now third in 2:49.95), and Cal’s is a Pac-10 Championship Record.
Many expected a USC challenge in this race, but their finishing time was 2:52.23, which isn’t their best time this season.
Though Cal got the event-titles and the records on the final day of competition, Stanford’s across-the-board depth, and excellent diving, won out on this final day. USC’s youth managed to hold off Arizona for 3rd, and in the battle-of-the-newcomers, UC-Santa Barbara held off Cal Poly for 6th place, just behind Arizona State and their loaded diving group in 5th.
Check back later as we sum up the whole meet, and hand out some awards.
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