Sanity Reigns at Cal-Stanford and Other Stories from College Swimming

The annual dual meet between Cal and Stanford, the biggest rivalry meet in college swimming, sneaks up on me every year. Perhaps it’s because of how late it comes in the season, with major conference championships already in full swing. Perhaps it’s also because it usually features jarringly fast swimming. When I say “jarringly”, I mean to indicate that sometimes someone swims so fast at this meet you wonder if they have any more left in the tank.

This year’s meet still snuck up on me. I was muddling through an interminable platform diving break on Saturday night when I remembered the meet. When I looked at the results, I was struck by how remarkably appropriate they seemed. The times were fast, and the defending two time National Champions in Berkeley won. I’m still trying to decide whether that qualifies as an upset (they hadn’t won since 2005). Yet none of the swims were so out of this world that it left me questioning whether either team had sacrificed the end of their season.
The unquestionable star of the meet was Cal’s Tom Shields, who put up two times that will easily qualify for the NCAA Championships, both in the 200 free (1:34.7) and 100 fly (46.0). Both those times also qualify as good “in season” swims for a performer of Shield’s caliber. Stanford swam overall well, taking the medley relay and sophomore David Nolan was outstanding. But many swims on both team seemed tired. Probable NCAA scorers like Drew Cosgarea (4:37 500 free) and Trevor Hoyt (55.4 100 breast) managed 5th and 4th in those events. Based on the results here are two fearless predictions:
1. Cal will win their third straight NCAA title
2. Stanford will not prioritize their PAC-12 streak over the NCAA meet.
Georgia, Florida win bigger, badder SEC
Before I go, one concern on the new look SEC, let’s celebrate its champions. Georgia remains an indomitable force in the women’s meet -and perhaps is approaching the same for their men. Their depth on the women’s side was very impressive and their relays stack up much better for NCAAs next month. Florida broke Auburn’s huge conference winning streak as well, with depth in some events that was completely overwhelming. The meet overall was incredibly exciting and fast. It prompted more “Did you see….” conversations with other coaches on deck than all the other meets going on combined.
With a couple days to clear my head, however, I have to say I’m pretty troubled by the concept of the first super conference and what it means for swimming. Despite whatever assumptions you may make about today’s youth, in my experience most high school kids would rather be depth on a team in a superconference than star for a mid-major. A bigger, more powerful SEC (with the ACC to follow with a junior version in a couple years) will only further consolidate talent in a smaller list of schools. The departure of A&M and Missouri from the Big-12 has crippled the Big-12 conference which still at least maintained a little credibility as a major conference women’s meet. What will the Big East meet be like in two years? Sure I’m excited to watch these super fast conference meets but the implications for college swimming at large are not good.

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46.02 is pretty crazy… it would’ve gotten 5th at ncaa’s last year (and 4th in prelims)

Chris DeSantis

But he’s a 44 in the 100 fly tapered. Imagine if a guy who goes 47 at the end of the year does a 49 in a dual meet? Good swim but no one gets too excited about it.


46.02-44.78 does not equal 2. Which 49-47 does. I get your point nonetheless

Chris DeSantis

Right but, if some guy who was 47.8 went 49.1 you would be excited about it but not losing your mind.


Shields also went 45.8 against USC, and a similar 200 free time (1:34 high), so the question is can your hypothetical 47.8 swimmer flatstart under 47, after going 46.56 on a relay last year.

Chris DeSantis

Can you repeat that in English?

About Chris DeSantis

Chris DeSantis

Chris DeSantis is a swim coach, writer and swimming enthusiast. Chris does private consulting and coaching with teams and individuals. You can find him at Chris is a 2009 Graduate from the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first professional athletic coach …

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