The annual Texas A&M-Men’s dual meet doesn’t make much sense as a rivalry.
SMU is a small, private college located in metropolitan Dallas. A&M is a large state University in rural College Station. SMU has 6,000 undergraduates that come from mostly upper-class backgrounds. A&M has 39,000 undergrads, and play off of the school’s humble roots in giving farmers’ kids military educations. SMU’s official school colors are “Harvard Crimson” and “Yale Blue,” whereas the A&M student body still rejects the first verse of the school’s “War Hymn” because it sounds too much like an Ivy League fight song.
Athletically, the Aggies participate in one of the major “Big 6” conferences and has a massive athletics budget that has allowed it to build a World-Class 50 meter pool. SMU is part of Conference USA, hasn’t been a major athletic program since their football team received the infamous “death penalty” in 1987, and competes in a 6-lane pool. A&M is a perennial top-12 finisher at NCAA’s, whereas SMU last year sent only two swimmers, one diver, and nabbed a single point for 35th place.
Perhaps the rivalries begin on the Texas high school scene. This seems far-fetched, though, as both teams are heavy on imported swimmers. Texas swimmers only make up a quarter of the SMU roster.
To some extent, parts of this comparison demographic oversimplifications, but still, in broad strokes, this rivalry just doesn’t jump out as being obvious.
And yet, this has developed into one of the most intense rivalries in college swimming. It’s a dual meet that both teams have circled on their schedule every year. While most of the swimming community pooh-poohs on in-season dual meets, don’t tell these swimmers that this meet doesn’t matter.
What really revs up this rivalry is history. These two teams have faced off over 60 times since the 1930’s, making it one of the oldest rivalries in the country. The series also has recent history. The last two incarnations of this meet have been decided by a single point, with SMU winning in ’08-’09 and A&M taking the victory last year.
Below is a video of last year’s 400 free relay in which A&M needed first and third to take the meet. Even the last race was tight, as the B-relays had to battle just as hard as the A’s to decide the victory.
This year will be exciting once again, as both teams bring in strong freshman classes who will push the rivalry forward. The race I can’t wait to see is the 100 freestyle. In this race, two freshman—Kyle Troskot from A&M and Giedrius Andriunaitas—with impressive international resumes already will showdown in a race-within-the race. They will both be challenging their more veteran teammates: A&M’s senior Balazs Makany, an NCAA qualifier in the 100 free last year, and SMU sophomore Mindaugas Sadauskas, who seems to have made huge strides in the off-season and placed second behind only Texas’ Jimmy Feigen at the SW Collegiate Plunge.
Add in huge Swedish freshman Henrik Lindau and breakout sophomore John Dalton for A&M; and SMU’s home-grown freshman Ryan Koops and Blaz Korosec, and if the meet comes down to the 400 free relay again, we could see another barn-burner of a finish.