The Biggest Storylines To Watch For At the Cal vs. ASU Dual Meet

Cal vs. Arizona State

  • January 21, 2023
  • Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, Tempe, Arizona
  • SCY, College Dual Meet
  • 11:00 AM Pacific Time (2:00 PM Eastern Time)
  • Live Stream
  • Live Results on Meet Mobile

On Saturday, the Cal Bears will travel to Tempe, Arizona to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a big Pac-12 conference showdown. As the defending national champions, the #1 Cal men are arguably the best team in the NCAA, while the #4 ASU men have the NCAA’s best male swimmer in Leon Marchand and are fast-rising to the top—they scored the most points in a mythical NCAA championship based off of midseason times. With both teams having so much momentum right now, this matchup is arguably the biggest men’s dual meet competition of the 2022-23 NCAA season.

With how stacked both teams are, there will be plenty of storylines to follow at this meet. Marchand has the spotlight of the swimming world on him every time he touches a pool, and stars like Hugo Gonzalez and Hubert Kos will also be making their long-awaited season debuts this weekend. In addition, this matchup will give us a slight preview of what’s to come at NCAAs, where the Golden Bears and Sun Devils will be battling at the top.

The women’s side of the meet won’t be nearly as competitive, with #9 Cal being the heavy favorites against an unranked ASU team. That being said, there are still women’s narratives to look out for as well. Lindsay Looney has been the star of the ASU women so far this year and will continue to build upon her junior year campaign, while Cal will try to maintain their undefeated dual meet record in their first season under Dave Durden.

Because of its high stakes, SwimSwam will be live recapping this meet when it happens on January 21st, at 2:00 PM EST.

Hugo Gonzalez‘s Return and Hubert Kos‘ Debut

Two major names will be swimming their first meets of the 2023-23 NCAA season this weekend: Cal fifth-year Hugo Gonzalez and ASU freshman Hubert Kos. While it’s important to note that this competition won’t be the very first one of the season for both swimmers, as Cal swims Arizona and ASU swims Stanford on Friday, it’s still going to be a good indicator of their early-season form.

Besides making their season debuts this weekend, Gonzalez and Kos have one more thing in common: they are both “X-factors” of their respective team. Gonzalez is the defending NCAA champion in the 400 IM and scored 41 individual points for the Golden Bears last year (the third-most on his team). During the beginning of this year’s NCAA season, he was talked about as the missing piece that would push Cal over the top and cement them as clear favorites to repeat for the national title over rivals like Texas. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this meet—especially against Leon Marchand, his biggest threat towards defending the 400 IM national title.

Kos, on the other hand, is a hyper-versatile freshman hailing from Hungary. The 19-year-old European Champion comes in with converted times of 1:38.42 in the 200 back, 44.55 in the 100 fly, 1:41.58 in the 200 fly, 1:39.74 in the 200 IM, and 3:37.14 in the 400 IM. If he’s able to convert his long course success in to yards, he could bring an extra 40-50 NCAA points to ASU, which could be what turns the Sun Devils from a fifth or sixth-place team to one of the top contenders. This meet will give us a sense of how well Kos is adjusting to the college swimming scene, how he’ll fare against some of his biggest rivals (Dare Rose, Destin Lasco, and Gonzalez to name a few), and what events he’ll be focusing on for NCAAs.

Can Leon Marchand Keep His Unbeaten Streak Alive?

One of this season’s biggest narratives has been the swimmers from top 25 programs that are undefeated individually. After Kacper Stokowski finished third in the 100 fly and eighth in the 200 free at NC State’s dual meet vs. Duke last week, Leon Marchand remains the only male swimmer that has yet to lose an individual race this season. That being said, he’s going to face some of his toughest competition yet against the defending national champs, and potentially his own teammates.

With Marchand being extremely versatile, there’s a chance Bob Bowman opts to place him in an “off event”, and he’s going to have at least one rival in almost any of the events he swims. In sprint freestyle, he could fall prey to Bjorn Seeliger, the second-fastest performer of all-time in the 50 and 100 free, as well as some of his own teammates like Jack Dolan, Max McCusker, and Grant House. In breaststroke, he could be put up against Reece Whitley, who is a better 100 breaststroker than him and just 0.31 seconds off his best 200 breast time. In fly, he’s facing a plethora of fast-rising talent like Gabriel Jett and Dare Rose, as well as his teammates Kos and Alex Colson. In IM, he’s up against House, Jason Louser, NCAA 200 IM runner-up Destin Lasco, and Gonzalez—the only man to beat him at NCAAs last year. And finally, backstroke is Marchand’s worst stroke, so if he ends up swimming it, there’s a good chance that a member of Cal’s deep backstroke group will overtake him.

If Marchand manages to get over the hurdle of the Cal men, he’s likely to go undefeated for in-season competition, and all eyes will be on him to maintain the streak come time for the championship meets.

The Champs And Their Rising Threat

For the last ten years, the narrative surrounding men’s NCAAs has always been Texas vs. Cal this, Texas vs. Cal that, etc. etc. But this year, when we scored the times from the 2022-23 NCAA season up until midseason invites, we found that ASU actually had the most points. In fact, ASU outperformed Cal in both individual events and relays, with ASU scoring 190.5 individual points and 174 relay points while Cal had 167.5 individual points and 162 relay points.

That being said, there were many variables that gave ASU the edge at midseasons, such as Texas stars like Carson Foster, Caspar Corbeau, and David Johnston not being present at their midseason invite, and Gonzalez not showing up for Cal until spring semester. In addition, Texas and Cal are known for not showing their cards until NCAAs, so they might not be at maximum potential at this point in the season.

Even so, this meet is a good test to see whether ASU is truly capable of breaking the top-two chokehold that Texas and Cal have had over the NCAA for the last decade. Dual meet scoring is an added plus, since the emphasis on depth plays in Cal’s favor—if ASU can keep things close in this situation, it’s a good sign come time for Pac-12s and NCAAs.

Both Women’s Teams Are Developing And Rebuilding

While the stakes are higher on the men’s side of this meet, it’s worth noting that both women’s teams have something in common: their struggles contrast with the upward trajectories of their mens’ teams.

The troubles of the Cal women have gained more spotlight—they recently went through a big coaching change when Teri McKeever was placed on administrative leave for allegations of abuse, and Dave Durden had to step in as the new head coach. To rub more salt into the wound, they recently lost their best swimmer, Isabel Ivey, to Florida.

Despite losses and outside-the-pool drama, the Cal women have been faring decently this season, considering they were second by only 20 points to #2-ranked Texas in unofficial scoring at the Minnesota Invite and have seen solid performances from stars like Isabelle Stadden, Lea Polonsky, Rachel Klinker, and Ayla Spitz. In fact, if NCAAs was scored based on times from the first half of the season, Cal would have finished sixth—higher than their eighth-place finish from NCAAs last year.

However, the ASU women haven’t seen as much success in the pool—both compared to the Cal women and the ASU women. After losing two of their best swimmers, Erica Laning and Emma Nordin, the Sun Devils are currently 1-6, only recently earning their first dual meet win in a long course battle against Washington State. Right now, Linsday Looney is leading this team with the #4 ranked time in the NCAA for the 200 fly and the #12 time in the 500 free, but other swimmers like Charli Brown, who is ranked 16th in the 400 IM, could also play a part in ASU’s rebuilding campaign.

Cal should beat ASU handily here, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any good races. One matchup to watch will be the 200 fly, where Looney and Klinker will face off against each other. While Klinker is an NCAA ‘A’ finalist in the event and holds a personal best of 1:52.19 compared to Looney’s 1:53.25, Looney has more momentum right now with a season-best of 1:53.42 compared to Klinker’s 1:54.44.

Relay Check-In

Amongst the most competitive races of this meet will be the relays—the 200 medley and 400 free relays in particular if this competition is held in traditional, dual meet format. At NCAAs last year, Cal beat ASU by 0.56 seconds in the 200 medley relay, largely by virtue of Bjorn Seeliger‘s fastest-ever 50 back leadoff. The two teams are pretty much even at this point in the season, but Seeliger wasn’t at his best at invites (his PB in the 50 back is 0.65 seconds faster than his midseasons time)—him in peak form would probably put Cal over the edge. That being said, if all of ASU’s relatively consistent relay legs improve just a few tenths, it could be enough to match the advantage that Seeliger gives Cal.

The 400 free relay is where things will get very close between ASU and Cal. Last year at Pac-12s, Cal beat ASU by just 0.01 of a second, while ASU was 0.02 seconds faster than Cal at NCAAs. This year, ASU’s season-best is significantly faster than Cal’s but it’s also important to note that Cal didn’t use Seeliger, their best sprinter, on their ‘A’ relay. Look for this relay to be an extremely close one between the two teams once again.

Since this is a dual meet, neither team will be in peak form anyways, but the relays are still a good gauge of who will have the upper hand at Pac-12s and NCAAs.

Cal vs. ASU Men’s Relays, 2022-23 Season:

Cal, 200 medley relay ASU, 200 medley relay Cal, 400 free relay ASU, 400 free relay
Bjorn Seeliger — 20.73 Jack Dolan — 20.86 Jack Alexy — 42.50 Max McCusker — 42.51
Liam Bell — 23.20 John Heaphy — 23.73 Robin Hanson — 42.37 Grant House — 41.83
Dare Rose — 20.06 Max McCusker — 19.81 Matt Jensen — 42.02 Leon Marchand — 42.08
Jack Alexy — 18.86 Grant House — 18.57 Destin Lasco — 41.74 Patrick Sammon — 41.51
1:22.84 1:22.97 2:48.63 2:47.93

On the women’s side, Cal is around four seconds faster than ASU in the 200 medley relay but just 0.45 seconds ahead in the 400 free relay—which means the latter race come down to just a few strokes.

Cal vs. ASU Women’s Relays, 2022-23 Season:

Cal, 400 free relay ASU, 400 free relay
Isabelle Stadden — 48.87 Charli Brown — 49.15
Emma Davidson — 48.98 Linsday Looney — 48.69
Ella Mazurek — 49.18 Ieva Maluka — 49.29
Eloise Riley — 47.95 Erin Milligan — 48.30
3:14.98 3:15.43

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Swim fan
6 days ago

Is grant house eligible? If so can someone explain how he is, bro was a freshman like 6 years ago.

1650 Onetrick
Reply to  Swim fan
6 days ago

Some combo of redshirting and the free covid year

Reply to  1650 Onetrick
5 days ago

Plus he had taken a Olympic redshirt to train to try for Tokyo and then in a subsequent the entire ASU squad redshirted. He actually hasn’t gotten more opportunities to compete than anyone else.

Reply to  Swim fan
6 days ago

He is daddy. That is all 1:31 in a dual meet so sick

6 days ago

ASU will crush cal, and we’re gonna have to deal with “asu winning NCAAs” storylines which everyone knows is impossible as top 2 is untouchable and no way ASU beats Florida. They would need to be firing on all cylinders to beat NC state and finish 4th imo (NC state could slip to #6 if they’re not careful)

Reply to  Andrew
6 days ago

So you’re saying Cal – Texas – Florida – ASU?

Reply to  RealSlimThomas
6 days ago

precisely. although asu can get 3 if they are absolutely lights out AND Florida has a few off swims. asu finishing 3rd is doubtful though, being realistic

Reply to  Andrew
5 days ago

Quite the expert.

6 days ago

Does anyone know if Zalan Sarkany is starting for ASU yet? Super underrated distance swimmer also from Hungary committed to ASU, would expect that he arrived same time as Kos…

Reply to  25Back
6 days ago

Indications are that he will join. We’ll see for sure though…

Foreign Embassy
Reply to  25Back
5 days ago

Yes. He is swimming. Just checked results on meet mobile. Won the 1000 in 8:50

6 days ago

Believe the Bears are splitting the squad this weekend – 1/2 of group in AZ with the others down at UCSD.

Luis Vargas
6 days ago

Forks up!

Manic Monday
6 days ago

ASU will suit up based on Bowman’s latest interview, Durden not suiting his guys up. The meet may be close, but if ASU wins in suits while Cal swims straight up…doesn’t really mean much. Cal will be fine come NCAA’s.

6 days ago

Excellent work-up, Yanyan Li.

I’m just hoping ASU Men don’t look past Stanford, who they handled pretty easily at their fall invite (both at NC State’s affair). it seemed Stanford was simply a bit off for some reason at that event. If they are in good form now, the return of Minakov, and a diving advantage exemplified by Jack Ryan (2nd on 1M and 3rd on 3M at Pac-12 last year) could make a huge difference in that meet, even before we get to Cal.

Reply to  dscott
6 days ago

Stanford absolutely clapped them in the duel meet last year btw

6 days ago

ASU will destroy cal extremely hard.

We are supposed to act interested when an untapered Cal would probably lose to some mid majors, and we all know this.

Cal swims fast once a year

Reply to  Andrew
6 days ago

My thoughts are the same. The meet won’t live up to the hype

Reply to  Taa
6 days ago

Takes a lot of energy for you guys to make up your minds so negatively, “extremely hard” before the meet even comes.

You may be right, but it seemed to me that Cal put at least a little effort into the Minnesota Invitational(where swimming head to head against Texas), especially on relays where their swims put them on the top of the heap in the 400 Medley Relay, 2nd in the 200 Medley Relay, 3rd in the 4×200 (with a 1:30.79 Lesco anchor, trying to chase down Carson Foster’s 1:30.75). I expect the pride of a Team National Champion to produce some highly competitive swims from the Bears against the upstarts who went by them in the CSCAA dual… Read more »

Reply to  dscott
6 days ago

asu is suiting up for this meet while cal might be running split squad lol (look at their schedule, no way the guys going to UCSD make it to Tempe the next day)

does this change your mind on the supposed result of the meet? i think some high level mid majors suited up would be able to beat Cal’s split squad in briefs

Reply to  Andrew
6 days ago

Its been agreed that both teams will suit up so forget the briefs excuse.
And do you think that Cal will send any of their best swimmers to UCSD who they can beat without a problem ( being a mid major team even if they are suited).
No the swimmers going to UCSD will be their non travelling Roster swimmers given there are 39 students on the Roster and the better/best swimmers will be in Tuscon and Tempe. However if I am wrong and they do split the teams evenly then isnt it,to say the least, disrepectful to UA and ASU.
And if I was one of the better swimmers and going to UCSD, I would be… Read more »

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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