In the fall of 2013, when the Utah Utes beat Arizona at home, it was termed by most, including us, an upset. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, as part of a tri-meet with UNLV, the 64-point margin for the Utah men became a streak.
The final scores on the men’s side:
- Utah 187 – Arizona 113
- Utah 192 – UNLV 102
- Arizona 172 – UNLV – 126
The other side of this meet told a very different story. Even with a small roster, the Arizona women handled business and took a 210-90 win over Utah and a 232.50-66.50 win over UNLV.
Utah easily beat the hosts on the third leg. The full scores:
- Arizona 210 – Utah 90
- Arizona 232.50 – UNLV – 66.50
- Utah 208 – 91
The Rebels played the neutral-site host to what became a very heated affair last year in Salt Lake city. While UNLV isn’t sea-level, at only around 2,000 feet in elevation, it’s situated below the elevations of both Tucson and Salt Lake City, making it a level playing-field for all three teams.
The men’s side was the big rematch from last year, and this season they were racing in a neutral pool, but the Utes again won.
The absence of Kevin Cordes hurt Arizona big in one event: the men’s 200 breaststroke. Without the defending NCAA Champion, Arizona’s Andrew Sovero was just the 5th-highest finisher in 2:06.95, behind a Utah 1-2 from freshmen Ganem Tebet (2:03.00) and Jack Burton (2:03.90).
The Wildcats, however, weren’t as badly dinged in the other two events that Cordes would have entered, as Sovero performed very well in the sprint events. In the individual 100 breaststroke, he was a 55.39 for the victory. That’s a great swim for the young junior, and while it’s not his season-best, it’s still faster than any pre-mid-season-taper time that he swam last season.
Utah’s Burton was 2nd in that race, but was well back in 56.84, and UNLV’s Boris Kulizhnikov was 3rd in 57.86.
Similarly, in the 200 medley relay, Sovero was the leg that made the difference in a 1:30.10 winning effort. He split 24.51 on the breaststroke and combined with Michael Meyer (23.81 – backstroke), Renny Richmond (22.17 – fly), and defending NCAA 50 free champion Brad Tandy (19.61) to beat UNLV by four-tenths, and Utah by nine-tenths. The Utes, didn’t match up their star Nick Soedel against Tandy in that race, or that could’ve been a drag-out finish to the last fingernail.
Soedel instead swam three individual events and took three big wins. First came the 200 free, where he was a 1:39.39 to beat out UNLV’s Balint Batka (1:40.86) and Tom Paco-Pedroni (1:40.95). Arizona’s top finisher was Thane Maudslien in 4th with a 1:41.23.
Next up came the big showdown, where the each of the three teams’ highest-profile swimmers have their best event. Soedel from Utah, Tandy from Arizona, and Dillon Virva from UNLV went toe-to-toe-to-toe, and it was Soedel who again came away with the victory. He was a 20.03, followed by Tandy’s 20.14 and Virva’s 20.30.
While the times were good, they weren’t great with already 6 swimmers nation-wide under 20 seconds this season. But the focus for that race wasn’t times as much as it was a battle between three swimmers who all could wind up on top of the podium in March.
Finally, in the men’s 100 free (which Virva didn’t swim), Soedel picked up his 3rd individual victory of the day, swimming a 44.03. Even though Virva didn’t swim this race, his teammate Tom Paco-Pedroni, who could turn out to be the under-heralded hero for the Rebels this season, took 2nd in 44.61, and Tandy was 3rd in 45.21.
All three also swam the 200 free relay at meet’s end. Arizona won that relay in 21.57, which included a Brad Tandy 20.04 leadoff. Soedel was a 19.33 on Utah’s second leg, as they swam to 1:21.77, and Virva was a 20.60 leadoff for UNLV, whose total time was 1:21.89.
Besides Cordes, Arizona was without honorable-mention All-American Andrew Porter, but it’s not clear even those two standouts would’ve made the difference. for an Arizona team that lacks the depth of prior years. That depth was hurt even more recently with Chris Webb and Andrew Solis no longer listed on the Wildcats’ roster.
Simultaneously, the Utah men swam very well in big spots. Kristian Kron took two individual wins. The first came in the 200 backstroke, where he combined a 1:47.34 with Brandon Deckard’s 1:48.87 for a Utah 1-2 finish ahead of Arizona’s Michael Meyer (1:49.87). Meyer is a better 200 butterflier and IM’er than 200 backstroker, but so far this season he hasn’t swum any butterfly races and has instead focused on the backstrokes – which is where Arizona used him on their winning medley relay.
Kron won again in the 200 IM with a 1:50.95, beating out Meyer in 1:51.86.
Another double-winner for Utah was Bence Kiraly, who won the 1000 free by more than 12 seconds in 9:16.98. He won by almost an identical margin of 12.3 seconds later in the 500 free when he swam a 4:22.72 (part of a Utah 1-2-3).
The Rebels, with home pool advantage, also had a very good meet that included a 100 backstroke win from Henrique Machado in 48.94 – keeping Kron (49.48) from a third individual win.
Arizona has another big meet coming up in two weeks, as they’ll race next on the road against USC on November 15th. The Utah men will swim next weekend at home against Colorado Mesa before settling in to prepare for the Texas Invite from December 4th-6th. UNLV has back-to-back duals next weekend as they continue their early-season home-stand with Denver on Friday and BYU on Saturday.
The women’s meet went handily to the Arizona women, who got big contributions from both their established veterans as well as the young core that will be the nucleus of the future for a program that has bright hopes for the future with a great recruiting class this fall.
The meet began with a 1:41.92 win for the Wildcats in the 200 medley relay. A combination of Bonnie Brandon, Emma Schoettmer, Katja Hajdrinjak, and Taylor Schick earned the victory, including an impressive 22.5 anchor from Schick.
The Wildcats over the course of the season will probably prove stronger in the 400 medley than in this sprint event, but they still won that race by almost two seconds over the Utes’ ‘A’.
Among the big swims for the Utes after that were a combined three event victories from members of Arizona’s sophomore class. That’s a class with only three swimmers, but a class that is developing very well for this program even without much national name recognition yet.
Slovenian Tjasa Oder started her day with a win in the 1000 free, swimming a 9:52.17. That put her 24-seconds clear of the second-fastest swimmer, and the final time is 11 seconds better than she was against Wisconsin a month ago in her last swim.
Oder later added a 4:50.83 to win the women’s 500 free.
The 3rd win came from Sara Borendame in the women’s 100 breaststroke, who was a 1:02.94 to just out-touch her teammate Emma Schoettmer (1:02.99). The two split their aces almost identically, which meant both were able to pull away on the back-half from one of Utah’s best: Stina Colleou. Colleou turned half-way in a dead-heat with her competitors, but ultimately fell slightly behind to take 3rd in 1:03.47.
While Borendame took a small upset in the 100 breaststroke over her All-American teammate Schoettmer, the latter didn’t let the same happen in her best event: the 200 breast. The same three swimmers were once again in a dead-heat until the last 50 yards, where this time Schoettmer just had enough to take the win. The times went Schoettmer 2:15.10, Borendame 2:15.34, and Colleou 2:15.81.
Arizona junior Bonnie Brandon, expected to be the star of this team this year, took two individual event wins in the 100 yard backstroke (55.23) over Utah’s Megan Kawaguchi; and in the 100 yard free in 50.62 (just ahead of Utah’s Giuliana Gigliotti in 50.98). While those events are just slightly off of her preferred 200 back/200 free/500 free that she was entered in at NCAA’s last year, Brandon did what stars do: she stepped into races where the team had holes to fill, and won tough races.
In those three aforementioned races that Brandon usually swims come taper-time, her teammates gave the team big pickups as well. Freshman Cameron McHugh won the women’s 200 back in 1:59.50 – a two-second margin of victory over Utah’s Amanda Barrett (2:01.99). That’s the first time McHugh has been under two minutes in her brief college career.
In the 200 free, Taylor Schick won by a similar margin, swimming a 1:49.36, leading an Arizona 1-2-3. Schick coupled that victory with a 23.11 in the 50 free.
The Arizona women have a tough weekend coming up in two weeks with Pac-12 duals against UCLA and USC. That same weekend, the Utes will welcome in the 3rd-place team from last year’s NCAA Championship meet Cal. UNLV’s women, like their men, are scheduled next weekend for home duals against Denver and BYU.
Meet results (in the live format) are available here. A full results link will be updated when received.