No. 1 Cal Looks to End Card's 29-Year Reign
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Category: Sports > Winter > Swimming (Men's)
All season long, the Cal men's swimming team has said its ultimate goal is to win the NCAA championship.
Though the Bears aren't losing sight of that, they wouldn't mind also being the first team in 29 years to dethrone Stanford as Pac-10 champion.
No. 1 Cal will travel this week to Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, Calif., for the Pac-10 Championships, a meet that the Cardinal have won every year dating back to 1981.
"The expectation is Stanford wins," senior Nathan Adrian said. "It's going to be a bit of an uphill battle for us to win."
The Bears dropped their last dual meet of the season to the undefeated No. 2 Cardinal. However, getting overlooked is something that Cal has gotten used to over the past three decades.
"We're always an underdog," coach Dave Durden said. "But it's not about how people perceive us; it's about taking an advantage of an opportunity to swim fast."
In 2010, the Bears initially fell behind in the early competition, trailing Stanford by 82 points after the second day, but still found a way to climb back. The team was in the lead after the third day, but ending up losing to the Cardinal by a mere 67.5 points to take second.
Cal benefitted from the championship meet format, one in which the top 24 finishers score points and each swimmer can swim up to three individual events and four relays. A dual meet only awards the top five swimmers, and each swimmer is limited to two individual swims and two relays.
The winner this week will likely finish with around 800 points, as opposed to the approximate 120 points required to take a dual meet.
"In a championship meet, you have time to crawl back into it," Durden said. "There's a lot more opportunity to correct your mistakes."
This year, the Bears are considered the favorite largely due to the depth of their lineup, something that is neutralized by dual meet formats.
"Compared to years past, we're a better dual meet team," Adrian said. "But our strength still remains in putting a lot of guys in the top eight."
The Bears won't quite be at full strength, as most of their top swimmers will be unshaven and partially rested, reserving that final boost for NCAAs.
"All year, our expectations, hopes and goals have been towards NCAAs," Adrian said. "We're not going to change anything now. You can think of this as a tune up for NCAAs."
Still, Cal realizes this will be its best shot in recent past at finally toppling Stanford, as the Bears boast their strongest team since finishing second in the NCAAs in 1986.
"Being so close so many times makes it that much sweeter when it eventually happens," Adrian said. "As long as it eventually happens."
Connor Byrne covers men's swimming. Contact him at [email protected]
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