Stacked Bears Look to Avenge Last Year's Loss to Wildcats

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Though it ended up only being a minor setback in an otherwise extraordinary season, losing to Arizona at home left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Cal men's swimming team.

This weekend, the Bears will get a chance to return the favor.

No. 4 Cal opens up its Pac-10 season with a pair of dual meets at Arizona and Arizona State. The Bears square off with the Sun Devils today at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe, Ariz., a matchup Cal should dominate.

The real test will come on Saturday at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center in Tucson, Ariz. The Bears will get a shot at redemption against the No. 2 Wildcats, a contest that Arizona has won in each of the past four seasons.

"This is the first time that we're competing together as a group, so it will be nice to finally get that underway," coach David Durden said.

Last January, the No. 3 Wildcats mounted a comeback to spoil No. 4 Cal's senior day in Berkeley.

After the 100 freestyle, the Bears held a commanding 103-64 lead. Arizona then took control of the meet and started chipping into that deficit, highlighted by 1-2-3 finishes in both the 100 butterfly and the 400 individual medley.

The Wildcats capped off the meet with an exclamation point, breaking the Spieker Aquatics Complex record in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:19.21, securing the 157-141 victory.

Durden chose to keep Tom Shields out of the 100 butterfly, an event in which he would go on to win an NCAA title, in order to give the freshman more experience in other events. Putting Shields in the race might have prevented a comeback.

"I'm telling my guys that I'm not going to screw it up this time," Durden said.

The final score at this weekend's matchup could be even closer. Both schools are favorites to take the NCAA title in March, and collectively feature four defending national champions and several current national leaders.

Cal's Nathan Adrian has the fastest collegiate 50 free time this season at 19.05. Arizona's Adam Small isn't far off, having posted a time of 19.32.

Similarly, Shields has the top 100 butterfly time in the nation with a 45.33. The Wildcats' Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or clocks in right behind him with a 46.44 to rank second.

But Arizona's real strength doesn't necessarily reside with its top swimmers, but rather in the team's depth and versatility, as well as its youth.

"They probably have one of the most talented freshman classes as a whole," Durden said.

That isn't to say Cal doesn't have some talented young athletes. The Bears are looking for a big season from highly touted freshman Marcin Tarczynski. The Poland native boasts an impressive 47.60 in the 100-meter freestyle.

"In a high intensity meet, you're going to get a mixed bag with that," Durden said. "There will be some great swims and some freshman mistakes."


Connor Byrne covers men's swimming. Contact him at [email protected]

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