No. 1 Cal Squad Looks for First Big Splash Victory Since 2005

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Though it will go down as just another dual meet in a season solely focused on success in March, the Cal men's swimming team is treating its matchup with Stanford this weekend with a little more gravity.

The No. 1 Bears (4-0) will host No. 2 Stanford (6-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Spieker Aquatics Complex for the annual Big Splash.

Cal is coming off an impressive set of performances in which the team swept No. 7 USC and Cal State Bakersfield in consecutive days. The Cardinal, however, did just the same, only with more lopsided scores.

"You just go up and down their (Stanford's) lineup, and they just have great athletes across the board," coach David Durden said. "Pretty much every guy has huge accolades behind his name."

In 2010, the matchup between the two schools was decided by the last event, the 400-yard freestyle relay. Then No. 2 Stanford took the race, and grinded out a 123.50-119.50 victory over the then No. 4 Bears.

"If we had just handled the day better, we would have won," sophomore Tom Shields said. "We know that now, and we're just more mature as athletes."

The Cardinal is arguably the strongest team in the nation in dual meets, and boast a plethora of swimmers ranked in the top 10 nationally in their events. Stanford's Chad La Tourette is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in both the 1650 and 1000 freestyle, and is considered to be one of the top distance swimmers in the world.

One event that could be crucial in determining the outcome on Saturday is the 100 butterfly, which will feature the past two national champions in the event. Stanford's Austin Staab won the title in 2009, but was dethroned by Shields in 2010.

"We know we've got a huge challenge on our hands," Durden said. "Our horses have to just get in there and step up and win events."

Cal will spend its last home meet of the 2011 season looking to take down the Cardinal for the first time since 2005. Add the fact that it's against rival Stanford and that the Pac-10 championships are less than half a month away means it will be an intense environment.

But the Bears plan on feeding off that emotion, and hope to use it to increase their focus on the task at hand.

"We've just been going through the motions for so long," Shields said. "It's time to get out the rally monkeys and just go for it."

In a meet that will likely be decided by the outcome of a handful of events, Durden said that he will be swimming his strongest lineup, the same that he will likely swim at the Pac-10s and NCAAs.

"I think whoever wins this will have the swag going into Pac-10s," Shields said. "We want that momentum."


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

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