The Stanford-Cal rivalry almost always inspires heightened intensity between the two teams. So when a couple of the top swim programs in the country happen to be the No. 1 Bears and the No. 7 Cardinal, any faceoff between the two is bound to lead to elevated competition and even greater excitement.
Coming off a strong team performance versus now-No. 10 USC, as well as having the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Week in senior Andrew Seliskar on its side, Cal will be aiming to continue its success Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Complex in its last meet before the Pac-12 Championships. The Bears will be also be honoring their senior class — which has proved itself to be the backbone of the team — as they close out the regular season.
“We have good leadership in that class and a lot of experiences from those guys in that particular class,” said Cal men’s head swimming coach Dave Durden. “We hit every distance, every stroke really well. A strength of ours is our depth. Our guys are ready to perform, and they bring that level of intention and focus to every day, not just this Saturday. That’s an obvious strength of ours as well.”
Seliskar is the apparent senior superstar to watch against Stanford, having won three events — the 200 freestyle, 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley — against the Trojans. Distance-wise, senior Nick Norman is one to look out for in his last season, after a school record-breaking third-place finish in the 1650 freestyle at the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Seniors David Puczkowski, Carson Sand, Ken Takahashi and Mike Thomas will also be closing out their regular season meet as Golden Bears.
While Cal is led by its upperclassmen, Stanford’s strengths seem to lie with its freshman class. A strong distance program under assistant coach Jeff Kostoff and a competitive diving program likely assure that the rivalry will be in full effect.
“(Stanford) has done a nice job of recruiting some really talented young athletes,” Durden said. “They have two freshmen, one in Daniel Roy who’s on the U.S. national team — as a high schooler he was on the U.S. national team — and another in Jack Levant, who’s on the world championship team. They obviously recruit a very high level of talent, and they have two of them in freshmen Jack Levant and Daniel Roy.”
Both Levant and Roy won their respective events — 200 and 500 freestyle for Levant, and 200-meter breaststroke for Roy — two weeks ago when the Cardinal also defeated the Trojans. Stanford also has two other Team USA members: distance swimmer junior True Sweetser and senior Abraham DeVine.
While it might seem like the Cardinal have a more star-studded roster, the Bears’ capacity to perform well across the board is what has kept them at the top spot in NCAA rankings. Racing in a swim meet might be a primarily individual sport, but winning an NCAA Championship is something that must be done as a team. Cal has proven its strength as a unit all season, and there’s no better way to lead into the Pac-12 Championships than with a win over its rival.