With students and alumni seemingly married to the notion of including “Big” in the name of every sporting event between Cal and Stanford — despite the existence of homonyms that might make such an inclusion questionable — the Bears find themselves competing in, yes, the “Big Meet” this Saturday in Palo Alto.
While the name exudes comedic potential (if only to 12-year-old boys and 21-year-old sportswriters in need of a lede), the event itself will be no joke. With several of the nation’s top athletes eager to make their best mark in the season’s biggest grudge match, Saturday will be a dramatic affair.
There will be no clear favorite at the outset of the men’s team battle, seeing as the No. 23 Stanford men sit just ahead of No. 26 Cal in the national standings. Last year, it was the Cardinal that walked away with an 85-75 win.
In last year’s installment of the Big Meet, Cal’s men were dominant in throws. Josh Johnson, Iffy Joyner and Ivar Moisander walked away with wins in the shot put, discus throw and both hammer and javelin throw, respectively. All three remain with the team this year, and if anything, one could expect the Bears to be even more dominant given the season that freshman Mykolas Alekna is having. Alekna, whose father is a two-time Olympic champion in discus throw, set the U-20 record and school record in that event this year.
While Cal holds a marked advantage in throws, Stanford happens to have perhaps the most potent trio of college distance runners in the country in Charles Hicks, Cole Sprout and Ky Robinson. Now with seven All-American accolades among them, the trio helped the Cardinal capture 29 of 32 possible points in last year’s distance events at the Big Meet. Garrett MacQuiddy was the lone Bear to keep a runner in red off the podium when he snagged second in the 1500-meter run. Small victories such as that will likely be the difference between victory and defeat at this year’s Big Meet, which promises to be a close contest.
On the women’s side, there is a more obvious favorite. The Cal women sit at No. 23 in the country, with Stanford coming in at No. 33. The Bears were victorious in the women’s team battle last year, winning 88-74.
Much like in the men’s contest, Cal took many of its points in the throws events. Krissy Smoot won both the shot put and the discus throw, while Camryn Rogers predictably won in hammer throw. The Bears’ relay teams were also key to the overall team victory, as the 4×100 and 4×400 teams each took first and thus all five points which were up for grabs in each of the relays.
Especially with the Cal 4×100 team having set a school record earlier this season, there’s no reason to expect the Bears to relinquish their titles at the 2022 installment of the Big Meet.
Also bearing resemblance to the men’s contest, many of the points earned by Stanford’s women came in the distance events. However, Mina Anglero — who nearly took third in last year’s running of the 800-meter race — and several other returners will be back to take podium spots from their competitors in red.
It’s finally time to settle the score. After getting looks at each other at a couple of meets over the course of the 2022 season, all will finally come to a head at the Big Meet. All bets are off when Cal arrives at Stanford’s Cobb Track and Angell Field.