When outcomes are determined by time and the season is long enough to face an opponent twice, there can be some creativity when it comes to meets. Not every matchup needs to have the same format, and specific meets can test an athlete’s abilities in a way they usually aren’t.
Cal men’s swimming will have its second and final nontraditional meet when it travels to Stanford for the Triple Distance Meet on Friday. The matchup will see athletes swim three different distances of an event, making swimmers compete in races outside their usual repertoire.
For each of the four strokes, athletes swim 50-, 100- and 200-yard races. The meet also includes a distance freestyle event group, where swimmers compete the 200, 500 and 1,000, and an individual medley event group, with 100, 200 and 400 yards.
The non-team-scoring event tests the versatility of individual athletes, much like September’s King of the Pool meet, which saw each athlete swim 100-yard events in each stroke and the individual medley. Longer distances test the endurance of sprinters, while shorter distances challenge swimmers who usually compete in longer races to pace themselves differently.
In last year’s Triple Distance Meet, the Bears took home five of the six titles, only losing the backstroke crown, which was swept by Leon MacAlister, now a senior at Stanford. Fans on both sides should keep an eye on the two-time Pac-12 champion and five-time All-American, who holds the Cardinal’s school record in both the 100 and 200 back.
Although four of Cal’s five winners last year are currently on the roster, the Bears may be looking for different names to take the baton. Graduate students Reece Whitley and Hugo Gonzalez won all three events in the breaststroke and individual medley, respectively, but the two have been scant in lineups this season. In his lone appearance this season, Whitley took the 200 breast against Utah, while Gonzalez has yet to appear in a race.
Sophomores Gabriel Jett and Robin Hanson will likely look to defend their titles in the distance free and sprint free, respectively. Mainstays in this season’s races thus far, the two can be expected to build upon their performances in 2021.
Although the blue and gold nearly swept the Triple Distance Meet last year, fans should anticipate a close match. The Bay Area rivals have more or less traded the Pac-12 crown for more than 40 years, and Stanford is the most competitive team Cal will have faced this season. Though perhaps not the best gauge, the Cardinal beat Utah by a larger margin than the Bears did when the Utes visited both schools last month, showing the blue and gold they should always be on their toes.
In Cal and Stanford’s last meeting, the Cardinal snapped the Bears’ streak of 20 consecutive dual meet victories and delivered Cal’s sole loss last season. To add to the meet’s significance, the close 153-141 contest concluded the regular season for both teams, setting the stage for the conference and national championships, both of which the Bears won.
As the Cardinal seek to show their February performance wasn’t a fluke and the Bears aim to cement their position as the best in the country, Friday’s meet will set the tone for the season. The Bay Area rivals enter the matchup both with something to prove — and a victory for either team would be significant.
Fans can watch the latest rendition of the battle of the Bay at the Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford on Friday at 2 p.m.