It’s not just about always swimming personal bests, it’s also about when you swim that personal best.
A swimming season can often be broken down into three parts: pre-season, in-season and championship season. Pre-season typically starts with low-stakes competitions when swimmers are starting to ramp up practice intensity again. In-season is the duration of time up until the Pac-12 Championships and more importantly, the NCAA Championships in late March. As the name suggests, both these meets highlight championship season.
Currently, Cal men’s swim and dive is in the thick of in-season swimming, a time when the team is cranking out more yards per practice than at any other time of the year.
The logic is simple: batter your body now and gradually taper down yardage as championship season approaches so that your best performances coincide with the biggest competitions of the year. There would be no reason to be at your best when competitions hold no weight and then perform worse at meets that define the team’s season.
Does this excuse the 211-87 beating that the blue and gold received from Arizona State last week? Perhaps not, but the times from this past weekend may suggest tough practice conditions. Take Cal’s Dare Rose for example, who swam the 200 butterfly against the Sun Devils in a time of 1:46:44. Rose’s season best time is 1:41.01, the third fastest time in the NCAA this year.
Even Destin Lasco, who won the 200 backstroke event in 1:41:24, was a little over two seconds slower than his season-best time of 1:39:09. Being multiple seconds slower than your best time right now shows that Cal is swimming tired and unrested, and that may just be a good thing.
This Friday’s meet on Feb. 3 against USC at Spieker Aquatics will most likely show the same result as this past weekend’s meet, regardless of whether the blue and gold win or not. With less than a week in between competitions and practice trends unlikely to change, it’s not hard to envision that the Bears will continue to lag behind their season bests.
USC will certainly not be an easy team to defeat for the blue and gold either. The Trojans are currently 4-1 in their season, with their only loss also coming against Arizona State at the beginning of this season.
Still, Cal’s grueling in-season practices will most likely start to come down in intensity in the near future. With this being the second to last dual meet of the season and the last dual meet coming on February 18 against Stanford, there isn’t much time left before the Pac-12 Championships begin on March 1.
Should the team’s performances this time next month be similar to this past weekend’s, then the Bears will be in a world of hurt for championship season. But with Cal placing in either first or second in the NCAA Championships dating back to 2010, history suggests that betting against head coach Dave Durden and his plans for this squad may not be the smartest decision.