Every team needs a tone setter — someone willing to do something no one else will in order to send the message that losing is simply not an option.
In the 2008 men’s Olympic basketball final, Kobe Bryant had told the U.S. team beforehand that he was going to bulldoze through Pau Gasol after tipoff. Although Gasol played for Spain, he was also Bryant’s NBA teammate on the Lakers, and no one believed Bryant was going to do such a thing.
Sure enough, as Gasol sets a screen on the very first play of the game, Bryant runs straight into his chest with a lowered shoulder, knocking him onto his back and immediately getting called for a foul. According to Gasol, it was Bryant’s way of saying, “Hey this might be my brother, I play with him, we’re close, but I don’t care about anything else but winning.”
While Bryant may have set the tone through an act of sheer physical punishment, it was Cal swimmer Lucas Henveaux who sent a message with blistering speed through the water in the second event against USC. In his debut as a Bear, Henveaux swam the 1000 freestyle in 8:57.64, the 10th fastest time in the nation this season.
He joins the blue and gold roster as a graduate student from Belgium. Although it is rare to see such late additions to a team with Pac-12 championships coming up March 1, Henveaux gives Cal a much needed boost in the middle-to-long-distance freestyle events.
Prior to his arrival, freshman Matthew Chai was shouldering much of the load in these events, and Chai came in second in the 1000 freestyle with a time of 9:07.78. Together, they’ll hope to make waves as championship season rolls around next month.
It was clear that Henveaux’s swim got the ball rolling for the Cal team. As soon as he touched the wall, the eyes of all swimmers and spectators shot to the timing board.
It’s not everyday that you see the number eight show up in the 1000 freestyle, as breaking the nine-minute barrier is an incredibly difficult feat. This was exemplified by the hollers and cheers of his fellow teammates, who had all risen to their feet to watch the last few laps of the race.
From there, junior Destin Lasco had his usual strong showing, winning the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:35.27. The blue and gold ultimately cruised to a 171.5-124.5 victory over the Trojans, who fall to 4-3 on the season.
These performances will hopefully get Cal back on track after having suffered a lopsided defeat last weekend against Arizona State, who look to be strong contenders for the NCAA championship crown. The Bears will have one last tune-up meet against Stanford on Feb. 18 at Spieker Aquatics Complex before Pac-12 championships begin.
It will be at this meet and NCAA championships where setting a strong tone early will be more important than ever.