Music inspires. Music elevates and provokes and empathizes. Music epitomizes.
So even though there is no official soundtrack to tell the story of Cal men’s swim and dive, perhaps this week — and this week only — can be encapsulated by “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift.
Because for the Bears, this is about redemption.
This Saturday, Spieker Aquatics Complex will open its doors once again as the Bears host the Cardinal in their regular-season closer. Not only does this last dual meet set the tone for the Pac-12 Championships, it also gives Cal a chance to right some past wrongs.
The last time these two conference rivals met, the Bears were riding on a streak of 20 consecutive dual meet victories, eager to swing into the postseason with momentum. Cal had the championship on its mind, not some small, seemingly insignificant matchup against a team who some would barely consider a threat. And maybe that’s why they lost: Stanford barely but surely squeaked by the Bears, winning 151-143 and becoming the only team in the Pac-12 to boast a perfect regular-season record of 7-0.
The Bears had their small victories, however. In their matchup last season, the blue and gold walked away with first place in eight of 16 events. Particularly impressive was then-sophomore Björn Seeliger, who found gold in both the 50 and 100 yard freestyle — events he later earned a silver medal for in the NCAA swimming championship that season.
Given the small winning margin and the Bears’ resounding success at the national championships, many may be quick to write off the results of last year’s Cal-Stanford meet as a fluke. After all, the Bears had no diving core, allowing Stanford to sweep both the 1-meter and 3-meter dive — that’s 32 uncontested points, and the Cardinal only won by 8. This season, the diving events will not be the difference between a win or a loss; after his stellar performance at Arizona State, freshman Joshua Thai looks to take the Bears’ diving program to a higher level — first against Stanford and then into the championship season.
Both Cal and Stanford are no longer undefeated this season; both teams suffered their only loss against No.1 ranked Arizona State: the Bears lost 87-211, and the Cardinal fell 114-186. Despite the Bears’ crushing defeat, they only trail the Sun Devils in the national rankings at No. 2 with 422 points. Stanford lies slightly lower in the rankings at No. 10.
A higher ranking does not give Cal the upper hand, however. If the Bears are not careful and history repeats itself, the underdog might just triumph again, and Cal would have to wait yet another year before a chance at redemption.
So to Stanford, Cal says: “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined.”