Bears search for newts, Trojans and triumph

Imagine a beautiful Southern California afternoon, the sun painting moles on your back and the concrete scorching the soles of your feet. Imagine sweating in the heat, driven to exhaustion after hours of competition. Imagine striving for success with only half your team present.

That’s what Cal men’s swimming and diving aim to do on Friday, Feb. 4 as the team takes on USC and UCSD in two separate but important invitationals. Half the team will travel to the Uytengsu Aquatics Center in Los Angeles in hopes of beating the Trojans at home, while the other half will travel to San Diego to take on the Tritons at the Canyonview Aquatic Center. The following Saturday, the Bears will participate in the Triton Invitational hosted by UCSD.

Although both hosts aren’t nationally ranked, they remain a viable threat to the championship-seeking Bears. This is Cal’s first meeting with either team this season, but USC and UCSD faced off earlier this year in Los Angeles, with the Trojans sweeping 27 of 28 events and scoring 195.5 to the Tritons’ 65.5. Despite USC’s seemingly scary performance, comparing the numbers, Cal still has the edge. Looking at the performances of both teams in the 200 and 100 yard freestyle, the Trojans have always been a few seconds slower than the Bears; the margin shrinks to a fraction of a second for some events like the 100-yard breaststroke, but even then Cal posted faster times.

Friday’s invite against USC will be the Bears’ fourth Pac-12 meeting this season and the Trojans’ third. Both teams are undefeated inside and outside the conference with a clean 4-0 record, raising the stakes and further underscoring the need for both teams to win. UCSD’s only loss this season has been to the Trojans in what appears to be a momentary lapse in judgement, although the large loss margin suggests the team needs to do some intrinsic work.

Given the precedent set by head coach David Durden and this program over the past decade, success seems imminent for the Bears on both fronts. Just last month, the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association named Cal’s swimming and diving program a Scholar All-America team for the fall 2021 semester, marking the eighth time the Bears have been recognized. as such over the past nine semesters.

Cal also added former Auburn head coach David Marsh to its coaching arsenal, supplementing the team’s already impressive resume with a dozen more NCAA championships. Much like his players and staff, Marsh is displaying a talent unparalleled in the greater realm of the Pac-12. During his tenure at Auburn, Marsh won 17 SEC titles between the men’s and women’s programs, and last year he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Marsh has a lot of experience on the international stage, serving as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team in 2016, assisting on the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team in 1996, 2000 and 2012, culminating in around 60 athletes who have studied under his wing and have prospered.

It comes after assistant coach Chase Kreitler temporarily stepped down while on paternity leave, allowing Marsh to help the team for the rest of the season in his place.

Last week was momentous for the Bears, and this week will be too. Imagine adding an in-house renowned coach to your program. Imagine you’re looking for two wins on the road with your team at mid-strength. Imagine the pressure. Imagine the need. It’s Cal’s men’s swim and dive, and that’s how they win regardless.

Cynthia Ge covers men’s swimming and diving. Contact her at [email protected].

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