On Friday afternoon, the Avery Aquatic Center will come alive for Stanford men’s swimming and diving’s first dual meet of the season. The Cardinal will face No. 25 Wisconsin as the Badgers set out on a two-meet Pac-12 road trip.
Last weekend Stanford dominated the competition at the two-day Pacific Invite in Stockton. Despite sitting out of day one on Friday, the Cardinal nearly managed to win the meet, sweeping each of Saturday’s nine events. On Friday, the team will look to build off of last week’s success.
“When we came back from the [UOP] meet, there were a lot of smiles,” said head coach Ted Knapp. “And I think that is an indication of their attitude at this point.”
Unlike an invitational, where the competition is spread out between several teams, the dual meet format triggers a much more personal and competitive dynamic, in which the focus is placed squarely on the team result rather than on individual times. The outcome of the meet regularly comes down to the final few events.
While the swimmers are certainly primarily concentrated on beating out the opposing team, competition is also heating up within the team itself.
“I’m looking for a lot of intra-team races,” Knapp said. “There are a couple of events where we’ve set it up so there’s some good intra-team rivalry.”
One such example will be the butterfly events, where freshman Gray Umbach barely came away with wins in both the 100 and 200 last weekend. In the 100 butterfly he beat out fellow freshman Tom Kremer by less than a second, and in the 200 he touched the wall just three-tenths of a second before senior Mack Montgomery.
Additionally, the sprint freestyle should be a tightly contested event, with senior Aaron Wayne leading the way, followed by senior Andrew Saeta and freshman Sean Duggan.
The most emotional events in any dual meet are the relays, which show the true team nature of swimming and often determine the outcome of the meet. The last relay this Friday will be the 4×200 freestyle and, according to Knapp, “there’s a lot of excitement amongst the sprinters about making that a pretty special relay.”
In a normal season, the Cardinal hardly ever faces a Big-10 team in a dual meet, so opening against Wisconsin is a rare opportunity and a chance for the team to get a glimpse at some of the country’s top competition not based in the Pac-12. Although the Badgers are currently 3-2 on the season and only 1-2 in conference, Wisconsin has historically been home to a strong swimming program.
In this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials, Badgers posted a number of strong performances, highlighted by Michael Weiss’ fifth-place finish in the 400-yard individual medley.
Still, Knapp believes Stanford has a strategic advantage because of the number of swimmers it has competing in multiple events.
“I think our depth is really going to showcase our success,” he said. “We have a very versatile team and about half the team could probably swim in five or six different events.”
After the Pacific Invite, Knapp stressed the importance of “continuing to get better every meet.”
Friday will be the first chance to do this.