“We all want to beat Cal, because it’s Cal.”
That quote comes poolside from men’s swimming captain senior Danny Thomson, but echoes an age-old theme of Stanford sporting events against UC Berkeley. The rivalry continues this Saturday at noon at the Avery Aquatic Center, and this time the ball will fall in the court (er — pool) of No. 8 men’s swimming and diving to ride the rivalry’s momentum through the team’s last dual meet of the 2015-16 season.
“It’s exciting because the Cal meet falls at the end of our end of season, so historically it’s been really fast,” Thomson added. “You never know what’s going to happen,”
The team is coming off of its first loss of the season to No. 12 USC, leaving the Cardinal with a 5-1 record. However, despite the end result on the scoreboard, the team swam very well, posting season-bests and improving upon times from last year. The Cardinal will undoubtedly be competing at full intensity this weekend again. No. 2 Cal is certainly formidable competition and had been riding a 28-dual-meet winning streak until last weekend, when the Golden Bears suffered a one-point loss to USC.
Last year, Berkeley defeated Stanford 184.5-115.5, with the Stanford men winning only four events and relying heavily on sprint freestylers and diving to balance the Cardinal side of the scoreboard. However, the Cardinal have used last year’s standard of excellence as foundation for unprecedented growth.
Returning swimmers like Max Anderson, Curtis Ogren, Sam Perry and Liam Egan have demonstrated increasing leadership roles and experience levels this year. Meanwhile, freshman additions freestyler Cole Cogswell, backstroker Ryan Dudzinski and breaststroker Matt Anderson consistently put points on the board for individual events.
Head coach Ted Knapp regards the senior leadership, freshman enthusiasm and team’s depth across events as major contributions to the dynamism of this year’s team in particular.
Because this meet is the last home dual meet for the Cardinal before moving on to Pac-12 Championships, it will be the team’s Senior Day. Seniors Jeff Garnier, Connor Kuremsky, Danny Thomson, Gray Umbach, Sean Duggan, Ryan Arata and Christian Brown will all be honored at the event, making the meet all the more special for coaches and swimmers alike.
“It’s a little bittersweet — there’s a lot of things I’m going to miss about my team and the excitement of racing,” Thomson said. “While all that is said, it’s also really exciting because it’s my last chance to race in Avery on the varsity team against our biggest rivals.”
For Knapp, this senior class represents a special transition in the program.
“I recruited them as an assistant coach and I got to coach them as a head coach their freshman year and so I’m sure at some level there was a question mark when they found out that the head coach had retired,” he said. “These guys have done a marvelous job through that transition… and they are dead set on winning a Pac-12 Championship. That’s exciting to have that fire — that drive — because it’s an achievable goal.”
Contact Kit Ramgopal at kramgopa ‘at’ stanford.edu.