Three of the top six men’s swimming and diving teams in the country are set to compete at the USC McDonald’s Swim Stadium this weekend with regular-season bragging rights on the line. In this matchup of California schools, No. 3 Stanford (6-1), No. 5 USC (3-1) and No. 6 Cal (3-1) will have the chance to display some fast swims and also make a case for the Pac-12 to be the best men’s swimming and diving conference in the country.
Conference pride aside, Stanford’s main priority will be to bounce back from a close loss against No. 1 Arizona, another Pac-12 foe, two weekends ago. This Friday, Cal will square off against USC while Stanford will swim exhibition, meaning that the Cardinal’s swims will not be officially scored. The day after, it will be the Cardinal’s turn to battle the Trojans with Cal swimming exhibition. This means that Stanford will not officially compete against Cal at this quasi tri-meet. The much-anticipated matchup between the two cross-Bay rivals will not come until Feb. 18, the last meet before the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships.
Looking at the possible matchups against USC, the Cardinal’s strongest events also seem to be the Trojans’ forte. Both teams have already posted some speedy times earlier this season. In the 200 backstroke, Stanford has three of the eight fastest swimmers in the country, with freshman David Nolan leading the way. But the Trojans also have three top-12 swimmers in that event. One of them is junior co-captain Alex Lendrum, who owns the second-fastest time in the country—about a second faster than Nolan’s time.
The same scenario holds true for the 200 individual medley. Stanford has four swimmers in the top 12, but the fact that two USC swimmers have the third- and fourth-fastest times in the country may very well nullify the Cardinal’s strength in that event. Stanford’s best bet seems to be in the distance events, which have always been a consistent source of points for the team. In the 500 freestyle, Stanford has five of the nation’s top-10 fastest swimmers compared to USC’s two. In the 1650 freestyle, the duo of senior Chad La Tourette and freshman Bryan Offut has made it difficult for opponents to outscore Stanford in distance events. On top of that, veteran La Tourette is arguably the country’s most reliable distance swimmer in dual-meet situations—he hasn’t lost a dual-meet event since his freshman season.
Stanford may also be able to exploit USC’s weakness on the diving board. The Trojan diving squad consists of two freshmen and a junior competing in his first collegiate season. Cardinal freshman Kristian Ipsen will look to lead the way in capitalizing off USC’s inexperience. Ipsen is undefeated in the springboard events so far this season, often dominating his opponents by over 50 points. While Ipsen is not overlooking his collegiate dual meets, he is also preparing for bigger international meets at the same time. He’ll be competing in one of them, the London World Cup, starting on Feb. 20.
USC’s most powerful weapon may be sophomore Vladimir Morosov, the fastest sprinter in the country. As a freshman last year, Morosov was the 2011 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, a four-time All-American and a top-six finisher in both the 50 and 100 freestyles at the NCAA Championships. Morosov has continued to push down on the gas pedal this season, as he currently owns the country’s fastest times in the sprint events by absurd margins. Given that the Cardinal’s sprinting duo of junior Aaron Wayne and senior Geoff Cheah will at least push Morosov, there are bound to be some eye-popping times in the sprint events on Saturday.
Stanford will swim exhibition against USC and Cal at 2 p.m. on Friday and swim dual against USC at noon on Saturday. Both meets will be at USC.