By Erin Greene
COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 7. HEADING into conference and national championship season, swimmers across the country are enjoying practices with minimal yardage, packing razors and trying on fast suits in preparation for the best swims of their lives. But Stanford's 153-146 win over Cal-Berkeley this past weekend reminded us that record-breaking swims can occur at any time of the year. All you need is a little school pride.
As if the heated rivalry between the two universities was not enough to create a high-pressure meet, both teams entered the meet ranked in the Top 3 with undefeated seasons. To add fuel to the fire, the No. 3 Bears brought a 21-meet winning streak to the pool, with their last defeat handed to them by none other than the No. 1 Cardinal.
Looking to set the table, the women of Cal took an early lead in the meet, to secure their spot at the 2007 NCAA Championships with an automatic qualifying and pool-record time of 1:38.36 in the 200-yard medley relay. That event set the tone for the meet, as the teams took turns guaranteeing their presence in Minnesota event after event.
In eight of the Cardinal's nine swimming victories, athletes guaranteed themselves a plane ticket to Minneapolis. But they didn't stop there. Stanford swimmers recorded an additional five automatic qualifying standards in non-winning events. Not to be outdone, California took home 10 ‘A' and two ‘B' times at the end of the day. But perhaps more impressive than the combined 24 automatic cuts swum during the dual meet is just that fact – They were swum during a dual meet!
While the swimming we will see throughout the month of March will no doubt amaze and inspire us, it will be no great surprise to see records fall and personal-best times set.
With arenas packed tight with screaming fans and swimmers competing at their peak in the world's fastest pools, to see anything less than awe-inspiring would be unthinkable.
But the ladies of Cal and Stanford did the amazing without any of those things.
Nobody but Jessica Hardy's teammates, perhaps with family and friends sprinkled throughout the crowd, cheered her on to a time faster than her winning performance in the 100-yard breaststroke at the 2006 NCAA Championships. Cardinal Elaine Breeden did not have two opportunities to clock 1:53.23 in the 200-yard butterfly – a time that is half a second faster than Mary DeScenza's NCAA gold-medal showing last year. Nor did she have a full day of rest before turning in another victory to come within .23 seconds of Misty Hyman's record, making Breeden the fastest Cardinal in dual-meet history in the 100-yard butterfly at 51.70.
Nothing but school spirit and pride fueled the Bears to another pool record in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:18.33) to make it their second for the day. The feat does not seem all that impressive until you remember the likes of Mary T. Meagher, Natalie Coughlin and Misty Hyman have churned those waters.
Without weeks of recovery from treacherous workouts, Stanford's Julia Smit took the 200-yard freestyle in her best time of 1:45.91. Cal's Emily Silver touched in second at 1:46.57 in what was also her personal-best time. Golden Bear Lauren Boyle swam not only her lifetime-best time, but an astonishing 4:43.24 to become the fastest swimmer both at the meet and in the nation.
At the end of the meet, California came within six points of avenging its loss to Stanford two seasons. But with broken down hairy legs, minimal spectators and a pool where the Bears pump out countless yards, the rival teams swam one of the fastest dual meets of our time – and all for bragging rights.
To contact Erin Greene about this story, please Click Here
If you wish your comment to be published, please note that in your e-mail.