By John Lohn
LONG BEACH, Calif. March 2. AND then, there was one. While the other major conferences have concluded their championship events, the PAC-10 is set to kick off its men’s championship weekend with the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays tonight. Stanford is seeking a 24th consecutive championship.
Ranked third in the latest version of the coaches’ poll, the Cardinal will be pushed by top-ranked California, eighth-ranked Arizona and ninth-rated Southern California. The meet should provide clearer indications of what to expect at the NCAA Championships later this month.
California is led by its dynamic duo of Duje Draganja and Michael Cavic. Draganja is the defending conference champ in the 50 and 100 freestyles while Cavic is looking for a repeat in the 100 butterfly. Stanford, meanwhile, boasts Jayme Cramer, the defending titlist in the 200 butterfly and Gary Marshall, a threat to sweep the breaststroke events.
For Arizona, Simon Burnett and Lyndon Ferns lead the way. Earlier this season, Burnett set an NCAA record in the 200 freestyle (1:32.22). Ferns, meanwhile, was a member of South Africa’s world-record setting and gold-medal winning 400 free relay from the Athens Olympics.
Southern Cal will score big in the distance events, thanks to the presence of Larsen Jensen and Ous Mellouli. Mellouli is the defending PAC-10 champ in the 500 and 1,650 freestyles and the 400 individual medley. As for Jensen, the sophomore did not compete during the second semester last year and trained for the Olympics, where he won silver in the 1,500 free and set an American record.