By Phillip Whitten
Federal Way, WA – As expected, 17-time defending champion Stanford and a resurgent Cal team battled for the lead, as the first day of competition ended at the Pac-10 Men’s Swimming Championships.
Stanford ended the day on top with 209 points followed by Cal with 197. USC was a strong third with 180.5, followed by Arizona State (89), Arizona (81) and Washington (62.5).
Despite strong performances from all its swimmers, the Cardinal won only one event, the evening’s final race, the 400 yard medley relay. Taking a commanding lead on the strength of Randall Bal’s leadoff backstroke leg (47.04), Stanford won in 3:10.61.
The Bears posted two victories. Anchored by Bart Kizierowski’s 18.99 leg, Cal took the 200 free relay in 1:17.53. Kizierowski, a Polish Olympian and defending NCAA champion, came back to win the 50 free in 19.36, leading a 1-2-3-5 Cal sweep of the sprint. Kizierowski was followed to the wall by freshman sensation Anthony Ervin (19.43) and soph Matt Macedo (19.67). Favored Roland Schoeman, a South African swimming for Arizona, was fourth in 19.76 (19.68p). Schoemann was ranked #1 in the world in the 50 meter free last year and has the season’s fastest time in the 50 this year, an NCAA record 19.07.
Ryk Neethling, another South African swimming for Arizona, took the 500 free in 4:14.05, the year’s fastest time. Stanford junior Adam Messner was second in a lifetime best 4:16.70. USC frosh Erik Vendt, expected to challenge Neethling for the title, could manage only a 4:20.87, good enough to win the consols, after he qualified ninth in morning prelims.
Arizona State junior Attila Czene, a Hungarian who was the 1996 Olympic champion in the 200 IM, captured his event in a blistering 1:44.08, breaking Dave Wharton’s Pac-10 record. Czene, who was declared eligible at mid-season, may challenge the world record in this event at the NCAA Championships. Second place went to Stanford’s Steven Brown (1:46.71), who found himself sandwiched between two Hungarians, as USC Tamas Kerekjarto finished third (1:47.06).