There was a smidgen of nervousness in the Tempe air Saturday morning, but it was justified.
When the reigning women’s national champion Stanford came to the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, the Sun Devils knew exactly what they were going up against: an Olympic medalist, United States National Team members, high school state champions; all composing a storied powerhouse.
Although, ASU swimmers can boast the same in Olympic gold medalist junior Cierra Runge, the Sun Devils are working to build a reputation; the Cardinal’s reputation is a culture of excellence.
Goals headed into Saturday’s meet were centered around improvement, head coach Bob Bowman said after Friday’s dual vs. Cal. If swimmers could swim faster on Saturday, the meet vs. Stanford would be a success.
The nervousness was quickly replaced with excitement, junior Zach Poti led off the 200 medley relay just .04 seconds ahead of Cardinal senior Abrahm DeVine. As seniors Matt Anderson and Brad Zdroik pushed the Stanford A-relay ahead, sophomore Evan Carlson (ASU) eyed senior Cole Cogwell dive into the water nearly a full second ahead.
“Going into meets, I shouldn’t, but I look at my competition and what they’re doing, so I kind of knew I could beat the guy next to me,” Carlson said.
Carlson hit the water with a solid start, passing Cogwell at the flip turn to take the lead and the win for the Sun Devils.
The Devils picked up valuable wins in backstroke events: for the second time this season, Poti won both the 100 and 200 backstroke in a single meet. Both wins chalked him NCAA B-cuts, ones he attainted earlier this season.
Just a few minutes after his come-from-behind performance in the freestyle leg of the medley relay, Evan Carlson was slated to take on Cogswell again in the 50 freestyle. After the first 25, Brad Zdroik of Stanford seemed to have the lead by a hair. Evan Carlson zoomed past him to finish in 19.86 seconds, the only swimmer in the field under 20 seconds.
The third place spot proved to be a dogfight as well, sophomore Carter Swift was neck and neck with Cole Cogswell until Swift pulled ahead with a few yards to go. Swift beat out Cogswell by .07 seconds at the wall. A 1stand 3rdpodium finish for the Devils.
In the 100 freestyle, ASU saw similar success from Carter Swift, as he held the lead for the entirety of the race. Swift finished in 43.76 seconds, an NCAA B-cut, followed by sophomore Grant House in 2nd.
With highs came lows: Stanford men swept ASU in the 1000 freestyle, 100 breastroke, 200 breaststroke, 500 freestyle, and the 400 IM.
Senior Fanny Teijonsalo elaborated on the strength of Stanford:
“It’s really cool to see how fast they are, and that yes they’re fast, but they’re not superhuman,” he said. “[Coach] Bob [Bowman] told us Thursday, ‘Yeah they’re amazing but they don’t have three arms.’”
Teijonsalo, a transfer from Florida Gulf Coast University, ended her last meet in Tempe with the second leg on the 400 freestyle relay. Canadian Olympian freshman Taylor Ruck led off the Stanford relay ahead of ASU, and the lead never left the lane. ASU finished in 3:25.01, a time they’ll look to improve upon before heading to Tucson on February 9th for their final dual meet of the season.
The Territorial Cup matchup has one serious implication for both sides: bragging rights. There’s no seeding system, and most swimmers already know where they’ll stand come conference time.
But that doesn’t mean ASU isn’t hungry: Fanny Teijonsalo explained:
“Honestly, I think all of us just really want to beat them, and that everyone’s set on doing their very best and stepping up and finishing first,” she said.
With their sights set on Tucson, Saturday’s meet was not a failure by any means. The men fell 176.5-121.5; the women 198-96, but coming off a meet against a top ranked team less than 24 hours before, improvement was the main goal.
“I asked everybody over there to raise their hand if they did something faster today than yesterday, and it was probably three quarters of them… usually it’s almost none in these back-to-back meets,” Bowman said.
Bowman also told media that Saturday marked a first for ASU:
“I don’t know the last time ASU beat Stanford men in a relay, or two relays, but it’s decades. It’s a very long time, so that’s a very good thing for us,” he said.
If the goal was improvement, the Devils won in their loss to Stanford.