Coming off a decisive victory against Utah Saturday to close out the regular season, the USC men’s swimming team is poised to defend its Pac-12 conference championship crown.
The Utes (1-7, 0-3 Pac-12) were up against a tough opponent in the Trojans (9-1, 4-1), who had only dropped one dual meet coming into the weekend. It may have been Senior Night in Salt Lake City, but it turned out to be USC’s crop of young stars who owned the day.
Sophomore standout Ralf Tribuntsov led the charge for USC, winning both the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly to score huge point totals for his team. Before capturing victories in his solo events, he set the tone with a strong opening in the day’s first event: the 200-yard medley relay. Alongside a trio of talented freshmen, Carsten Vissering, Alex Velante and Kyle Grissom, Tribuntsov helped the Trojans to a winning time of 1:28:28.
“This is always a tough venue to compete in,” head coach Dave Salo said of the Ute Natatorium, Utah’s 43-year-old swim complex. “I’m really proud of the effort on the part of the freshmen again stepping up and racing hard … Ralf again held his own in the fly and back.”
Vissering followed his efforts in the relay with a razor-thin victory in the 100-yard breaststroke — his time of 55.42 was just 0.02 seconds faster than Utah sophomore Jack Burton. Trojan junior Steven Stumph finished third, helping his team’s overall point total.
Valente also won the 200-yard butterfly after being edged out by Tribuntsov’s “B”-cut (and USC’s season record) time in the 100-yard butterfly. USC senior captain Ted Singley followed closely behind, touching the wall just 0.08 seconds after Valente.
The Trojan freshmen continued to impress, as Grissom, Patrick Mulcare and Tim Wynter would win the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke, respectively. Stumph joined the party of USC’s first-place finishers with his win in the 200-yard breaststroke, and the Trojan quartet of Wynter, sophomore Jon Knox, Valente and junior Michael Domagala bookended the day with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
On the diving board, USC seniors Deon Reid and Collin Pollard placed second and third on the 1-meter, and senior Dashiell Enos notched USC’s top finish on the 3-meter.
With Saturday’s victory, the Trojans finish the regular season with just one blemish on their record: a November loss to now-17th ranked Arizona in Tucson. Incidentally, USC has beaten two teams currently ranked ahead of them: No. 2 California and No. 8 Stanford. Both of those victories came earlier this month at home in the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, and it’s a good bet that the Trojans will face off against both squads again in the Pac-12 Conference Championships.
With the regular season now concluded, the Trojans will focus all of their efforts to the postseason, where they hope to defend their title. The swimming championships will begin on Mar. 2 in Federal Way, Washington and the diving championships will take place Mar. 9-11.