No. 4 Cal Faces Tough Test in No. 7 USC

Feb. 1, 2005

BERKELEY, Calif. -

THIS WEEK:Fri., Feb. 4     USC     Berkeley, CA     1 p.m.

Fourth-ranked California hosts USC, now ranked seventh nationally after spending some time at the top spot, at 1 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 4, at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The Golden Bears, who did not compete last week, have a 7-0 record (2-0 Pac-10). They close the dual-meet season on Feb. 19 against Stanford.

Cal was ranked No. 4 in the latest CSCAA national polls.

The Bears have turned up the heat in the second half of the season. The return of senior Duje Draganja and junior Milorad Cavic in January has helped. Cal is again among the top relay schools in the nation, and Draganja and Cavic have swum on all of Cal's top relay teams except its 800 free relay. Cal has the fourth-best time in the 200 free relay (1:19.92, NCAA B), the second-best time in the 400 free relay (2:55.30, NCAA B), the 11th-best time in the 800 free relay (6:37.23, NCAA B) and the 10th-best times in both the 200 (1:29.38) and 400 (3:16.11, NCAA B) medley relays. All of those relay marks have come in 2005.

Last weekend at Arizona State, Draganja swam an automatic NCAA qualifying mark (19.73) in the 50-yard freestyle that is also the third-best time in the country. He also holds the nation's 10th-best time (47.88, NCAA B mark) in the 100 butterfly. In the 100 free, sophomore Rolandas Gimbutis (43.56, NCAA B), Draganja (43.70, NCAA B) and Cavic (43.78, NCAA B) have the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-best times, respectively, in the country. Junior Henrique Barbosa currently holds the third-best time (54.06, NCAA B) in the 100 breaststroke and the 12th-best time in the 200 breaststroke (1:58.91, NCAA B).

USC, on a break since a 160-128 dual-meet win over Cal State Bakersfield on Jan. 15, has a 4-1 dual-meet record (2-0 Pac-10). The Trojans' only loss was to No. 6 Michigan (145-117), a common opponent that Cal beat this season. Both teams have beaten the Arizona schools. USC outdid Cal at the Texas Invitational in December, taking third to Cal's fifth.

USC's star-studded roster boasts four 2004 Olympians including All-Americans Larsen Jensen, the 2004 U.S. Olympic silver medallist in the 1500-meter freestyle, and Ous Mellouli, a 2004 Tunisian Olympian and multiple Pac-10 champion. Jensen has the best time in the nation this season in the 1650-yard free (14.44.89). Mellouli, the 2004 Pac-10 champ in the 500- and 1650-yard freestyles and the 400-yard individual medley, has swum automatic NCAA qualifying times in the 200- (1:44.14) and 400-yard (3:41.32) IMs and in the 500 (4:15.43) and 1650 (15:00.26) frees.

Viktor Bodrogi (Hungary), who has USC's top 100 backstroke time (48.61, NCAA B) and Gergely Meszaros (Hungary), who holds USC's second-fastest 100 butterfly time (48.47, NCAA B), are the other two USC Olympians. Trojans coach Mark Schubert's staff includes assistant coach Vic Riggs, who was a second-team All-American for Cal in 1986. After facing Cal, the Trojans travel to the Peninsula to take on No. 2 Stanford on Saturday, Feb. 5.

California senior Duje Draganja won two events, and set an NCAA qualifying mark in the 50-yard freestyle, as the fourth-ranked Golden Bears defeated Arizona State, 149-125, on Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center in Tempe, Ariz. Cal won 10 out of 16 events to improve its dual-meet record to 7-0 (2-0 Pac-10).

Draganja won the 50 freestyle in a time of 19.73, Cal's best mark of the season in that event. The Croatian Olympian later won the 100-yard freestyle in an NCAA B qualifying time of 43.85, also Cal's best mark in that event this season. Sophomore teammate Daniel Lysaught likewise had an impressive day, winning the 1000 free (9:12.64) and the 500 free (4:29.95).

Other Cal winners included newcomer Dominik Meichtry, who won the 200 free (1:39.73), sophomore Patrick O'Neil, who won the 100 backstroke (50.84), junior Henrique Barbosa, who won the 100 breaststroke (55.91), freshman Louis Vayo, who won the 200 back (1:48.56) and junior Milorad Cavic, who won the 100 butterfly (49.12). Also, the Cal C team of Mark Eckert, Miguel Molina, Evan Lane and William Copeland won the 200 medley relay (1:30.18).

Dominik Meichtry, a freshman who swam the 200-meter free for Switzerland in the 2004 Athens Olympics, joined Cal this past week and debuted for the Bears in the Jan. 21 win at Arizona. The 20-year-old finished seventh (1:50.02) in his semifinal of the 200 free in Greece but did not reach the final. Last November, the 6-foot Meichtry competed in the FINA World Cup stop in Durban, South Africa, taking silver for Switzerland in the 200m free (1:46.57). The current Bears now feature seven swimmers - Henrique Barbosa (Brazil), Milorad Cavic (Serbia & Montenegro), Duje Draganja (Croatia), Rolandas Gimbutis (Lithuania), Jernej Godec (Slovenia), Miguel Molina (the Philippines) and Meichtry - who competed in the Athens Summer Games. Draganja was the only current Bear who won a medal in Athens, taking home the silver in the 50m free (21.94).

Duje Draganja won the bronze medal in the 50-meter butterfly as part of a three-member Cal contingent at the 2004 World Championships held last October at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Cal senior swam a time of 23.26, good for third behind Great Britain's Mark Foster (23.22) and the United States' Ian Crocker, who set a world record swim of 22.71. Draganja, who swam for Croatia, also placed sixth in the 50 freestyle in a time of 21.77 on Saturday. He was joined in Indianapolis by sophomore teammate Rolandas Gimbutis and junior teammate Henrique Barbosa. Gimbutis swam for Lithuania and was fifth in the 100 free (48.62). Barbosa placed seventh in the 100 breaststroke in a time of 1:00.33 for his native Brazil.

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