Underdogs no more, Cal men’s swimming enters Pac-12 championships as the favorite

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Kevin Hahn/File

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For the first time in eight years, the Cal’s men swimming team is heading into the Pac-12 championship with an undefeated record.

Heading into the meet, Cal is currently ranked No. 2 with stellar wins against top-tier teams like No. 7 Stanford, No.4 USC, and No.10 Arizona.

From Sunday to next Wednesday, the Bears will face these top tier teams once again at the the Pac-12 Swimming Championships at the King County Aquatic Center at Federal Way, Wa.

This year’s Bears are no longer underdogs, which has been an uncommon theme for years past. This is due to the fact that the Bears (7-0) have been extremely successful in the dual meet season. Usually a slow starter, the Bears are peaking exactly a the right time.

“It’s awesome that we’re blossoming at the right time as a team,” Coach David Durden said. “The swimmers can surely appreciate where they have started and where they are at right now.”

Cal swimmers will look to put up contending times to qualify for the NCAAs during the Pac-12 Championships. With the new selection process, swimmers who put on “A” times, determined by the NCAA, will receive an invite. However, athletes who recorded time under the provisional “B” times, who only will qualify based on the times of their team’s relay, will not be able to swim individual events.

Cal, as a school, is only allowed to qualify 18 swimmers to the NCAAs. With the Bears having about eight swimmers receiving invites for now, the Pac-12s will serve as the perfect opportunity for the swimmers to earn their bids at their last chance.

Cal will approach this meet different than all the previous dual meets this spring.For the first time in the whole season, swimmers will have adequate rest from the constant practices.

“The practices has tapered off a bit so we can sharpen up for the meet.” junior Shayne Fleming said. “We go from having no rest for the dual meets to having the minimum amount of rest to qualify for NCAAs.”

The eight Bears who already qualify including the relay team are the stars that were expected to qualify to the NCAAs. Senior star Tom Shields and freshman Jacob Pebley, holders of the second best time in 100 fly and best time in 200 back in the nation respectively, are the most well-known.

Fleming, who has a time of 19.78 in 50 free is only half a second away from the “A” group times, will look to cement his bid into the big dance. Adam Hinshaw will also look to have a big day as he is only 3 seconds away from the “A” group in 500 free and 12 second away in 1650 free.

Overall, the team has sky high confidence. With their main goal focused on trying to qualify as many swimmers as possible, many of the athletes will give their all to post their best times of the season to receive that golden invite to the NCAAs.

“We’re not feeling any pressure even at this point of the season,” coach Durden said. “We know our potential and what we can achieve.”

Hunter He covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected]