Worldwide recognition and dominance for the Cal men’s swimming and diving team did not cease when the calendar year changed. In the early days of 2017, the head of the program was awarded a big honor, and the Bears showed their prowess among Pac-12 competition.
Cal head coach David Durden was named the Team USA head coach for the 2017 World Championships last Thursday. Durden will lead the national team to Budapest, Hungary in July, but this past weekend stayed closer to home, traveling with the the Bears to Arizona.
Cal had a highly successful weekend, coming out of the dual meet double-header with a 2-0 record against No. 18 Arizona and No. 12 Arizona State.
On Friday, the Bears triumphed over the Wildcats 161-113, with a Cal swimmer taking first place in every event the team completed. No matter the sequences of the remaining finishers, the individual event wins played the largest role in the Cal victory because each counted for nine points.
Senior Ryan Murphy won the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:43.25, exactly six seconds ahead of Arizona’s runner up. Also taking the victory by a large margin, senior Hunter Cobleigh won the 200-yard breaststroke by over four seconds, finishing with a time of 1:59.00.
A Cal newcomer, freshman Connor Callahan, had an impressive showing at the meet, contributing to the team total by dominating in both the 3-meter and 1-meter dives. He recorded scores of 346.65 and 314.48, respectively.
“While (the dual meet) does reward the winner of an event, it also helps to have some depth to get some separation throughout the course of the afternoon,” Durden said.
The dual meet triumphs were further solidified by the fact that first-place Cal swimmers were usually followed closely by yet another Bear. Notably, sophomore Nick Norman and freshman Andy Song recorded the first- and second-best times in the 500-yard freestyle, and junior Ryan Kao and sophomore Ken Takahashi place back-to-back in the 1,000-yard freestyle.
The Bears continued to dominate Saturday as they moved from Tucson to Tempe to race the Sun Devils, logging a final score of 160-130.
Sophomore Andrew Seliskar raced five times across the two days where he recorded the best time in four of his individual events. While he switched around in most of his events, he shaved almost a second off his 200-yard butterfly time between Friday and Saturday, dropping from 1:45.61 to 1:44.75.
The Bears commanded the 400-yard medley relay as Murphy solidified the lead with the backstroke, Cobleigh tackled the breastroke, junior Justin Lynch performed the butterfly and senior Long Gutierrez anchored with the freestyle. The group finished with a time of 3:09.67 to second-place Arizona State’s 3:14.52.
“I am excited — this is more of a complete team than we had last year,” Durden said. “It had been six weeks since we have lined up on the blocks and raced.”
Given Cal’s complete domination this past weekend, the No. 1 Bears may not face significant challengers until they leave Pac-12 competition for the big leagues: NCAA Championships. That being said, Cal must treat the upcoming dual meets seriously to gain valuable race experience, especially for the youngest team members.
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s swimming. Contact her at [email protected]