The word hurdle has many definitions. It describes the frames that runners jump over in track, as well as an obstacle or difficulty that one must overcome. For freshman Connor Callahan, his hurdle represented the difference between qualifying for finals or getting stuck at the prelims in the Pac-12 Diving Championships.
In the diving world, a hurdle is the air that divers need to get when competing in springboard events in order to execute a successful somersault tuck or pike.
Callahan, the lone representative for the No. 1 Cal men’s swimming and diving team, had no trouble handling his hurdle and qualified for the 1-meter and 3-meter finals at the Pac-12 Diving Championships this past week.
“His hurdle had been a little shaky coming into this meet, but every hurdle he did, he did successfully,” said Cal diving head coach Derek Starks “I think the springboard was the definitely the biggest confidence boost to really just have a complete level of consistency.”
Callahan also qualified for the platform final, where he placed sixth with an overall score of 305.65. His sixth place finish in the 1-meter (315.20) and eighth-place rank in the 3-meter (331.75) secured his superiority over the now-graduated Bear Peter Cyr and junior Finn Scribbick, who ventured to the Pac-12 meet last spring but did not rank above 14th place.
Aside from the rankings, the striking thing about Callahan’s performances was his level of consistency. For example, while Stanford’s Theodore Miclau finished seventh in the 3-meter and second in the platform, Callahan maintained a uniformity across his dives that can be attributed to the fact that he has to overcompensate for being the only member of the men’s diving team present.
Callahan is used to this sort of pressure, but the size and expectations associated with Pac-12 Championships is something that the freshman hadn’t yet experienced.
“It is almost like an international level competition as far as the crowd goes and just the overall environment,” Starks said. “You really want to feel like you are contributing things to your team and being a part of it.”
The camaraderie between Callahan and the women’s diving team, who practice together under Starks, has provided Callahan with company, because the swimming and diving components of the meet have been divided up into two weekends.
Cal swimming will get its turn to travel up to Federal Way, Washington, and compete in the highly contentious Pac-12 Championship spanning from Wednesday to Saturday. The Bears placed third at the meet last year, competing without now-graduated Jacob Pebley and now-senior Ryan Murphy, who took the meet off in preparation for Olympic trials. This year, Cal is favored to take home the crown at the championships given their domination in nearly all short-distance backstroke, freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke events. Their 4-0 record in conference dual meets doesn’t hurt either.
However, as Cal men’s swimming head coach David Durden has repeated throughout the season, the Bears’ success cannot just be defined by the number of event wins they amass at a meet, but rather the depth of their finishes. They need to have swimmers fill the second through fifth place positions in each event in order to take home the title. Unlike years past, however, the Bears can enjoy a little cushion created by Callahan’s diving prowess going into this week.
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s swimming. Contact her at [email protected]