In a highly individualized sport such as swimming, it is rare to hear the words “teamwork” repeated over and over from one of the most well-regarded coaches in the sport. This season, however, Cal men’s swim head coach David Durden emphasized team chemistry and collective work ethic as the keys to success for the Bears.
And this mantra seemed to pay off as Cal went undefeated in dual meet season and placed second in both the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA Championships. The Bears boasted the most swimmers of any school in the country at the national championships, sending at least one competitor to each event.
“It was a year coming off of an Olympic movement,” Durden said. “For those of us that were there … there is a challenge in terms of kickstarting back into the college season and diving into that.”
While August’s Olympic games were certainly tiring, the strong Cal presence in Rio only seemed to energize the team going into the season.
The Bears shined in their relays, particularly at the high-profile meets at the end of the season. Freshmen Pawel Sendyk and Michael Jensen quickly acclimated to the program and became important freestyle contributors for the 200- and 400-yard medley relays, respectively, by the NCAAs.
Another freshman who solidified himself an essential member of the program was diver Connor Callahan, who secured berths in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform dives at national championships. This feat made him only the second Cal diver to qualify for the highly contentious competition since 2008. Callahan’s diving success generally gave the team a morale boost, as diving had previously constituted a weak spot for the program.
Senior Ryan Murphy continued to dominate in the backstroke, securing his fourth consecutive national title in both the 100- and 200-yard. Aside from his speciality stroke, Murphy excelled in the 200-yard IM and also competed in butterfly events at various dual meets.
A recap of this season would not be complete without mentioning sophomore phenom Andrew Seliskar, who demonstrated his prowess in the breaststroke, butterfly and IM, time and time again. He obtained one of his most notable finishes of the season at the NCAA Championships, where his time of 3:36.18 in the 400-yard IM was the second fastest in Cal history.
While the Bears will be graduating influential seniors such as Murphy and Long Gutierrez, the underclassmen showed that they can step up in high-pressure situations this season, which is a great omen for the future of the team.
Durden will be traveling with a few Bears to coach Team U.S.A. at the 2017 FINA World Championships this summer, where even in Budapest he will continue to emphasize the importance of teamwork to succeed at an international level.
“We are certainly at a better spot … than where we were at the start of the season,” Durden said. “And that is a good starting point for us to build off. Now it is time to take that and move it forward even more as we get into the next year.”
Lucy Schaefer covers men’s swimming. Contact her at [email protected]