The long journey to the March NCAA Championships in Minneapolis begins with an in-state visit to Cal Poly. The Cal men’s swimming team will dive into its 2017-18 season Friday for the King of the Pool meet.
It’s a most unusual meet, in which all swimmers participate in four 100-yard races of each stroke and one 100-yard individual medley. The title of “King of the Pool” is given to the swimmer with the fastest combined time.
The competition favors neither the distance swimmers nor the sprinters, as both have to adapt to circumstances different than those to which they are accustomed. Those who train for the individual medley, which Cal boasts quite a number, have an advantage.
“The great thing about this meet is we get to see a little bit of everything,” head coach David Durden said. “We’ve really worked on that over our first three weeks of our training, of making sure that our guys understood what we want to see in all four of the strokes and our starts and our turns, and just to see that education on display in a competition … is really important, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Friday will be the first time in three years the Bears head down to San Luis Obispo for the King of the Pool. The last time these two teams met was 2014, when then-senior Cal senior Will Hamilton was crowned King of the Pool with an overall time of 4:07.25, dethroning Olympic-gold-medalist-to-be Ryan Murphy, who finished a close second. The Bears flexed their muscles and posted the top 17 aggregate times at that meet.
Cal dominance in this meet goes back to 2010. Since then, Bears swimmers have captured all five King of the Pool titles. It is likely a foregone conclusion that the title will belong to a Cal swimmer once again, with one of, if not the best, incoming classes in the country combined with returning swimmers coming off a second-place finish at last year’s NCAA championships.
After a second-place finish in the 400-yard individual medley in the 2017 NCAA championships, junior Andrew Seliskar is a favorite to win the title Friday. As one of Cal’s most versatile swimmers last season, senior Mike Thomas looks to challenge for the title as well, having ranked third among teammates in both 200 and 400 individual medleys.
There is more to look forward to, however, than just results for the team.
“It’s always fun to have your first away meet early in the season,” Durden said. “You get the boys out of Berkeley for a little bit, get them together, staying in the hotel, just letting them spend some time with each other, I think (that’s) really, really important.”
This weekend, in the pool, the Bears are on their own, clawing and battling for the title. Out of the pool, the same Bears will look to build a distinct team chemistry, a key ingredient to successful Durden-led Cal teams, in their first of many meets to come.
Leo Xie covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected]