Blink, and you might have missed the winner — that was how tightly contested the battle for the King of the Pool crown was Friday at Cal Poly. Only half a second separated Cal men’s swimmers sophomore Quah Zheng Wen, junior Andrew Seliskar and senior Matthew Josa, as they reached the wall in the final event of the afternoon. In the end, it was Josa who was victorious, claiming the title with a combined time of 4:09.19.
Their times in the final event, the 100-yard IM, were within three-tenths of a second of each other — a testament to their versatility in the pool. Seliskar’s final combined time was 4:09.47, while Quah finished less than one-tenth of a second behind Seliskar at 4:09.53. The three finished in the top eight for all five events.
As a team, the Bears thoroughly dominated the Mustangs, posting the top 11 combined times, and 15 of the top 16. This is the sixth time these two teams have met for this particular meet since 2010, a unique exhibition in which all swimmers partake in four 100-yard races of each stroke and one 100-yard individual medley. And this is the sixth time a Cal Bear has been crowned King of the Pool.
“Whether it’s watching guys on our team getting in and out of the walls, looking at the technical aspect of the stroke,” said Cal head coach David Durden. “I thought that was a good team investment in what we were doing and how we were moving, and that’s what pleasing to see amongst this group right now.”
As for the newcomers, three had combined times in the top-10. Freshman Daniel Carr placed fourth in the 100-yard backstroke, and finished seventh overall with a time of 4:20.81. Freshmen Trenton Julian and Bryce Mefford ended the meet at ninth and tenth, respectively. The top recruit from last year, freshman Ryan Hoffer, placed in the top 10 for butterfly, backstroke and freestyle, but a low finish in the breaststroke left him at 13th in aggregate time.
“Our freshmen are melding very well and it’s just been a fun group to coach,” Durden said. “(The team) has just been very diligent on making sure that they do the little, small things really well.”
On the other side, Cal Poly’s best single event finish belonged to sophomore Brian Whittington, who placed third in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 0:56.49. The Mustangs also had two swimmers place in the top-seven in the 100-yard freestyle.
Cal’s next set of meets takes place in about two weeks, with part of the team heading to Stockton to face Pacific and the remaining group visiting Salt Lake City to take on Pac-12 opponent Utah. The men’s diving team will travel to Salt Lake City as well, making their first splash against a Utah program that has sent a male representative to the NCAA championships five years in a row.
If their Friday afternoon in San Luis Obispo is any indication, there is going to be a lot of competition within the team to fill the shoes vacated by the now graduated Ryan Murphy and Long Gutierrez. Josa may have the bragging rights for now after narrowly squeezing out the win, but that only serves as more motivation for the others to prove themselves.
Leo Xie covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].