The Bears were all over the scoreboard last weekend at the USA Swimming College Challenge. The Pac-12 team, composed of the best male and female swimmers from the conference combined to narrowly upset members of Team USA, 326.5-286.5. The Cal men’s swim team certainly made their splash at this meet, as a former or present Bear scored in all men’s events.
The seven Cal undergraduate men were not fazed going up against some of the best in the world, claiming four first place finishes as part of the Pac-12 team in Los Angeles. Of those four, three came in the relays, with senior Connor Hoppe swimming the second leg for the victorious Pac-12 squad in the 200 mixed medley relay. Sophomores Michael Jensen and Quah Zheng Wen were integral in the winning lineups of their 400 and 800 free relay races, respectively.
Junior Andrew Seliskar had an impressive win in the 400 IM, edging out former teammate and school record holder Josh Prenot by five-hundredths of a second. Prenot was in the lead at the 50-yard mark, but after that, it was all Seliskar. The race was neck and neck throughout, however, with Prenot cutting the deficit to under six-tenths of a second with 50 yards to go, but in the end, the current Bear prevailed and earned the only individual title for the 2017-18 Cal squad.
“I thought they did a really nice job of competing,” said Cal men’s head coach David Durden, who also served as head coach of the Pac-12 team. “There’s still some race details that we need to work on right now, and you can tell that we’re a little more training focused than race focused, which is OK. … It’s always good to go to a competition like that and to come away with some bullet points of things that we need to work on per individual.”
For all the current team’s success, the former Bears were arguably even better. Cal alumnus Tom Shields, who graduated in 2013, was the star of the show for Team USA last weekend, claiming four individual titles in the 100 free, 100 fly, 200 free and 200 fly. One of those races, the 200 fly, saw Shields touch less than a second before the sophomore Quah. It was a sort of redemption for Shields, this time in the short course yards format, as the two competed last year at Rio in the same pool for the 200-meter fly, with only Quah advancing to the semis. Shields also teamed up with Cal alumnus and Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy to help Team USA take the 400 medley relay.
“(Shields’ has) been training really, really well since August and is probably the more race-experienced out of any of those guys, considering his schedule over the last couple of months,” Durden said. “I wasn’t surprised to see him win the events that he did in the fashion that he did.”
Prenot, a 2016 graduate, had a pair of individual wins himself in the 200 breast and 200 IM. The last of the four former Bears to compete for Team USA this past weekend was Jacob Pebley, who scored in three of his four events.
The current Bears more than held up their own against the best on this planet. Now their challenge is to dive back into the college circuit, equipped with a world of experience under their belts.
Leo Xie covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].