There were many bright spots for No. 2 Cal men’s swimming (2-0) under the overcast skies Friday in their first and only home swim meet this fall, as Bears swimmers took five of six individual events and won both relays in their annual Triple Distance Meet versus T-No. 7 Stanford (1-0).
For the Bears, it was a familiar setting with different arrangements. Although they were swimming in home waters, the Bears had to adjust to starting from the south end of the pool after 11 years of racing from the north end. Additionally, the format of this exhibition meet was unique, as each swimmer was placed in one of the six tracks — distance free, IM, or one of the four strokes for sprints. The overall winners were decided by the aggregate time of each swimmer’s three races of that track.
“It was cool to see that and to have fans on the course for a majority of the 25-yard course was really cool,” said Cal head coach David Durden. “We had the benefit of swimming at home.”
The afternoon of racing started with a bang, with Cal senior Justin Lynch and sophomore Quah Zheng Wen touching the wall simultaneously in the 50 fly at 21.13. The two-time Olympian Quah edged the college veteran Lynch in the 100 and 200 races, taking the crown for the butterfly sprints.
The backstroke sprints didn’t begin as planned, as a timing malfunction after the 50 back not only caused a delay in the meet but erased the results for that race. Due to the system failure, every swimmer was assigned an end time of 22 seconds.
After the hiccup, senior Matthew Josa took the 100 back with a time of 47.90 while freshman Bryce Mefford reached the wall first in the 200 back in 1:45.01. In the end, it was the runner-up to both events, freshman Daniel Carr, who had fastest aggregate time, finishing less than three-tenths of a second behind first place in both events.
“(The malfunction) isn’t abnormal for us in a meet environment,” Durden said. “You want a meet to go perfectly, but there’s obviously things that happen in the course of a session that you just have to roll with it. I think our guys are doing that.”
Cal senior Connor Hoppe displayed his breaststroke prowess, starting strong with wins in the 50 and 100 breast. In the 200 breast, junior Andrew Seliskar swam a strong third leg to open up a one-second lead at the end of 150, eventually winning both the event and the breaststroke sprints track.
The class of 2017’s top high school recruit, freshman Ryan Hoffer, sprinted a 20.04 to take the 50 free. After a slow start with a 4th-place finish in that race, sophomore Michael Jensen took over, winning the 100 and 200 free to take the title for freestyle sprints. Jensen blew the field away from the get-go in the 200 free, with a one-second lead at the end of 50 and a three-second lead — more than a body length long — at the end of 150, eventually touching in 1:36.14.
In the only individual track sweep, Cal junior Mike Thomas won all the IM events. Stanford freshman Alex Liang was on his tail for the 100 and 200 swims, finishing less than a second behind Thomas in both, but Thomas pulled away in the 400, finishing five seconds ahead of Stanford senior Curtis Ogren to clinch the crown.
The Cardinals had a decided advantage in distance freestyle, with swimmers finishing in top three in the 200 and 500 races. Stanford freshman Johannes Calloni had a very dominant swim in the 1000 free, finishing first a whopping eight seconds ahead of second place. Calloni never exceeded 28 seconds in any of his splits in the commanding win and took home the distance freestyle title in the process.
Both relay races went to the home squad, with Carr, Hoppe, Quah and Lynch combining to take the 200 medley relay. Sophomore Pawel Sendyk, Jensen, Hoffer and Josa all swam legs under 20 seconds to help the Bears win the 200 free relay.
It wasn’t just current undergraduate Bears that shined in the pool. Former Bears stars Missy Franklin, Josh Prenot and Jacob Pebley, all members of Team USA, returned to Cal on Friday and made their splashes during intermission. 2015 graduate Chuck Katis and postgraduate swimmer Wyatt Hodges also swam.
“We got some great alumni here,” Durden said. “We get to spend some quality time with these guys that have come before this group. You have Olympians, American record holders, former world record holders. Guys that have finished up their swimming here in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, recent grads. It’s cool to be surrounded by the great Cal family.”
The Bears did not disappoint in their only fall meet at Berkeley. It may only be an exhibition in November, but it was nevertheless a strong showing of Cal’s talent and depth, with the team looking to make some noise in the NCAA’s come March.