On National Championship Week, Bears don’t shy from spotlight

On the eve of being honored for the accomplishments of last year’s national championship, the Cal men’s swimming team didn’t appear fazed at all.

The Bears defeated Pac-12 newcomer Utah, 158-119, on Friday in the first conference dual meet of the season, turning in a variety of solid performances on a day mostly devoid of close calls or exciting finishes. Cal finished with the top times in all 14 events and did not compete for points in the final five races. The women’s team, which competed alongside the men at Spieker Aquatics Center, won its meet 174-105.

Former Cal standout and Olympic gold-medalist Nathan Adrian was on hand to watch the meet and was impressed by the makeup of this year’s team.

“They looked really good out there,” Adrian said.

Graduated seniors Adrian, Martin Malasky, Damir Dugonjic and Guy Barnea, who were honored at halftime of Saturday’s football game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, swam exhibitions in the intervals between races. One of the top performers of the main event was senior Mathias Gydesen, who won both the 100 and 200 backstroke with seconds to spare. Gydesen was also a part of the winning 200 medley relay team with a time of 1:29.11.

“I thought Mathias did a really nice job in both backstrokes,” coach David Durden said.

It was also the first home meet of the season for Tom Shields. The All-American’s unique style in the 200 and 100 butterfly excited the home fans, as the junior consistently stayed underwater until passing halfway across the 25-yard long pool. Shields finished with the fastest time in both events.

“That’s just what he does,” Durden said. “That’s where his strength is.”

The closest finish of the day came in the 200 freestyle, where juniors Nick Trowbridge and Ben Hinshaw took a tight race down to the wire. The two nearly matched each other stroke for stroke; neither led by more than a third of second. Although Hinshaw’s time on the final 50 was actually faster than Trowbridge’s, the latter held on for the victory by a mere 0.06 seconds.

No other race had such drama, but several others had intrigue. Ben Hinshaw held off his brother, freshman Adam Hinshaw, in the 400 individual medley by just over a second. Sophomore Jeremy Bagshaw had the fastest time in the two longest events of the day — the 1000 and 500 freestyle.

“(The meet) was good,” Durden said. “We had some guys working on some different things, and it turned out really well.”

Utah, by contrast, looked tired in just its second Pac-12 meet since joining the conference this year. The Utes came within a second of winning just once — in the 50 freestyle — and never really posed a threat to any of the Cal swimmers. Utah’s first ever conference meet, a 155-124 loss to Stanford, had come just a day before.

But in the final event of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, the Utes looked ready to pull an upset. Freshman Nick Soedel and junior Karson Applin got Utah off to a strong start in the first half, pulling ahead of Shields and the other Cal swimmers at one point. It took a strong anchor leg by senior Nolan Koon for the Bears to pull away and complete the sweep.