In its final home meet of the fall season, Cal men’s swim faced off against its toughest dual meet opponent so far. But that didn’t phase the Bears and they held on to their winning ways, extending their streak to 25 consecutive victories in dual-meets and proving their ability to dispatch one of top teams in the nation.
On Friday, Cal faced off against North Carolina State at Spieker Aquatics Complex in a traditional dual meet, which featured some diving events. The afternoon started out with the 200-yard medley relay, which the Bears won. The relay team that came out on top comprised junior Ryan Murphy, senior Josh Prenot and sophomores Connor Hoppe and Justin Lynch. Cal’s victory was a testament to its versatility, as the medley relay requires each group to designate a swimmer for each of the four strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly
The second event on Friday’s slate was the 1650-yard freestyle, which replaced the traditional 1000-yard freestyle at the request of the Bears. Freshman Nick Norman came in second place with a time of 15:21.15, finishing about 15 seconds behind NC State’s Anton Ipsen. Ipsen, a sophomore, finished fifth in the 1650-yard freestyle event at last year’s NCAA Championships, so his dominance in the event was expected.
“It’s good for our distance guys to get a mile in before we race the mile at (the Georgia Invitational),” said Cal head coach David Durden. “And you know, we’re fortunate that NC State agreed to that so it’s nice to get that event in one time in competition.”
In the next four events, all of which were sprints, Cal turned up the intensity and strengthened its lead in terms of points. Junior Long Gutierrez claimed the title in the 200-yard freestyle, with a time of 1:35.49. The Bears followed that up with a one-two finish in the 100-yard backstroke: Murphy first, Pebley second. Next, Hoppe earned first place in the 100-yard breaststroke and freshman Andrew Selinskar beat out teammate Prenot for the 200-yard butterfly title.
The Wolfpack earned a few victories -— six in total — to keep their hopes of winning the meet alive, but the Bears never relinquished their lead. Senior Simonas Bilis of NC State edged out Cal’s Gutierrez for first place in the 100-yard freestyle, with less than a second separating the two athletes. NC State’s biggest strength lies in the freestyle relay events, which was on display at the end of the meet. The meet’s final event was the 400-yard freestyle relay, in which the Wolfpack finished second at the NCAA championships. They comfortably won the event, with a time of 2:55.46 that beat out Cal’s 2:58.07.
“(NC State is) a very fiery group, a very intense group,” Durden said. “They swim well throughout the season and they have great guys in every single stroke, but they’ve really built themselves around the relays and specifically the freestyle relays — those have been their best three relays at the NCAA’s.”
The final score for Friday’s meet was 170.5 to 127.5, with Cal victorious. It’s not explicitly indicated in the score, but Cal saw significant contributions from both its newcomers and its more experienced upperclassmen. The depth of this Bears squad sets it apart from other top-ranked teams and could prove to be a huge asset in the postseason.
Kapil Kashyap covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected]