Four one-hundredths of a second.
Think about what you can do in four one-hundredths of a second. There’s not much.
While sophomore Justin Lynch was building a half-second lead against the Trojans in the 200-yard freestyle relay to finish the meet, Cal freshman Andrew Seliskar and USC freshman Kyle Grissom stood on the blocks. Needing only to touch the wall first, Seliskar, the class of 2015’s consensus No. 1 recruit, seemed safe to clinch the Bears’ victory in both the event and the competition. On the other hand, Grissom, a talented sprint freestyler and butterflyer, wasn’t on most Division 1 programs’ radar. The pair splashed its way through 50 yards of freestyle. With less than half a lap to go, Grissom mustered extra strength to power his way to a 19.60, a superb time for the developing sprinter.
For the No. 2 Cal men’s swimming and diving team, four one-hundredths of a second prevented the Bears from extending a 28 dual-meet winning streak to 29. Four one-hundredths of a second permitted USC’s 149.5-148.5 victory over Cal. The loss erased the success from the previous afternoon when Cal beat CSU Bakersfield, 119-113.
The story of Friday’s meet against the Trojans was relays. While USC closed the meet with a nail-biting 200-yard freestyle relay, Cal’s squad of junior Ryan Murphy, sophomore Connor Hoppe, Lynch and senior Tyler Messerschmidt started the meet with a dominating 200-yard medley relay, 1:25.39. Seliskar splitted an exceptional 21.06 on the butterfly leg, which gave way for the Bears’ second team, anchored by junior Dillon Williams, to sneak past USC for second place, finishing a miniscule six one-hundredth of a second ahead. From there, Cal and USC traded off event wins until the very end.
Continuing his command of collegiate swimming, Murphy won the 100-yard backstroke, 45.85, and the 100-yard freestyle, 43.86, against USC. In Thursday’s meet against CSU Bakersfield, Murphy won the 200-yard individual medley — Murphy’s usual third individual event besides the two backstroke events that he competed in at the NCAA Championships.
Senior Josh Prenot had a fantastic two days of competition by flashing his dominance and versatility. Against the Roadrunners, Prenot, split a solid 21.34 in the butterfly leg of the 200-yard medley relay and won the 200-yard backstroke, 1:47.71. The next day, Prenot won the 200-yard breaststroke, 1:55.46, the 200-yard individual medley, 1:44.94, and split an impressive 24.40 on the breaststroke leg. Although he finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke to USC freshman Carsten Vissering, Prenot swam a 53.64 — a time that solidifies Prenot’s case for relay spots in the postseason
Senior Jacob Pebley’s swims also contributed much needed points for the Bears. Pebley finished third in the 100-yard backstroke, 47.77, just .02 seconds behind Trojan freshman Patrick Mulcare. Pebley won the 200-yard backstroke, 1:41.55, and added another third-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, 1:49.11.
Despite the loss to USC on Friday, Cal won’t leave the two days of competition completely disappointed. The Bears pulled off a 119-113 win over CSU Bakersfield on Thursday, but the six-point score differential is not indicative of the whole story. Cal exhibitioned the last two events and elected to put star swimmers such as Murphy, Prenot and Pebley in just a few events.
The heartbreaking loss against USC — Cal’s first since 2000 — will give the Bears something to think about as they prepare for their final dual-meet of the season against Stanford in two weeks.