Cal men’s swim bookends Pacific Invitational with relay titles

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In what appeared to originally have been a Californian affair, both Colorado swim teams took the top two spots when the last hands glided through the waters into the walls in the 1,650-yard freestyle — the final event of the two-day Pacific Invitational.

With only one day of competition and a chunk of its roster missing, the Cal men’s swim team managed to earn 317 points for fifth place out of six teams, behind Denver, Air Force, Stanford and Pacific. The Cardinal, like the Bears, elected to participate only Saturday but fared better than Cal with 578 points.

The Bears entered 19 swimmers into the second day of the Pacific Invitational, while leaving behind most of its top performers like freshman Michael Jensen and senior Ryan Murphy. With a limited schedule and a smaller roster, most of Cal’s swimmers raced in the 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.

Senior Hunter Cobleigh had a chance to show his early-season breaststroke form in the 400-yard medley relay where he joined freshman Andy Song, freshman Pawel Sendyk and senior Dillon Williams for fourth place. Cobleigh added a second place in the 200-yard breaststroke, in which sophomore Carson Sand finished in fourth.

While sophomore Andrew Seliskar is technically Cal’s best breaststroker, it appears as if Seliskar will focus on butterfly and individual medley events. Although Seliskar may be a 400-yard medley relay option like Josh Prenot was last year, the Bears will rely on Sand, junior Connor Hoppe and Cobleigh to command control of the breaststroke duties throughout the season’s remaining dual-meets, invitationals and championships.

With any luck, junior Matt Whittle could join the aforementioned trio, but his 11th-place 200-yard breaststroke time, 2:05.28, Saturday isn’t particularly promising. Over the last three 50-yard segments of the race, Whittle fell off significantly, going 31.51-32.25-33.32. By comparison, Cobleigh went 30.68-31.01-31.23, which isn’t phenomenal pacing, over the same distance. The dropoff suggests a lack of endurance, which isn’t the worst issue to be having in late October.

Without Jensen’s shadow, the other freshmen on the squad shined. Freshman Jack Xie, who could play a role in the breaststroke events as well, put together a solid 400-yard medley relay butterfly split — third fastest in the field — and 200-yard individual medley. Freestyle specialists Sendyk and ‘Aukai Lileikis are continuing to experiment with their sprint freestyle racing strategies. It’s not enough for them to muscle through every yard of the race; they need to figure out small technical details such as the appropriate time and distance to spend under water.

While Xie and Song are technically international student-athletes, they attended high school and competed in the United States. Sendyk and Ivan Grigorishin can’t boast that ability, however, as each new race is part of the learning curve because they trained in meters, not yards.

Stanford benefited without a chunk of Cal’s roster present. The squad proved it’s ready to move beyond its David Nolan era behind young talents like freshmen True Sweetser and Grant Shoults joining productive veterans like Abrahm DeVine and Sam Perry. With the annual Triple-Distance Meet against the Cardinal in a week, the Bears may need a full roster when it travels to the farm.

Christopher Zheng covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].