Freshmen help propel No. 6 Cal men’s swim to strong performance

Daniel Ho/Staff

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Over the three-day UGA Fall Invitational, the Bears showed its aquatic prowess by dominating No. 10 Georgia and No. 17 Auburn by 149 and 203 points, respectively. The No. 6 Cal men’s swim team competed at the Gabrielsen Natatorium at the University of Georgia from Friday to Sunday.

As it has been all season long, the story was the freshmen on the squad. Over the three-day invite, freshman Michael Jensen swam times of 19.49, 42.75 and 1:33.76 in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle races, respectively. He also added critical freestyle legs in all five of Cal’s winning relays. He split a 18.93 and 41.64 on the freestyle legs of the 200- and 400-yard medley relays, 19.01 in the 200-, 42.29 in the 400- and 1:34.75 in the 800-yard freestyle relays. Though it appears that Jensen experienced some fatigue as the meet went on, Jensen put up comparable splits to Bears senior Ryan Murphy. Like Murphy, Jensen is going to be a vital piece for the NCAA Championship lineup.

Fellow freshmen Pawel Sendyk and ‘Aukai Lileikis were also huge contributors in the invitational. Sendyk put together a stellar 50-yard freestyle swim. Lileikis is proving to be a valuable part of Cal’s depth. Even if Lileikis doesn’t get fast enough to score major individual points, he should be a part of the freestyle relays as stars like Murphy and Jensen can only do four of the five relays at both the conference and national championships.

Some of the other freshmen such as Andy Song, Jack Xie and Ethan Young made significant progress with their developments in backstroke and butterfly races. The three probably won’t be a significant factor beyond the conference level this season, but they have promising futures as Bears.

If breaststroke was a weakness for Cal at the beginning of the season, the team has a better sense of its future in the event. In the 400-yard medley relay, junior Connor Hoppe, the expected successor of Josh Prenot, split a 51.93 on the breaststroke leg. Sophomore tandem Andrew Seliskar and Carson Sand eclipsed that mark by going 51.68 and 51.90, respectively. While the trio of times isn’t exactly elite, it sets up an incredible intrasquad competition throughout the rest of the season for the relay honors.

In the 100-yard breaststroke, Hoppe and Sand placed second and third, respectively. Bears senior Hunter Cobleigh and junior Matt Whittle contributed fourth- and eighth-place finishes. In the 200-yard breaststroke, Cobleigh took first, while Whittle and Sand took sixth and seventh place. Hoppe, who had a rough prelims race, finished in ninth but had the the fifth-fastest time in the field.The foursome hasn’t hit the necessary times to make it a scary group to race against. With Seliskar in the mix, Cal’s breaststroke group could be formidable.

As the fall season comes to an end with the team’s midseason finale, it is clear that head coach Dave Durden and associate head coach Yuri Suguiyama are pushing this team to reach its full potential. With the UGA Fall Invitational, the Bears have quieted some doubters who believe Cal can’t make it eight years in a row as a top-two program in the country.

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