Cal men’s swim to split team for pair of meets

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If there is a time to experiment and find the perfect formula, it’s early in the season. Cal men’s swimming will look to do exactly that this weekend as it looks for a good jump off the block to its ranked campaign in a pair of dual meets.

The Bears will split the squad in two, sending one to University of the Pacific on Friday and the other to Pac-12 opponent Utah on Saturday. Unlike the King of the Pool meet two weeks ago, in which every swimmer swam all four strokes and an individual medley, these meets will feature the more conventional 16-event lineup, with each swimmer competing in three to four events each. It will be an early test for the Cal swimmers.

“It’s good to be able to do that early in the season,” said Cal men’s swimming head coach David Durden. “Just to see how we’re holding up for that lineup and let them extend into some different areas and let them work through a little bit of fatigue.”

Cal had a dominant showing at Cal Poly two Fridays ago, posting the top 11 aggregate times and 15 of the top 16 at the meet. That included a heated top-three finish between senior Matthew Josa, junior Andrew Seliskar and sophomore Quah Zheng Wen, with the senior edging out the younger two by half a second to claim the title. For the coaching staff, though, the focus in these past weeks have been less about time and more about the simple things.

“That has been our mantra through our last eight weeks,” Durden said. “Whether that’s going into a turn, coming off a wall, what they’re doing stroke count-wise, what they’re doing kick count-wise — those are all things that they control and are very simple to do. … And now just taking that forward into racing is really what we want to see from the group.”

Cal has defeated Pacific, a perennial early-season opponent, in their last three meets, dating back to 2014. Sophomore Michael Jensen was victorious in both the 100 and 200 free in last year’s meet as part of a lopsided 172-52 Bears win.

The Bears also defeated the Utes 165-128 the last time they met in 2015. Then-freshman Seliskar was one of two double event winners, claiming first place in the 100 backstroke and 200 breaststroke.

Accompanying the group of swimmers to Utah are the four Cal men’s divers, who will showcase their first competitive dives Saturday in the thin air of Salt Lake City. They will be up against the formidable Utah diving program, which is one of 12 in the country to send a male representative to five consecutive NCAA championships.

“These last two weeks have been focusing on the fine tuning of their dives,” said Cal diving head coach Derek Starks. “They’ve been getting their dives off, and so now it’s just been solidifying which lists they’re going to start the competitive season out with.”

Although the Bears are split up this weekend, they will look to put together their past two months’ worth of training into real competition. That translation from the practice pool into head-to-head competition is key, and it is easier said than done.

Leo Xie covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].