It took the Bears a while to warm up as they headed north to Federal Way, Washington for the Pac-12 Diving Championships this past week. Cal’s diving unit, competing a week before the swimmers, had three finalists over three days of competition — sophomore Connor Callahan, freshman Jackson Gabler and freshman Johnny Robinson — to put Cal on the scoreboard.
“Overall, we ended very well,” said diving coach Derek Starks. “It started out, our two zone qualifiers didn’t have their best two days, but seeing our other two divers Jackson (Gabler) and Jared (Kloos) really step up and have good competitions for themselves I think kind of balanced that out.”
On Wednesday, the Bears competed in the 1-meter, an event in which they did not have any divers finish in the top eight in preliminaries.
Callahan, who competed in the national championships last year, posted his season-worst score on the 1-meter at 269.45. That score put him in ninth place, which falls shy of qualifying for finals — not exactly the start the Bears were looking for.
Thursday saw a breakout performance from Gabler in the 3-meter as he sneaked into the top eight with a score of 292.30. He was the lone Bear to qualify for finals in the event.
“I think (Gabler) just didn’t really set any expectations,” Starks said. “He knew we had talks before, especially with the freshmen: ‘The expectation for you is to learn as much as possible, because you’re going to do this three more times. This is the first round, so the expectations as far as numbers, placing — you set your own individual goals and learn everything that you can.’ ”
Cal’s two NCAA Zone E Diving Championships qualifiers, Callahan and Robinson, stepped up in the platform competition Friday, both qualifying for finals. Callahan had the best individual performance of the week, coming within half a point of his season best en route to a fifth-place finish.
“Connor, being the one (sophomore) with three freshmen … he’s establishing himself in a leadership role, while trying to focus on his own competition,” Starks said. “But awesome to see him finish on that note.”
Gabler and freshman Jared Kloos both made splashes at their Pac-12 debuts but also saw their seasons draw to a close, with neither receiving NCAA qualifying scores in their meets. Gabler came close in November, producing a score of 299.80 in the 1-meter at the NAU Lumberjack Invitational — just two-tenths shy of the qualifying mark of 300.
USC was the only team to have one podium finisher in each of the three events, with sophomore Henry Fusaro finishing second in the 1-meter and first in the 3-meter and senior Dashiell Enos taking runner-up in both 3-meter and platform.
Meanwhile, ASU sophomore Youssef Selim blew away the field in the 1-meter, finishing 28.95 points ahead of Fusaro.
Stanford senior Ted Miclau was the definition of bouncing back, as he took the platform crown with a dazzling final dive that scored a 79.20 — the second-best dive score of the platform finals. Miclau preceded that with a horrendous fifth dive that scored 33.60, which had plunged him from first to seventh place.
Cal’s divers warmed up the pool for the men’s swimmers, who will hope that the trend of increasingly better performances will lead to their first Pac-12 title since 2014.