Excitement filled the chilly December air as Georgia football fans flooded Mercedes-Benz Stadium in hopes of watching their beloved Bulldogs roll the tide in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama. Roughly 70 miles west of this high-profile event, though, the Cal men’s swim team was busy wrapping up its victory in the Georgia Fall Invitational in Athens.
The invitational is an annual three-day competition that features some of the finest programs in all of collegiate swimming. Competing in this year’s meet were Cal, Virginia, Michigan and host team Georgia. As the reigning champs of last year’s contest, the Bears came into the event hungry to defend their title and fly back to Berkeley with yet another victory in their remarkable season.
A quartet of Bears — Pawel Sendyk, Ryan Hoffer, Michael Jensen and Andrew Seliskar — kicked off the three-day contest Thursday with a thrilling victory in the 200-yard freestyle relay, recording a final time of 1:15.86, almost a full three seconds faster than Michigan’s second-place squad.
Seliskar and Sendyk went on to claim another victory each as Seliskar conquered the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:40.55 and Sendyk sprinted to a first-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle with a 19.15.
Cal carried its momentum into phase two of the meet and headlined Friday with victories in four events. The Bears’ first win of the day came in a one-two finish in the 200-yard medley relay. The squad consisting of Daniel Carr, Reece Whitley, Sendyk and Jensen recorded a final time of 1:23.42, which was just enough to edge out their teammates for the win.
As the meet transitioned into the 100-yard breaststroke, freshman Whitley was given the chance to showcase his talents on the big stage. With a 51.77 first-place finish, the young star showed Cal fans why he’s the most exciting up-and-comer in collegiate swimming.
Sophomore Daniel Carr followed Whitley’s victory with a win of his own in the 100-yard backstroke, posting a 46.58 — sufficient to declare him the winner of the event.
Cal closed out day two with yet another relay win, this time in an 800-yard freestyle relay featuring Seliskar, Bryce Mefford, Zheng Wen Quah and Mike Thomas. After stopping the clock at 6:14.65, the teammates gathered their belongings, headed back to the hotel and rested up for the final day of competition.
Although they had a comfortable lead heading into Saturday’s festivities, the Bears kept their foot on the gas and finished strong.
With its fourth relay victory of the week and individual wins from Carr, Jensen, Seliskar and Quah, Cal cemented its status as the champion of the Georgia Fall Invitational. In total, Cal racked up a score of 1,163 points, comfortably ahead of runner-up Michigan’s 1,027.5.
The Bears’ stellar performance at the event epitomized the team’s utter dominance this year, as the group has boasted victory in each of its competitions this season. After completing its final meet of the calendar year, the Bears can take some time to escape the cold waters and rest in their lair as they ready for the spring’s NCAA championships.
Joey Patton covers men’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].