After a restful month of hibernation, the Bears are ready to dive back into the wintry waters for their split-squad competitions in San Diego and Arizona this weekend.
On Friday, half of the team will be competing in La Jolla against UCSD, while the other half will be taking on the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe. The Arizona group will then travel roughly two hours south to the University of Arizona’s campus in Tucson for a Saturday meet.
This weekend’s races are the Bears’ first official competitions of the calendar year, and they will be looking to pick up in 2019 right where they left off in 2018.
Cal came into the season ranked No. 2 in all of collegiate swimming behind rival Stanford. But after kicking off the season with victories in every meet, the Bears dethroned the Cardinal and claimed their rightful place as the nation’s top-ranked program.
Though every Cal swimmer and diver has pulled his weight this season, a few team members have truly gone above and beyond, establishing themselves as the group’s stars.
Freshman Reece Whitley has been everything the Bears had hoped he would be, as he has been utterly dominant in the breaststroke throughout his rookie campaign. In December’s Georgia Fall Invitational, the freshman was given the opportunity to showcase his talents on the big stage and left his competition in the dust with a season-best 51.77 in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Connor Callahan has done an outstanding job on the boards this year and has been the anchor of the Bears’ entire diving unit. The junior’s season is highlighted by a record-setting dive against Pacific in Cal’s second competition back in October.
If there has been an MVP on the Bears’ roster this season, one could certainly argue that senior Andrew Seliskar is the swimmer most worthy of the title. Seliskar added a plethora of achievements to his already impressive collegiate career, ranging from his opening day “King of the Pool” victory to his November PAC-12 Swimmer of the Month honors.
None of the Bears’ success this season would be possible if it weren’t for the excellent guidance provided by head coach David Durden. Coach Durden has led the Bears to first or second-place finishes in the NCAA Championships every year dating back to 2010. With perhaps the most talented team he’s coached at Cal, Durden is determined to bring home his fourth NCAA Championship since taking over the program in 2007.
Before the Bears can set their sights on June’s NCAA Championships, though, they must first conquer this weekend’s events in La Jolla and Arizona. With a healthy squad coming off a full month of rest, there’s no reason the nation’s top swim program shouldn’t carry its dominance into 2019 and etch a couple more W’s into the record book.
Joey Patton covers men’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].