In a stormy Friday afternoon showdown that could leave only one team undefeated, the Cal men’s swim team bested USC and prevented the Trojan horse from knocking down the walls of Berkeley’s Spieker Aquatics Complex.
The Bears set the tone right out of the gate, as two Cal quartets claimed the top spots in the 200-yard medley relay. The group consisting of Daniel Carr, Carson Sand, Pawel Sendyk and Ryan Hoffer claimed first with a final time of 1:25.37, while teammates Bryce Mefford, Reece Whitley, Andrew Seliskar and Michael Jensen finished shortly behind, at 1:26.16.
As the meet transitioned into the 1,000-yard freestyle, fans likely expected to see a shootout between Cal sophomore Trenton Julian and USC freshman Victor Johansson. Despite these expectations, however, Julian did not compete in the event, and Johansson stalled to a third-place finish. In the end, it was Cal sophomore Sean Grieshop who emerged from the water as the event’s victor with a stellar 9:03.04.
Cal kept its foot on the gas and piled on the damage in the 200-yard freestyle, as superstars Seliskar and Julian finished one-two with respective times of 1:33.77 and 1:35.95. Immediately thereafter, sophomore Mefford took first in the 100-yard backstroke at 46.94, giving Cal its fourth victory in as many events.
The day’s first shake-up came when USC sophomore Carsten Vissering beat out Cal freshman Whitley in the 100-yard breaststroke. What was highlighted as the meet’s marquee matchup lived up to every bit of excitement, as Vissering’s 52.34 barely edged out Whitley’s 52.77. Considering each swimmer’s young age, Whitley versus Vissering may shape up to be an exciting rivalry for Pac-12 swimming fans to enjoy for years to come.
Cal showed excellent resiliency and immediately bounced back from its first loss of the day, as Bears Zheng Wen Quah, Mike Thomas and Jack Xie claimed the top three spots in the 200-yard butterfly. From that point on, the two teams battled back and forth and split the next 10 events at 5-5. But when it was all said and done, Cal brought home a 156-126 victory and maintained its perfect record on the season.
“We stayed aggressive in our races from start to finish,” said Cal head coach David Durden. “There was no complaining, and on a day like today, there is a lot to complain about. I just thought whether a guy was racing one or racing four times, they stayed aggressive in all of their races.”
With their closest competition of the year now in hindsight, the Bears can turn their attention to a rematch against archrival Stanford that will bring an end to their regular season. And once that’s in the books, the team can finally set its sights on March’s NCAA championships.
If Cal continues to fight as it did against USC, there’s no reason the team can’t capture its first national championship since 2014 and truly live up to the team’s status as the “Golden” Bears.