When you’re an underdog, pressure is minimal. No one expects anything from you and there exists a freedom to play the game the way you want to play it. But when you’re the favorite, on the other hand, there is not only the pressure and expectation that you will win, but the desire of others to see you fail.
Seemingly unfazed by this, the No. 1 Cal men’s swim and dive team was able to defend its title and capture the Pac-12 Championship title for the second year in a row, beating out second place No. 7 Stanford and third place No. 15 Arizona. The Bears scored 948 points, which was over 200 points more than the Cardinals’ 716 points and Wildcats’ 570 points.
Cal kicked off the meet on a strong foot, with senior Nick Norman winning the 1650 freestyle for the second year in a row and sophomore Sean Grieshop taking third. The Bears also placed first and third in the 200 backstroke, with strong races from sophomores Bryce Mefford and Daniel Carr. In the third race of the day, juniors Pawel Sendyk and Michael Jensen gave Cal its first one-two finish in the 100 freestyle.
“It was good for us to come in and just move at some high rates of speeds, have our guys work through some exchanges, play around with some different orders,” said Cal head coach Dave Durden in an interview with Pac-12 Network. “I think that’s really good about this time of year, when you’re about three weeks out, just to see some guys moving at that speed.”
The Bears continued their dominance as senior Andrew Seliskar won the 200 breaststroke with a Pac-12 Championship, record-breaking time of 1:49.80.
Cal dominated the 200 butterfly, its swimmers taking first, second and third. Leading the group was junior Zheng Quah who won for the second year in a row and also set a Pac-12 Championship record with a time of 1:39.86. Sophomore Trenton Julian, who seems to be improving with every race, placed second and was followed by senior Mike Thomas, who was able to snatch away third place from Stanford sophomore Alex Liang.
Along with Cal defending its Pac-12 Championship title, Seliskar also won Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet for the second year in a row. Seliskar has been such a dominant force in the pool throughout the entire season that it seems hardly shocking when he continues to win. While NCAAs will feature a bigger pool of strong competitors, there should not be any doubt of his ability to succeed, even at the highest level.
“(Seliskar) has just done a great job in every place that we’ve put him,” said Durden. “He’s gotten better each and every year as he’s moved and evolved as a swimmer.”
The Bears’ ability to stay in complete control of every race in the meet proves both their strength and depth. Throughout the season, Cal had done a great job at placing in almost every race, but it seemed the swimmers really stepped into a high-pressure situation to not only place, but win every event.
While Pac-12s do not give a complete indication of how successful the Bears will be in NCAAs, it seems safe to say that they are the most threatening team on the West Coast. Other top teams, such as No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Indiana and No. 4 Michigan, should be greater competition for Cal come the end of March.
Taylor Choe covers men’s swim and dive. Contact her at