Bears display dominance over Cardinal in 198-98 win

Sunny Shen/Staff

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It’s a tough time to be a Cal sports fan. With the recent dismal losses from both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and a struggling baseball team, being a Cal fan is like watching your groceries slowly splatter to the ground. It hurts but there’s nothing that can be done about it.

In the midst of all this mourning, however, Cal flexed its muscles in the one sport it consistently excels in. The Cal men’s swim and dive team put out its most dominant conference performance of the year Feb. 22, sweeping Stanford in relays for the second time this season, 198-98.

The Bears had previously faced and outperformed the Cardinal back in November for their annual Triple Distance Meet.

Sitting at second place in the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America rankings with 312 points, Cal definitely had an edge against No.16 Stanford. But the Triple Distance Meet moves significantly quicker than your average dual meet, so there was no guarantee of a repeat performance.

Cal’s dominance was evident from the get-go.

Junior Bryce Mefford, senior Karl Arvidsson, senior Pawel Sendyk and junior Ryan Hoffer kicked off the meet by snagging a 1:24.91 win over two Stanford squads and fellow teammates junior Daniel Carr, sophomore Reece Whitley, senior Zheng Wen Quah and senior Michael Jensen. The Bears’ swim team continued this momentum throughout the rest of the meet, winning 10 of the 12 individual events and taking the top two spots in the final 400-yard freestyle relay.

Quah, consistently emerging as one of the team’s top swimmers with a strong season from start to finish, took home wins in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly in the final dual meet of his collegiate career.

Coming off impressive performances against USC and then-No.13 Arizona State, Whitley once again proved why he was named the Pac-12 Conference Swimmer of the Week for the second time this year, sweeping the breaststroke events and beating out Stanford senior Hank Poppe in the 100, 52.94 to 53.51. In the 200-yard breast, Whitley touched the wall more than four seconds ahead of the Cardinal’s Daniel Roy.

Hoffer, who was named the December Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month for his performance in the Minnesota Invitational, clinched wins in both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle. As the defending NCAA champion in the 50-yard free, he narrowly beat out Sendyk 19.25 to 19.46.

In the backstroke events, Carr and Mefford battled it out for first, splitting the 100 and 200-yard. Carr took the 100, touching the wall less than a second before Mefford, who rallied to take the 200, winning by an even closer margin of .39 seconds.

Junior Trenton Julian and redshirt sophomore Hugo Gonzales rounded out the individual wins, and with victory already in hand for Cal, the team of Quah, Hoffer, Sendyk and Jensen easily rolled to first in the final event of the day, the 400-yard freestyle relay, with a solid time of 2:53.25.

With this win, the team improves to 4-0 in conference meets, and it remains undefeated for the season. Cal now trails No.1 Texas by a mere 13 points. This was the final dual meet of the season, as the Bears will now turn their attention to the upcoming Pac-12 Championships, the first of which will be for Cal Men’s Dive.

Senior Connor Callahan will be the sole Bear donning blue and gold as Cal takes on the conference of champions this week. Callahan has been one of the best divers in the Bears’ history, recording the school’s highest score in 1-meter with a 379.28 in October 2018. The North Carolina hopeful has had his share of struggles this year, including a middling performance at the team’s most recent meet in Stanford. He’ll be hoping for an improved performance to cap off his Pac-12 career.

Amber Fang covers men’s swim & dive. Contact her at [email protected].