Can Cal keep its head above water at the Pac-12 Championship?

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Despite a floundering start to their postseason, the Bears will fight to sink or swim as they compete for their third consecutive Pac-12 title Wednesday through Saturday.

Last year, the Bears successfully defended their title, winning the Pac-12 title by the largest margin of victory since 2007. And with an undefeated 4-0 conference record this season, they seem to be on track to continue this trend.

On Feb. 22, however, senior diver Connor Callahan kicked off the Bears’ quest for victory with a whimper, scoring a second-to-last place finish in the 1-meter event finals. Over the course of the next two days, his fortunes only got worse, as he failed to qualify for the finals of both the 3-meter and platform events, placing 10th out of 14th and ninth out of 12th in the prelims, respectively.

Fortunately for Callahan, despite this performance, Cal men’s swim and dive isn’t out of the running yet, as the swim team prepares to face off against No. 10 Arizona, No. 13 Arizona State, No. 16 Stanford, No. 21 USC and No. 25 Utah in the Pac-12 Championships this week.

The blue and gold have faced and defeated every team they will meet this week, save for the Utes, who they will meet for the first time this season.

“I think we feel good about how we’ve swam, how we’ve performed this year. And it’s put us in a good position to go into a Pac-12 Championships. … I think we go into that meet feeling very comfortable in our own skin and how we’ve gone throughout the whole year and … allowing our guys to go up and race fast,” said Cal head coach David Durden.

And while some of the roster will continue on to compete in the NCAA Championships, for others, the Pac-12 Championships will mark the end of their season. For Durden, this means making sure that those who are finishing out their season this week are putting out their best performances, while preparing the rest of the team for success at the NCAAs.

“(We’re) making sure that we’re balancing those two groups on our team as we head up to Federal Way,” Durden said.

While the entire team will be present for the meet, not all of them will be actively competing, as some members of the team will spend their time focused solely on succeeding in the upcoming NCAA Championships, forgoing the Pac-12s. This could be a cause for concern, but this team proved they have the depth to perform at a high level, even with missing members, when they claimed victory against USC and UCSD in split-day dual meets earlier in the season.

“We feel comfortable with that and where our individual athletes are heading into that championship,” Durden said.

As for Callahan, he will conclude his four-year tenure on the Cal diving roster at the NCAA Championships next week, where he has one final chance to improve his performance.

Wednesday will kick off with relay events and the meet will conclude Saturday.

The Pac-12 Championships will be televised on Pac-12 Networks at 6 p.m. each day of the event, save for Saturday, which has a 6:30 p.m. start time.

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