Cal dominates in Pac-12 Championships, looks to continue noteworthy postseason

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For four days, Houston belonged to the Bears.

In a manner reflective of its dominant regular season, Cal men’s swim and dive swept the Pac-12 Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship, finishing the event with an impressive 970 points and securing the team’s fourth straight Pac-12 Swimming & Diving Championship. The team bested Stanford yet again, who came in second with 788 points. This is Cal’s sixth Pac-12 championship title under head coach David Durden.

The Bears entered Sunday’s swimming championships in last place after sophomore Tyler Wesson’s performance at the diving championships in Arizona just days prior. As Cal’s only male diver at the event, Wesson failed to qualify for any of the finals, placing second-to-last in the 1-meter and 3-meter dive, and last in the 5-meter dive during prelims. In direct contrast to Cal’s struggles, Stanford divers Conor Casey and Noah Vigran shone. Casey swept the 1-meter dive, securing first place in prelims and in the championships with a commanding final score of 413.55. Vigran had the same success, dominating the 3-meter dive with a final score of 393.35.

After the diving championships concluded, Utah sat firmly at first with 133 points, followed by Stanford and Arizona. The Bears had only 22 points to show for Wesson’s performance.

However, the team refused to let any disappointment linger. Once in Houston, the Bears showed up in full force, winning both the 400-yard medley relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay on opening night. Their 400-yard medley performance was one for the books: Bryce Mefford, Reece Whitley, Ryan Hoffer and Björn Seeliger raced a 3:02.60, clocking in the second-fastest time of the nation and breaking Cal’s longtime record of 3:03.30. Though they remained in fifth place, the Bears set a precedent that night — one of resilience and success — that they followed until the very end.

The ensuing three days of the Pac-12 Swimming Championships were defined by blue and gold victories. Building upon his already remarkable season, senior Trenton Julian added two more Pac-12 titles to his resume, winning the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly in 4:09.49 and 1:38.53, respectively. Both times set a new Pac-12 Championship record, and his 200 fly was recognized as the fastest in the nation. Julian now boasts three Pac-12 individual event titles in addition to his three relay titles. Freshman Destin Lasco also gave an impressive performance this week, beating fellow teammates Daniel Carr and Bryce Mefford twice to take home the 100 and 200-yard backstroke.

In a competition where every team member flourished, however, perhaps most noteworthy was senior Ryan Hoffer, who defended his title in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. Given his three individual championships and four relay championships in the 400 medley, 200 free, 200 medley and 400 free, Hoffer was crowned Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet for the second year in a row. He is now an 18-time Pac-12 champion.

The Bears won 17 of 18 events in a fitting final Pac-12 Championship for the eight seniors who have taken home four straight. They lost only the 200-yard freestyle to USC’s Alexei Sancov, who narrowly beat Julian by 0.9 seconds. The team now looks towards Greensboro, North Carolina and the 2021 NCAA Championships scheduled for March 24 to 27.

Cynthia Ge covers men’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected]