In a seemingly never-ending show of grit, power and dominance, Cal men’s swim and dive splashed past Virginia last Friday, Oct. 15th in its season opener at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The meet featured the men’s and women’s teams from both schools, but only Cal’s men’s team was able to pull away with the win, outscoring the Cavaliers 168-94. Cal women’s swim and dive narrowly lost by 20 points, scoring 121 to Virginia’s 141.
This past Friday’s rendezvous was the first meeting between Cal and Virginia. Both teams entered the competition with an impressive resume: Currently ranked No. 9 nationally, the Cavaliers qualified 10 swimmers for the 2021 NCAA Swim & Dive Championships and finished in 9th place with 152 points. The Bears too are highly regarded by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America — they stand in second place nationally with 360 points, eclipsed only by No. 1 Texas at 375 points. Relatively speaking, the Bears had a better season than the Cavaliers last year: Cal walked away from the NCAA Championships as the runner-up, barely losing to the Longhorns and their coach Eddie Reese, the winningest coach in the sport’s history.
This time around, the Bears are looking to go all the way. Following a stellar summer Olympic performance, head coach David Durden has continued pushing the Bears to swim hard. Of the 12 individual events at the meet, the Bears won 11 of them: Their only loss of the night was to Matt King in the 100-yard freestyle by 0.02 seconds.
Other than King’s narrow win, Spieker Aquatics Complex was Bear territory during the individual races. Cal started the meet off with a bang, with graduate University of Michigan transfer student Will Roberts securing first place in the 1000 free in 9:13.71. Liam Bell and Gabriel Jett, new faces on the team, also recorded their first Cal victories in the books. Bell, a junior transfer from Alabama, took home the 100 breaststroke, beating out teammate Reece Whitley by 0.41 seconds, while freshman Gabriel Jett excelled in the 500-yard free. In an already exceptional program, these additional recruits are elevating the prestige, standard and threat of Cal men’s swim and dive.
Veterans on the team pulled their weight against the Cavaliers as well. Trenton Julian and Destin Lasco both took home two event wins, continuing their dominant performance from last season. Julian was all over the 200 free and 100 butterfly, while Lasco found first in the 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley.
Despite Cal’s exemplary performance, the Cavaliers had their moment of glory at the end of the meet, finessing two team wins in the 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.
The Bears look to build upon their reputation as the team to beat this upcoming week with two more competitions. Some members of the team will compete against Utah on Friday, Oct. 22, in their first Pac-12 meet of the season, while the rest of the team will aim for first at the Pacific Invite in Stockton, California, from Oct. 23-24.