Off break: Cal looks to climb rankings, reassert itself against No. 1 Texas

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Though the season has just started, some might say Cal men’s swim and dive has nothing left to prove.

Under head coach David Durden, the Bears have placed either first or second in 11 consecutive NCAA championships, yielding 32 individual NCAA champions and 16 nationally ranked relay times. Cal is also a quintessential part of the U.S. men’s Olympic team, both in athletes and coaching staff: Durden led Team USA in 2020, bringing eight Bears along with him. Given everything the Bears have accomplished in Durden’s 15 seasons at the helm, teams across the nation know not to underestimate the blue and gold.

And yet, the Bears have something to prove this week. After starting the season off as the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, Cal has fallen to No. 3 behind North Carolina State, whose 337 points give No. 1 Texas a run for its money. The Bears need to reassert themselves, or this will be the first time in at least five years that they don’t finish with a top-two final ranking.

Enter the Minnesota Invite — a chance for Cal to climb its way back up to the top. A four-day tournament spanning from Dec. 1 to 4, this upcoming competition provides the perfect opportunity for Cal to reclaim its No. 2 title and push for No. 1. Seven schools will be competing at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, including three other nationally ranked teams: No. 1 Texas, No. 4 Michigan and No. 17 Wisconsin. All three have not recorded a loss yet this season. Arizona, Harvard and host Minnesota will also be in attendance.

Despite the slight dip in ranking, the Bears have lost nothing but a little respect. The same team who dominated Utah and No. 9 Virginia is the same team who will compete this Wednesday.

In fact, Cal men’s swim and dive legacy was further cemented earlier this month. On Nov. 9, six Cal alumni swimmers were named in the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America’s 100 Greatest Men’s Swimmers and Divers: Nathan Adrian, Matt Biondi, Anthony Ervin, Ryan Murphy, Graham Smith and Tom Shields. The Bears were selected from a field of 3000 nominees and 973 finalists by a panel of current college athletes, coaches and media members. Current Cal athletes can only hope to build upon the prestige established by their predecessors this week, and each week afterward.

It is a privilege to complain about dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 nationally, but that is the standard to which Cal men’s swim and dive holds itself to. As the Minnesota Invite looms, the Bears must remember their commitment to succeed in the face of challenge. This is Cal’s opportunity to reassert itself to star teams such as Texas and give those teams a taste of a potential national championship matchup.

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