Numbers make life easier. They provide a standardized system of measurement, quantify the subjective and allow for accurate comparisons. There is a danger in using numbers to represent real, nuanced things, but there is an ease to it as well.
Because the Minnesota Invite was unscored, quantifying the success of Cal men’s swim and dive is slightly difficult. The four-day tournament hosted No. 1 Texas, No. 4 Michigan and No. 17 Wisconsin, and knowing where the blue and gold stood in relation to these nationally ranked teams would have gone a long way in highlighting a road toward their progress. Even so, the Bears didn’t need points and formal team rankings in order to exhibit excellence in their sport.
Competition at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center started with the 200-yard medley relay finals. Of the 18 relay teams in competition, the Bears had a resounding presence in the top 10, placing fourth, sixth and 10th. Texas teams occupied the top two spots, with their NCAA A-qualifying times of 1:23.33 and 1:23.35 being the fastest and second fastest times in the nation.
Beating second place Michigan’s time of 6:11.02 by less than a minute, the Longhorns also took home the second race of the meet. Cal freshmen Gabriel Jett and Robin Hanson as well as sophomores Destin Lasco and Björn Seeliger came in fifth place, clocking in at 6:19.05. Though nowhere near the first place pedestal hogged by Texas, the Bears did swim their way to NCAA B-qualifying times in both relays.
The second day of competition ushered in a wave of success for Cal: Jett placed fourth in the 500-yard free. Despite the lower ranking, his time of 4:13.90 was a personal best, 1.16 seconds faster than his preliminary time. Sophomore Destin Lasco –– a breath away from second place Caspar Corbeau’s time of 1:41.62 –– secured the Bears’ first individual win of the meet with his 1:41.53 in the 200-yard individual medley. It was another almost-Texas win, stolen by California.
Jett and Lasco went on to take home another individual win, each setting his second personal best time this meet. Jett swam the 200-yard free in 1:32.52, beating Michigan’s Patrick Callan and Texas’ Coby Carrozza. Lasco took home his final win on the last day of competition, posting the nation’s best at 1:39.24 in the 200-yard backstroke. Lasco’s win was supplemented by the success of his teammates as Seeliger, Reece Whitley and Jett placed second in the 100-yard free, 200 yard-breaststroke and 200 yard-butterfly, respectively.
Second place might not be not enough, however, especially if the Bears aim to finish what they started last year and bring home a national championship. They have the manpower and talent — now, Cal must execute and follow through.