Three nationally ranked teams. Two telling wins. Amid the heat and pressure brought by Arizona and Arizona State this past weekend, Cal men’s swim and dive emerged victorious, cool and hungry for more.
The Bears hosted two consecutive Pac-12 dual meets at Spieker Aquatics Complex, tackling the Wildcats first Jan. 21, and then reuniting with the Sun Devils the following day. Both meetings were blowout wins for Cal, the weekend competitions becoming the 17th and 18th straight dual meet wins for the Bears under head coach David Durden. Cal’s performance was absolutely elite, and absolutely expected from the No. 2 team in the nation.
Cal made an example of Arizona first, scoring a resounding 173 points to the Wildcats’ 80. The day was dominated by the Bears, starting off with first-place and second-place finishes in the 200-yard medley relay by the teams of Hugo Gonzalez, Reece Whitley, Trenton Julian and Jack Alexy and Daniel Carr, Forrest Frazier, Dare Rose and Destin Lasco, respectively. This set the rhythm for the rest of the day, kickstarting a nine-event winning streak that ended only when Arizona sophomore Jacob Hand beat Cal freshman Jacob Soderlund in the 200-yard breaststroke by less than a second, securing the Wildcats their first win of the day.
Despite the slight disruption in cadence, the Bears were undaunted: They won 12 of 15 events, and swept first, second and third in 500 free, 200 free, 100 free, 50 free, 200 back and 200 fly.
Freshman Gabriel Jett put on quite a performance for Cal against the Wildcats, finding first in the 1000-yard free, 200-yard fly and 100-yard fly. His 9:01.56 performance in the 1000-yard free was the fastest time recorded by a Bear in this event this season.
Though the Wildcats fell short of their underdog miracle dreams, the Sun Devils brought the heat to California, putting up an impressive 117 points to the Bears’ 176. Arizona State competed with enough fervor to stay competitive, but it was unable to come up with the win. Of the 14 swim events, Cal won 11; the Sun Devils were only able to take home the 100-yard free, 200 breaststroke and 400-yard IM. They were marginal victories, however, with the difference between first and second in the 100-yard free and 200 breaststroke being a couple tenths of a second.
After a two-day showing of dominance, it would be fairly easy for the Bears to become complacent and overly content. But Cal’s lack of a solid diving team leaves the team vulnerable. In the matchup against Arizona State, the Sun Devils were automatically awarded 30 points due to the Bears’ electing not to compete in two diving events. If Cal truly wants to pursue something greater than the Pac-12 championship fans of the team have come to expect over the years, it must address this vulnerability.
Cynthia Ge covers men’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].