Despite the dominance, despite the drive, Cal men’s swim and dive was dealt its first loss of the season Saturday, Feb. 19.
A loss is a loss — every team, no matter how exceptional and complete and assertive, suffers through losses; this is nothing unexpected and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just unfortunate that the first loss this season for the Bears, the first regular season loss since Oct. 3, 2018, came against Stanford in their home arena.
With championships on their mind, Cal traveled to Avery Aquatic Center, hoping for a 21st consecutive dual-meet victory and momentum to bring into the Pac-12 championships. The Bears left Avery Aquatic Center crestfallen, having only posted 141 points against the Cardinal’s 153.
Despite the marginal loss, the results of the dual meet are not a sign of Cal’s deteriorating ability, but rather a testament to Stanford’s stellar group of athletes. Of the 16 events, the Cardinal won half of them, including the 1- and 3-meter dive, each of which awarded Stanford 16 points.
Perhaps this is where the Bears fell short: Despite being evenly matched, even arguably having an advantage against the No. 6 team in the nation in swimming events, Cal’s lack of a solid diving core cost it the win. In order to have a competitive edge and keep its hopes for a national championship alive, Cal must offer some sort of resistance in the diving events; diving points should not be points the Bears just give away.
Although the overall meet was shadowed by the resounding feeling of loss, there were momentary periods of success that reflected the tenacity of the Cal swimmers. Sophomore Björn Seeliger had an exceptional performance, winning both the 50-yard and 100-yard free. Hugo González and Destin Lasco swam a first- and second-place finish in the 200 individual medley, and Reece Whitley won the 200 breast, his time of 1:49.96 a season’s best.
The competition against Stanford was a close one, with a majority of wins on either side coming down to the wire. Ten events were decided by less than a second, and Saturday, the dice rolled the Cardinal’s way.
This offers hope for the Bears as they look towards the Pac-12 championship next month — they just have to win those close matchups. And Cal will not go down with a fight. Having won six of the last nine Pac-12 championships, the Bears aim to build onto their legacy and swim away with another win.
Five other teams from the Pac-12 will be present: Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, USC and Utah. As the Bears recuperate and start to grind for their performance from March 2-5 in Federal Way, Washington, they can take solace in the fact that they’ve beaten four of the participating teams already, and almost beat the fifth.