Redemption season: Cal on the move to Pac-12 championships

Photo of Cal men's swimmer swimming freestyle
Vanessa Lim/Senior Staff

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What’s your favorite championship? 

Not to jump on the bandwagon here, but for Cal men’s swim and dive, its favorite championship is and always will be the next one. 

Following the women’s conference championships this past week, Cal men’s swim and dive will also head to Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington, to compete in the Pac-12 championships from March 2-5. 

The four-day tournament will host five other schools, four of which are in the nation’s top 20: No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 11 USC and No. 20 Arizona. With the addition of Cal at No. 2, the Utes find themselves the outcast, swimming in waters infested with nationally ranked teams. 

For the Bears, the Pac-12 championships have historically been filled with success. After breaking Stanford’s 30-year winning streak from 1982 to 2012 in 2013, Cal has won six of the last nine championships and is on a four-year winning streak. Knock on wood — the Bears hope to make it five after next week. 

Cal athletes have also found an unprecedented amount of success in the conference championships. Of the 13 swimming events offered, the blue and gold hold Pac-12 records in six events. Arizona and Stanford each hold three Pac-12 records while USC maintains its hold on one, leaving the rest of the Pac-12 out of the record books.

The Bears have also claimed six out of the past 10 Pac-12 Athlete of the Year awards. 

Despite Cal’s indisputable legacy in the conference, this year’s Pac-12 championships present another challenge for the Bears.

Less than two weeks ago, Stanford handed the Bears their first loss since 2018. After ending the regular season on a devastating loss to the Cardinal, how will the team respond? How will head coach David Durden rally the team together, perhaps against momentum, and defend its title? 

The last time Cal lost a regular-season dual meet was Feb. 17, 2018, in what was also the last regular-season meet. Then, like now, Cal’s marginal loss came at the hands of Stanford; more specifically, Stanford’s diving team. 

For years now, the Bears have struggled to put together a consistent diving team, leaving the diving events at each dual meet and championship practically uncontested. In both losses to Stanford, the margin between winning and losing was small enough that two or three acceptable diving performances would have put the Bears on top. 

Cal men’s swim and dive is good enough at the swimming events to win most of its regular-season dual meets, but when it comes to conference and national championships, good enough is simply not enough

The Pac-12 championships are a comprehensive tournament, and if Cal truly hopes to repeat last year’s victory and have a real chance at contesting Texas for the NCAA championship, the blue and gold must cover all of their bases.

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