Cal claws back to find 1st in Pac-12 championships

photo of Cal Men's Swim and Dive
Vanessa Lim/Senior Staff

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It’s championship season, and the Bears are here to play.

The lights were bright and the tension was high as senior Daniel Carr headed to the starting platform, the first athlete to touch water for Cal men’s swim and dive. As the first leg in the 200-yard medley relay, Carr knew there was no room for error; the standard was perfection.

And he performed: Coming in a mere 0.01 seconds behind Arizona State’s Jack Dolan, Carr put the Bears in perfect position to strike. The rest of the team, however, did not follow the precedent Carr set — after Liam Bell and Dare Rose both clocked in times that were less than a second slower than their opponents, even Bjorn Seeliger’s impressive 18.27 last leg could not push the Bears ahead. The 200-yard medley team finished third, behind the Sun Devils and Trojans.

A podium finish is impressive, but after season upon season of excellence, the Bears expected more. A podium finish is impressive, but a first-place finish is gratifying. A podium finish is impressive, but a first-place finish is dominating. So, after a disappointing first day at the Pac-12 championships, Cal committed to rise up and meet the high expectations set for it since before the season even began.

Spoiler alert: it succeeded. After four days of challenging, high-pressure competition, Cal won the Pac-12 swimming and diving championship on Saturday, March 5, coming back from a 63-point deficit to Stanford just a day before. The Cardinal came in second, with the Sun Devils following close behind in third. This marks Cal’s fifth consecutive conference championship and its seventh under head coach David Durden.

This victory is even sweeter considering the blue and gold’s loss to Stanford during their last regular-season dual meet less than three weeks ago. The Cardinal won that one 143-151; the Bears won the one that mattered 853.5-760.

Cal’s 853.5 points came behind eight 1st-place finishes, which includes two relay championships and six individual titles. Though the whole team elevated its execution as the tourney went on, sophomore Seeliger rose above the rest, notching three individual championships in the 50-yard free, 100-yard back and 100-yard free, each by less than a second. Seeliger was also a key member of the championship-winning 200- and 400-yard free relay.

Seniors Reece Whitley and Trenton Julian were also an integral part of Cal’s comeback championship run. Whitley found first and third in the 100- and 200-yard breast, respectively, while Julian defended his title in the 200-yard fly.

However, this championship season is not over for Cal yet. The team will head to the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia, from March 23-26 for the NCAA championships where it hopes to reclaim something that slipped out of its grasp last year: a national championship.

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