Losing absolutely no momentum following the end of last season, the Cal men’s swimming and diving team defeated Utah in a commanding fashion, taking a 185-107 victory at Spieker Aquatics Complex on Wednesday.
With the exception of the two events that the Bears raced as exhibitions — the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard individual medley — the blue and gold took home first and second in each swimming race and secured the top three spots in both the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle.
“The meet went really well. We’ve been training really hard recently,” said junior Destin Lasco. “I took off three weeks in the summer, and getting back into it, I wouldn’t say we had high expectations for where we want to be, but … it’s been going really well.”
Standouts from the afternoon included sophomore Gabriel Jett, who won the 200 freestyle and recorded an exhibition time in the 100 butterfly that would have ranked first. The U.S. national team member also contributed to the Bears’ 200 freestyle relay victory as the anchor leg.
The relay’s leadoff, junior Bjorn Seeliger, had a dominant afternoon as well. In his season debut, the Olympian earned wins in the 100 freestyle and 200 medley relay, along with the 200 freestyle relay.
Lasco, who was named the King of the Pool against Cal Poly, cemented his title, winning the 100 backstroke and putting on a class act in the 200 individual medley. His exhibition time (meaning it did not count toward the final rankings or team score) was the fastest in the event.
“Swimming really fast this early in the season — it usually takes me a really long time to get back into it,” Lasco said. “I’m really happy that I found my rhythm well and this early, so it can set me up for the rest of the season.”
The afternoon saw the return of veterans such as fifth-year senior Reece Whitley, who won the 200 breaststroke, and senior Colby Mefford, who took the 200 backstroke.
Wednesday also offered fans a look at Cal’s next generation, with freshman Matthew Chai winning the 1,000 freestyle by more than nine seconds in his first collegiate dual meet race.
“I was happy with how some of our freshmen stepped up, especially because it’s their first time racing real events. It’s awesome seeing them adjust,” Seeliger said. “I was really proud of that.”
As Cal looks to build beyond its dominance in swimming, Wednesday’s meet showed promise for diving coach Pei Lin’s program. Freshman Joshua Thai won the 1-meter and placed fourth in the 3-meter.
“We have one of the best coaches in the country working with our divers,” said head coach Dave Durden. “That’s evident in how she runs a practice and her expectations, how she has been recruiting, how she is building out that piece of our program.”
Despite the convincing win, the Bears viewed the first dual meet of the season as something of a practice run. Seeliger said the team has endurance, but it doesn’t necessarily have the speed yet, adding that the point of the fall semester is to “grind” and whittle down times.
According to Durden, the meet offered Cal the opportunity to race longer distances, as the Cal Poly meet only featured 100-yard events.
“This was good to kind of move through that distance for them, to move through a real sort of dual meet, especially for our freshmen to get the flow of that,” Durden said.
The Bears will next compete Oct. 27 against Pacific at home, looking to secure another victory before facing Stanford — which handed the blue and gold their only loss last season — in November.