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Year! Review! Read our 2022 Year in Retrospect Issue!

Defend, defeat: Bears bolstering roster for next harsh winter

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OCTOBER 26, 2022

The greatest dynasties in sports history all have one thing in common: the ability to withstand the revolving door of roster members who exit the team due to free agency, trades or retirements. 

Think Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers or David Robinson to Tim Duncan — illustrations of what a successful passing of the torch looks like. 

Sometimes, the loss of a star player is balanced out by the addition of complementary pieces that flourish in their roles. Take, for example, the Warriors losing Kevin Durant but managing to turn Andrew Wiggins from bust to crucial starter. 

Simultaneously, they developed Jordan Poole into the NBA’s best sixth man and convinced him to sign a new contract — even after millions watched him get sent to the underworld by a fellow teammate. 

The Cal men’s swim and dive team is no different, which is precisely what has allowed them to win five out of the last 11 NCAA championships. From Nathan Adrian to Ryan Murphy to Andrew Seliskar, the blue and gold have always been put in a position to succeed with their ability to draw in the biggest names in the next wave of swimmers. 

This point was highlighted just this past week as Cal managed to secure two of the most notable swimmers among the high school class of 2024: Nick Mahabir and Pieter Coetze. 

Both Mahabir and Coetze will have an immediate impact on the team next season, with the former being the Singaporean national record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke. This record was achieved this past July at the U.S. nationals, and he did it while taking down two of America’s best breastrokers in Matt Fallon and Michael Andrew. 

Not to be outdone, Coetze’s time of 52.95 seconds in the 100-meter backstroke he set in the Commonwealth games this summer is already an African record. With Cal’s best breastroker, Reece Whitley, set to leave after this season, Mahabir will have big shoes to fill the second his first practice with the team begins. 

In the meantime, however, the Bears will be looking to earn another championship this season to add to their illustrious history. The next step on this path will be a dual meet against Pacific at the Spieker Aquatics Complex. Although an annually held showdown, this year’s competition will look significantly different than in 2021.

Last year’s meet ran at the same time as the Pac-12 dual meet against Utah, forcing Cal to send its best swimmers to compete against the conference rivals while sending the other half of the team down to the Chris Kjeldsen Pool.  

Although the Bears were still able to secure victory, it was not in the usual dominant fashion we have become so accustomed to, seeing as the teams were separated by a margin of 56.5 points.  

The blue and gold will have their full roster available for this meet, and the team hopes to build off of its strong showing two weeks ago against Utah, where numerous swimmers dropped fast times despite it being the first meet of the season.

On the other side of things, the diving team will also look to continue its promising start against Utah, where freshman Joshua Thai was able to win the 1-meter diving event and place fourth in the 3-meter event. In what has been a lackluster past couple of years for the men’s diving team, head coach Pei Lin, a three-time NCAA runner-up herself, will look to right the ship in her first season as head coach for the Bears. 

Only time will tell whether Cal’s run as a swimming dynasty will continue, but they are certainly taking the right steps toward achieving that goal. As for now, the team only has one thing on its mind: to swim fast and secure a victory Thursday at 1 p.m. 

Ivan Wu covers men’s swim and dive. Contact him at [email protected].

OCTOBER 26, 2022