Cal Men's Swim claims team lead with two NCAA Titles and a dozen finalists on Day 3
A strong prelim session on Saturday can effectively seal the 7th team championship in program history
California Golden Bears opened and closed Night 3 of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving in style, with a pair of somewhat unexpected NCAA titles. By the end of 14 out of 21 event, Cal Bears can be found atop the team standings!
Team Standings through 14 events:
NC State 214
Arizona State 167
If you come back to this post by around 9 AM PT on Saturday, it should be updated with all the results from the prelim session of Day 4 (Final day). By the psych sheet, Cal Bears should be able to get enough swimmers into Saturday night’s A and B Finals to essentially clinch (barring some disasterous DQ’s) the program’s 7th NCAA Team Title, as well as Cal Athletic’s 99th Team National Championships.
Below is what had happened on Friday, Day 3 for Cal to surge to the lead. All of the A-Finals with Cal swimmers are embedded with their YouTube videos. They are worth spending a few minutes to watch (or rewatch) to get the sense of just how much all of the competitors, including Cal Bears, wanted to perform well in this meet.
For those interested in the specific splits, you can also find the meet results here.
Hugo Gonzalez is your fastest 400y IM swimmer in history!!!!
With a time of 3:32.88, Gonzalez beat the old record by more 0.5 seconds! I should note that the NCAA competitions done in Short Yard Courses are different from that of the Olympics in Long Meter Courses.
In his final year of eligibility, the 2x Spanish “Calympian” had finally lived up to the lofty expectation since he transfered to Cal from Auburn years ago.
Check out all of the top 400y IM times in history, three of them were set in the same swim above. One also find two other familiar names in “Calympians” Josh Prenot and Andrew Seliskar.
Of course, Hugo Gonzaelez put himself in a position to win this even with a great prelim swim. He laid down a new Cal record of 3:34.88 in the morning, to get the following reaction from his Cal training partner and US “Calympian” Tom Shields.
While he ended up leading the race wire-to-wire, Hugo Gonzalez was only slightly ahead of Texas’ Carson Foster before turning up the jet in the 3rd breaststroke leg and kept it up through the final freestyle leg to win by a large margin. This was Gonzalez’s first NCAA title. He had come close back in 2021 with a 2nd place in 200y IM and a 3rd place in 200y Breast. On Thursday, Gonzalez touched the wall 5th in the 200y IM A-Final this year. He should be able to add another A-Final in Saturday’s 200y Breast.
Gonzalez was joined in the A-Final with teammate Sean Grieshop. A 5th-year senior, Grieshop has not been as strong as he had been earlier in his collegiate career. It was great to see Grieshop making another A-Final after falling short of scoring in 500y Free. Grieshop could be a darkhorse to score points in Saturday’s 1650y Free (the swimming mile).
Winning the consolation final was another Cal Bear in Jason Louser. Louser was able to touch the wall first to minimize the Longhorns having three A-Finalists in this event.
Cal’s strong evening swims turned what had looked like a big point differential going to Texas into a mere +2 point from event No.8. Texas placed 3rd (Carson Foster), 5th (Jake Foster), and 7th (David Johnston).
The B-Final was where the Cal Bears and Texas Longhorns raced in this event. One of Cal’s best butterfly swimmer, Trenton Julian (who will swim this leg in the NCAA winning 400y Medley Relay) has opted again to race in 200y Free where there are more Texas Longhorns.
Sophomore Dare Rose finished 5th (13th overall), one spot behind Texas’ Zac Van Zandt but three spot ahead of Alvin Jiang (who picked this event over 100y Back where he also qualified for the B-Final).
Stanford’s Andrei Minakov won his first NCAA title by posting a time of 43.71 over Georgia’s Luca Urlando (43.80).
One might be somewhat surprised to realize that Texas won the team NCAA title last year without winning any individual nor relay races. Cal, in 2nd place, won 5 (3 by the graduated Ryan Hoffer as well as 2 relays).
That streak ended when Drew Kibler (1:30.28) bested a tight group of guys including Cal’s Trenton Julian (1:31.80) who finished 7th. Julian had finished 3rd in this event last year.
In the consolation final, Swedish “Calympian” freshman Robin Hanson scored his first NCAA points with a 7th place (15th overall) in the B-Final. He was able to beat Texas’ freshman phenom Luke Hobson though.
In the end, Texas took 1st (Kibler), 12th (Coby Carrozza), and 16 (Hobson) to gain more points than Cal’s 7th (Julian) and 15th (Hanson).
However, Cal’s got the number advantage in A-Finals for the remaining two individual swimming events.
Minnesota’s Max McHugh dominated this race with a time of 49.90, just off the record pace. The story with McHugh was that he got shot by a stray bullet in his freshman year and lost a year of training, when he came back, he got a new mental attitude that had resulted in him dominating the last three NCAA breaststroke events.
In the battle between Texas and Cal, the Longhorns were able to limit the damage when their Caspar Corbeau just edged Cal’s junior Liam Bell and senior Reece Whitley. Bell had a brilliant prelim swim to earn a spot in the A-Final. In fact, Bell had the 2nd best prelim time when he beat Corbeau in the same prelim heat.
Whitley and Gonzalez should be A-Finalists in 200y Breast. Bell and Louser will hopefully also get into scoring positions (top-16). Corbeau is the only sure thing to score points for Texas.
Since Cal had dominated backstroke for both the men and women over the past two decades, I thought this would have been the best chance for the Bears to get their first win of this meet. Somewhat shockingly, NC State’s Kacper Stokowski beat the field with a 44.004. He also made a remarkably athletic move to get out of the pool quickly to celebrate on the pool deck!?
Cal’s Destin Lasco did set another personal record but that was only good enough for 4th. What was surprising is that fellow A-Finalist Bjorn Seeliger only finished 8th. WFC fellow swim writer Christopher Zheng thinks the Bears were preserving energies for the relay.
Two additional Cal Bears in the B-Final and the fact that only two Texas Longhorns made the B-Finals of this event (they ended up scratching one) meant that Cal would take over the team lead.
Personally, I was expecting more points from Cal in this event, but Daniel Carr (4th in the B-Final for 12th overall) and USA “Calympian” Bryce Mefford (6th to touch the wall for 14th overall) scoring points and keeping out Texas Longhorns is enough. Carr actually tied Texas’ Cameron Auchinachie in touching the wall 4th.
Both Carr and Bryce Mefford are stronger in 200y Back where as one would not be surprised if 3-4 of the A-Final lanes are racerss wearing Cal caps.
After scoring a ZERO in 1-meter diving, Texas got a bit more when Noah Duperre qualified for the consolation final and placed 10th overall for 7 points. It was just enough to give then a 2.5 point lead going to the final event of Friday night.
Texas should score maybe twice the points from platform diving on Saturday. That would still be much less than ~80 points that they would score from the three diving events.
Texas A&M’s Kurtis Mathews picked up his second diving win of the meet.
400y Medley Relay
With only the 10th best seed time, Cal Bears had to swim in the penultimate heat. The lineup of Destin Lasco (backstroke), Reece Whitley (breaststroke), Trenton Julian (butterfly), and Bjorn Seeliger (freestyle) each contributed a near perfect leg. Cal Bears easily won their heat and set a time of 3:00.36 - the best time in this event this year.
The field in the final heat all made a run at it, but Indiana can only get a 3:00.76 ahead of Florida (3:01.00) and Texas (3:01.22). A 10-point different was awarded for 1st (Cal) vs. 4th (Texas) in the doubled-pointed relays.
This NCAA Championship was senior Reece Whitley and 5th-year senior Trenton Julian’s first NCAA title after coming close a number of times in individual and relay races. Sophomore Bjorn Seeliger was part of two NCAA winning relays last year while fellow sophomore Destin Lasco swam in one of those relays.
The heat with Cal Bears also had another notable achievement. Georgia’s Luca Urlando, who swam 100y Fly rather than 100y Back earlier, set a new 100y Back record time of 43.35. He broke Cal and USA “Calympian” legend Ryan Murphy’s record of 43.49, set exactly 6-years ago to the date.
Congratulations to the Cal Bears for taking over the team lead already. Judging from the team’s demeanor, you know that this group knows the importance of Saturday’s prelim session. The upperclassmen were all a part of that 2019 NCAA team win. Interestingly, I had thought that was Cal’s 99th team national championship title before an Cal Athletics internal audit dropped that count by 2.
You can not get to 100 team national titles without first getting to 99 (again).
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!