Athletes, families, friends, and fans within the McAuley Aquatic Center look on as sophomore Destin Lasco celebrates atop the podium, rejoicing over his first individual NCAA title. Just a couple feet over, fifth-year senior Daniel Carr is roaring like a warrior that’s completed battle. Cal finished in 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 12th in the 200-yard backstroke, overtaking Texas for the final time of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Swimming Championships en route to their seventh national title. Perhaps Carr was just releasing his emotions from the final swim of his collegiate career, or perhaps Carr realized that the Bears will win another team title, validating his decision to come back for a fifth year. Either way, the Cal squad will get one final practice session in before concluding the season—practicing their cannonball diving into the pool, and this time they’ll watch their coach Dave Durden join them.
Final Team Scores
NC State 291
Arizona State 236
Ohio State 165
Day 4 Updates
Sophomore Tyler Kopp and fifth-year senior Sean Grieshop came into the meet with seed times far from scoring, the hope was the Texas trio of sophomore David Johnston, freshman Luke Hobson, and senior Alex Zettle would fall short of what the Longhorns would need to survive the onslaught of Bears points coming later in the session. Grieshop and Kopp finished in 24th (15:00.65) and 29th (15:09.44) place, respectively, which are season-bests for both even though they were off career-bests. Importantly, Texas swam to just 15 points instead of the projected 34 points, which briefly gave the Longhorns a 7.5 point lead (328 - 320.5).
If it hasn’t already, Cal cemented its status as “BackstrokeU,” with 53 points from sophomore Destin Lasco (1:37.71), fifth-year seniors Daniel Carr (1:39.06) and Bryce Mefford (1:40.31), and junior Colby Mefford (1:39.66). Funnily enough, that’s exactly 1 point more than the quartet scored at last year’s NCAA championship and Colby may poke fun at older brother and “Calympian” Bryce for swimming faster tonight. The Bears took a 28.5 point lead that it never relinquished.
Sophomore Björn Seeliger became the second-fastest performer in history this morning, but as was the case with the 50-yard freestyle earlier in the meet, he was off his time from the morning (41.00) and faltered at the end to a charging LSU junior Brooks Curry (40.84). Throughout the meet, Seeliger leaps to quick starts but falls off the pace, enabling other competitors to surge past him. During the offseason, Seeliger should probably fine-tune his between-session naps to enable strong evening performances (although he does perform really well on relays).
In the consolation final, Texas junior Jake Foster was .66 seconds ahead of the next Cal swimmer in the field halfway through the race. But, within the next 50 yards, junior Liam Bell (9th - 1:51.36), senior Hugo Gonzalez (10th - 1:51.45), and junior Jason Louser (13th - 1:52.08) surrounded the lone Longhorn as though they were feeding energy off each other. Foster did just manage to hold off Louser in the end. In the championship final, Texas junior Casper Corbeau (6th - 1:50.79) and Cal senior Reece Whitley (7th - 1:50.83) went out with the leading pack but struggled to hold on with the two-slowest last 50s in the heat.
No Texas swimmer qualified for a second swim in this event and Cal had a 30-point advantage so just 14.5 points (can only get a maximum of 40 points in the relay and the Texas platform diver already completed his consolation final with 4 points) in this race would clinch the meet for the Bears. Sophomore Dare Rose (12th - 1:41.23), who has mostly worked on speed since last year, grabbed 5 points. Fifth-year senior Trenton Julian appeared to be stroke-for-stroke with Indiana junior Brendan Burns (1st - 1:38.71), Georgia sophomore (2nd - 1:38.82), and Louisville fifth-year senior Nicolas Albiero (3rd- 1:38.88), but Julian did not seem to be getting as much distance-per-stroke as he would need to take the lead. Freshman Gabriel Jett, who has been on a tear throughout his freshman campaign, jetted to 6th place (1:40.22) by closing the last 50 yards faster than the 3rd set of 50 yards in the race. Impressively, that’s a 4.5-second improvement on lifetime-best before college.
No Cal, no problem. Texas scored just 4 points on the platform, far off what the Longhorns have typically accumulated on diving. Interestingly, eventual winner Purdue freshman Tyler Downs, who has 917.1K followers on TikTok, mentioned in his victory interview needing to leave early to catch a flight so he can attend the Oscars in Hollywood.
400-yard Freestyle Relay
The Cal quartet of sophomore Björn Seeliger (40.92) freshman Jack Alexy (41.84), senior Hugo Gonzalez (41.99), and sophomore Destin Lasco (41.67) raced to a bronze (2:46.42), behind Texas (1st - 2:46.03) and Arizona State (2nd - 2:46.40). Despite coming in with the fastest time in the country by .01 seconds ahead of the Sun Devils, the Bears couldn’t replicate their times from the conference championship, which would have been enough for one final win of the meet.
Over the last 12 years, Cal and Texas have largely traded turns as national champions (2013 aside when Michigan won and Cal finished second). Even though the Bears and Longhorns finished in first and second again, this year had a ton of parity and a ton of speed. No team won more than three events across the four-day meet (Cal, Texas, and Florida each won three). Five NCAA records (since the 50-yard backstroke is not an official event, the record isn’t tracked, but the fastest time in history was recorded at this meet), an additional championship record fell during this meet, and countless school records. So, while it was important for the stars to win, it’s clear that the swimming depth would make the difference especially when it became clear that the Longhorns did not have the diving points that it was accustomed to in previous meets.
Typically, in the post-meet analysis, you can point to a single class as the main contributor for the win. In 2019, for example, it was the now-fifth year senior group of Daniel Carr, Bryce Mefford, Trenton Julian, Sean Grieshop, and Ryan Hoffer—the last of which did not compete this year after deciding to turn pro instead of returning for a final season. This year, despite all four being off their personal-best times, the veteran foursome scored 85.5 individual points. The sophomores (Destin Lasco, Björn Seeliger, and Dare Rose) truly paved the way this year as they combined for 106 individual points. However, Lasco and Seeliger were the only two swimmers on the team to reach the championship final in their three individual events and swim on four relays, thereby hitting the maximum number of swims over the four-day championship.
That shouldn’t undersell the 68 individual points from senior Hugo Gonzalez, who won Cal’s first individual title of the meet, and Reece Whitley. Nor should it ignore the massive time-drops that juniors Liam Bell, Jason Louser, and Colby Mefford made in their best events en route to 46 individual points. As Cal fans, we should appreciate even the 15 individual points from freshmen Gabriel Jett and Robin Hanson along with the incredibly valuable relay production from Jack Alexy.
It’s cliché, but it took everyone to win their fifth national title under head coach Dave Durden. It may not seem like it because the athletes don’t come anywhere close to their weekly mileage in swimming, but racing is incredibly exhausting. In particular, as the meet goes on, the quadriceps start to burn a little bit more even when you’re not swimming, but you have to suppress the thought and the best way is to cheer on teammates as they hit personal bests or beat the swimmer next to them regardless of whether they score points.
The respect between the two titans on top of the sport was on full display during the awards ceremony as they lined the pool deck with handshakes and hugs, which is fairly atypical at a large championship meet. The Cal-Texas rivalry isn’t bitter by any means—it’s full of dignity, respect, and maybe just the slightest hint of jealousy for each other.
On Wednesday, I posed the question, “what do you do when you see a Golden Bear?” Respectfully, Longhorns, move aside—the Golden Bears are rolling on.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
On a somewhat related news: I had mentioned a few time how Ryan Hoffer opted to turn pro and swam in the International Swimming League (ISL) rather than stay for a 5th year and win another championship. The ISL apparently just decided to cancel its 4th season this summer. Good for Hoffer to make some money there while he could. The ISL is a great idea, but it has been plagued by the pandemic (like everything else) and financial situation behind the scene since its inception.
This also increases the chance of guys with eligibilities to return for another season, if they weren't already going to do that.
All that chlorinated water couldn't stop us from messing with Texas. They're an extremely strong program, though, and our Bears had to be at their very best to win this one. Congrats to the team!