Cal Men's Swimming and Diving three-peats at the Pac-12 Championships

Golden Bears had another dominant meet in winning 14 individual titles


Defending NCAA team champions, Cal Men’s Swimming cruised to a 3rd consecutive Pac-12 team Championships on Saturday night from Federal Way, WA at the end of 4 days of racing (diving took place a week ago during the women’s championship). When it was all over, the Golden Bears won 4 relays and 10 individual titles to claim 14 Pac-12 championships out of the 21 total events, 18 of them swimming.

Before this year, the Cal Bears have won the conference team title 6 times: 1980, 1981, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019, and individual/relay/diving titles 205 times with 97 under head coach Dave Durden. Time to update those numbers to 7 team Pac-12 titles and 219 total titles with 111 under Durden in his 13 seasons at Cal.

Sporting a goatee that will definitely be gone in 3 weeks, junior Ryan Hoffer led the way for the Bears by winning 3 events - 50y Free, 100y Fly, and 100y Free. Hoffer also swam a leg in 4 of the 5 relays, helping the Bears to 3 wins there. Hoffer was the difference in Cal winning the meet closing 200y Free relay.

Sophomore Reece Whitley and junior Daniel Carr each won two events apiece.

Congratulations to the entire Cal men’s swimming and diving team for such a dominant showing at the Pac-12 championships. From top to bottom, so many Cal Bears posted their season if not career personal bests this week. All the hard work is starting to pay off.

The final standings have Cal way ahead with 856 points over Arizona (578), Stanford (573.5), and Arizona State (567). Utah with 384 and USC, who had the best diving score coming into the week, with 318.5 points round out the standings.

2020 Pac-12 Titles

Not only did the Bears win races, but a lot of these wins also came by a large margin. Hugo Gonzalez’s Pac-12 debut saw him just absolutely dominates the 400y IM. Reece Whitley posted great times in winning the breaststroke double, while setting himself up as a real threat comes June’s US Olympic Trials; Whitley swam the 10th best 100y Breast and 7th best 200y Breast of ALL-TIME. Daniel Carr’s personal best swim in 200y Back broke Ryan Murphy’s old record and was the 9th best time of ALL-TIME.

With 2020 being an Olympic year, you know that the times this year will be special. We saw a glimpse of that this week at the Pac-12, but just wait until the NCAA Championships, where I would expect at least half of the record books to be rewritten (by hopefully Cal Bears but also other swimmers).

Other Podium (top 3) finishers

  • 2nd in 500y Free - Trenton Julian

  • 2nd in 200y IM - Zheng Wen Quah

  • 3rd in 200y IM - Bryce Mefford

  • 2nd in 50y Free - Pawel Sendyk

  • 3rd in 50y Free - Michael Jensen

  • 2nd in 400y IM - Jason Louser

  • 3rd in 400y IM - Sean Grieshop

  • 2nd in 100y Back - Daniel Carr

  • 3rd in 100y Back - Bryce Mefford

  • 2nd in 1650y Free - Sean Grieshop

  • 3rd in 200y Back - Hugo Gonzalez

  • 2nd in 200y Fly - Trenton Julian

We should note here that Cal swept the podium in 3 events - 200y IM, 50y Free, and 400y IM.

All A-Finalists (top 8)

  • 7th in 1-meter diving - Connor Callahan

  • 5th in 500y Free - Sean Grieshop

  • 8th in 500y Free - Calvin David

  • 7th in 200y IM - Reece Whitley

  • 5th in 400y IM - Chris Jhong

  • 4th in 100y Fly - Pawel Sendyk

  • 4th in 100y Breast - Karl Arvidsson

  • 6th in 100y Back - Andy Song

  • 7th in 100y Back - Ethan Young

  • 4th in 200y Back - Bryce Mefford

  • 6th in 200y Back - Colby Mefford

  • 8th in 200y Back - Andy Song

  • 6th in 100y Free - Michael Jensen

  • 6th in 200y Breast - Karl Arvidsson

  • 8th in 200y Breast - Jason Louser

The depth on this Cal team is just remarkable. While I am not completely certain that all of these Cal Bears do make the NCAA squad, most of them should be and should be in positions to possibly pick up points by making the A- or B- Finals. Cal fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the potential to repeat at the NCAA as team champions.

Things to work on/Decisions to make before NCAA

Cal should have swept all five relays, but their 400y Medley Relay was DQ’ed when Ryan Hoffer, who was otherwise flawless this past week, left the block before Reece Whitley has touched the wall. Bears also lost some points when Hugo Gonzalez DQ’ed individually in the prelim of the 200 IM. While losing these 40 points from the relay and around 15 points from a likely A-Finalist did not matter this week, those are the kind of mistakes that may decide a team national championship.

Several Golden Bears may also still change their events between now and the NCAA. At the NCAA, every swimmer can only race in 3 individual events in addition to the relays. Head coach Dave Durden may try to be strategic on his lineups to optimize the number of Cal Bears that can make each A-Final. I am sure that we will hear about some of those plans between now and the National Championships.

We shall also find out about the official invite list to the NCAA soon. Cal Bears will once again have a lot of depth across every event, which would allow Durden to consider resting some of his key swimmers during the prelims, if he trusts that the backups are capable of securing a top 8 prelim finishes in those morning sessions.

Looking ahead at NCAA

Bears now have three weeks to continue to drop time and to peak at the NCAA Championships, taking place in Indianapolis, IN from March 25th-28th. With several Bears sporting some facial hair this week from Federal Way, WA, you know that they will go even faster when they become more hydrodynamics after shaving.

For the 7th consecutive year (and 10th in 11 years), the NCAA Championship should be another two-team race between the Texas Longhorns and the defending team champs in the California Golden Bears. Last year, Cal Bears were able to snap the five year winning streak of Texas at the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. In at least one of those 5 years, Texas needed their perennial big edge from diving to beat the Golden Bears.

While qualification for the NCAA Diving Championship will be decided later by the various Zone Qualifications, Texas will again have a big edge from the 3 diving events. Cal’s senior Connor Callahan will hopefully again qualifies for his 4th straight trip to Indianapolis, IN, but he is still looking to score his first NCAA championship points.

In 2019, Texas had two divers in both the 1-meter and 3-meter finals in Jordan Windle and Grayson Campbell. Windle also won the platform diving event. Both of Windle and Campbell are still around. Longhorns also had another diver in Jacob Cornish that scored consolation points in the platform diving event last year. They scored 84 points from diving to Cal’s 0 points. For 2020, Texas may outscore Cal in diving by anywhere from 50 to 100 points again.

Cal Diving had some hard luck this past fall. Junior Johnny Robinson, who also made the NCAA Championship last year but failed to score, was injured along with Callahan due to shoulder problems. Robinson was not healthy enough to compete in the Pac-12 championships. Bears also lost highly recruited freshman Nick Hart to retirement. The previous facility issue of having to have past divers travel down to Stanford to practice platform diving may have been solved by the opening of the Legends Aquatic Center 3+ years ago. Nonetheless, Cal fans’ hope that NCAA diving points will become a regular thing for both the men and the women has yet to become a reality. Head diving coach Derek Stark will have two Junior Nationals veterans in Francesca Colby and Kayla Haigh joining the women’s team, but no divers were announced as a part of the men’s team incoming class last November.

What was kind of crazy about the 2019 Cal win was how the Bears did it without dominance in the relays, which counts for double points. In fact, Cal only won the 200y Free relay while Texas won 2 relays at the meet.

Both quality and depth in every individual swimming events should again be the clear strength of Cal men’s swimming at the 2020 NCAA Championships. Last year, 16 Cal Bears which consisted of 14 swimmers and 2 divers made the NCAA meet. Thirteen of them scored valuable NCAA points (only for those who finished in the top 16 in the country) - seven scored in 3 individual events and three scored in 2 events. While Bears obviously will obviously miss the graduated Andrew Seliskar, who won 3 individual events - 200y IM, 200y Free, 200y Breast, as well as another graduated swimmer in Mike Thomas, this group going to Indianapolis in three weeks will be mostly quite experienced with racing and scoring points at the NCAA setting.

Based on their performances this week, Ryan Hoffer, Reece Whitley, Trenton Julian, Daniel Carr, Pawel Sendyk, Sean Grieshop, Bryce Mefford, Singapore Olympian Zheng Wen Quah, and Spain Olympian Hugo Gonzalez should all be very capable of making multiple A-Finals (top 8) in Indianapolis. Freshman Jason Louser, who had a breakout Pac-12 Championship this week, should also score points across numerous events. It should be a fun week to follow these Cal Golden Bears at the NCAA during the final weekend of the month!