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Cal Men's Swimming Five-peats as Pac-12 champions
Golden Bears won 2 relays and 6 individual conference titles to beat Stanford and ASU
It took a dominant team effort on the final day of the 2022 Men’s Swimming Championships on Saturday, but the California Golden Bears have won the Pac-12 crown for a 5th consecutive season1!
The Golden Bears only took over the team lead for the first time all week on Saturday from rival Stanford who had a huge lead from the three diving events last week. Arizona State also had a very strong meet to challenge for the Pac-12 crown. With this “five-peat”, Cal has won the Pac-12 team title for the 10th time in program history2 and the 7th time in this past decade under the guidance of head coach Dave Durden.
Of course, this Cal squad is still saving their best effort for the NCAA Championships in two weeks from Atlanta, GA. The Golden Bears are expected to be in another ferocious fight against the Texas Longhorns for the NCAA title.
2022 Pac-12 Men’s Swimming and Diving Final Standings
Cal fans can check out the highlights of Saturday from the Pac-12 Networks below.
As I wrote at the end of my recap of Cal Women’s Swimming in their Pac-12 Championships, Cal faced a 131 point deficit from the three diving events that took place last week. It is only a very recent change that the Pac-12 has finally done away with only adding the known diving results into the updated team standings in a delayed fashion to mirror when they might have taken place traditionally had the swimming and diving championships all happened in the same meet.
The Golden Bears and their still very new diving facility are again seeking another head diving coach after Oleg Andriyuk, the former head of Stanford club diving team which effectively made him the second-in-command of Stanford diving, had to step down for health reasons a couple of months after he was hired last July. Traditionally, Cal divers could score points at the Pac-12 even if they cannot make an impact at the NCAA, unlike the case for Texas diving.
The swimming portion of the Pac-12 championships started on Wednesday night with Cal placing 3rd behind Stanford and ASU. One of the main concerns for the Cal Bears this season, after almost all of the key seniors used their extra year of eligibility to return, is the loss of Ryan Hoffer, particularly for the relays. Cal placing only third, on the heel of a regular-season ending dual loss at Stanford due to a final relay DQ by Cal’s A relay, was a bit concerning.
That concern was exacerbated on Thursday when some of Cal’s top guys were saving too much during the morning prelim sessions that they only qualified for the lower-point B-Finals in the evenings or not at all. Trenton Julian, the defending Pac-12 champ in 500y Free only got the 9th best prelim time. 2021 Tokyo USA “Calympian” Bryce Mefford, who only rejoined the team this spring semester, failed to get into scoring position in 200y IM.
Then, the Golden Bears finally started to win some individual Pac-12 titles and shoot up the team standings. Before I get to those individual titles, I will mention how the Cal Bears essentially won this Pac-12 title on Saturday morning when they placed 16 A-Finalists across 4 events (200y Back, 100y Free, 200y Breast, 200y Fly) to push 12 Stanford guys to the B-Finals. A closer look at the prelim vs. final times indicates how many of those Cal guys knew that it was more important for them to go all out in the morning than the standard save for the best in the evening.
Bjorn Seeliger wins THREE individual titles
While ASU freshman Leon Marchand, a 2021 French Olympian, took home the Swimmer of the Meet honor for his three individual titles, Cal’s 2021 Swedish “Calympian” Bjorn Seeliger was clearly the Golden Bears’ MVP of the meet.
Seeliger won Cal’s first individual title of the meet when he touched the wall first in the 50y Free. As you can see in the embedded Tweet below, Seeliger won the always exciting shortest event in collegiate swimming.
Only because he finished second behind teammate Ryan Hoffer on a few occasions last year, this was Seeliger’s first individual Pac-12 title after four from relays last year.
Despite not having a seed time for this event, Bjorn Seeliger was one of many Cal backstrokers in the 100y Back. Needing to post a great time to potentially race in this event at the NCAA, Seeliger getting the top time in the prelim was perhaps not that surprising.
Then Seeliger also touched the wall first on Friday night, ahead of teammate Destin Lasco. Daniel Carr and Bryce Mefford also represented (and scored valuable points) for the “Backstroke U” in this A-Final.
Capping his perfect performance individually, Seeliger won his 3rd Pac-12 individual title of the meet. He will also add two more trophies from the relays.
From the post-race interviews, I believe Bjorn Seeliger’s mother traveled from Sweden to see him swim at this meet from the stands. ICYMI from my Olympic profile of him from last summer, Bjorn qualified for his first Olympic Game with an emotional swim a mere 8-days after his father had passed.
The sophomore from Sweden took an important next step forward in 2021.
Reece Whitley repeats in 100y Breast
As one of the best breaststrokers in the country, Cal senior Reece Whitley won his third consecutive Pac-12 title in 100y Breast.
Whitley also added a 3rd place from 200y Breast, behind teammate Spanish “Calympian” Hugo Gonzalez and the surprising ASU freshman Marchand. Whitley credited the always vocal Cal support group (mainly Cal swim alumni and family members) for the Bears’ continuing successes.
Destin Lesco repeats 200y Back
With the Cal Bears winning nearly all of the swimming events last year, there was another individual repeat title. Sophomore Destin Lasco posted the best time in the country this year in winning 200y Back.
FIVE Cal Bears were in this A-Final for 200y Back. Lasco won ahead of teammate Daniel Carr, Bryce Mefford (4th), Bryce’s younger brother Colby Mefford (5th), and Sebastian Somerset (7th).
As I mentioned early, Lasco also placed 2nd in 100y Back to teammate Seeliger. Destin also placed 4th in 200y IM.
Trenton Julian wins 200y Fly
Picking up the 4th individual Pac-12 title of his career is 5th-year senior Trenton Julian. Julian’s previous Pac-12 titles had come from 500y Free and 200y Free.
Julian was the top Bear in an A-Final that included Dare Rose (3rd), Gabriel Jett (4th), and Will Roberts (8th).
Julian also added a B-Final win in 500y Free and a 3rd place podium in 200y Free this week to his collegiate swimming resume.
Golden Bears win two tightly-contested relays
4x50y Free Relay
Sophomore Bjorn Seeliger, freshman Jack Alexy, senior Danial Carr, and junior Marco Rico Peng combined to set a new meet record in the 200y Free Relay.
Peng was able to hold off ASU for this thrilling win.
4x100y Free Relay
After the team title has been mathematically clinched, Cal capped the meet in style with another Pac-12 title. Freshmen Dylan Hawk and Jack Alexy, senior Hugo Gonzalez, and sophomore Bjorn Seeliger (him again) combined for another meet record.
Seeliger just out-touches ASU’s Marchand, thanks to the very accurate clocks because I could not see the difference in the Embedded Tweet below, to give Cal the win.
The entire talented and deep Cal squad all contributed to this year’s close win over Stanford. Sean Grieshop and Jack Meehan provided points in distance events. Jason Louser, Tyler Kopp, Chris Jhong got the IM points. Liam Bell and Jacques Laeuffer were other breaststrokes for the Bears in addition to Whitley, Gonzalez, Peng, and Louser. Matthew Jensen, younger brother of Michael who was an NCAA champ at Cal, and Swedish “Calympian” freshman Robin Hanson also contributed points in butterfly and freestyle events. I hope I have mentioned all of the Cal point scorers at least once in this post.
Congratulations to the all the Cal Bears!
Last but not least
Cal Bears got the sweep in earning both of the Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athletes of the Year! Robin Neumann won it for the women and now Reece Whitley got it for the men.
Reece Whitley is in the Haas School of Business, majoring in business administration. With a 3.49 GPA, the former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year is also is a council member of USA Swimming’s Black Leadership in Aquatics Coalition (Team BLAC), which was developed as part of a long-term action plan to provide expertise and strategic guidance to USA Swimming staff and swimming leaders regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Up next for the Cal Bears is the 2022 NCAA Championships on March 23-26, 2022 from McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, GA.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
For those who might be wondering, the 2020 season was only canceled due to the pandemic after the Pac-12 Championships.