Cal Men's Swim ahead in NCAA team race thanks to two titles and swim depth

Cal leads Texas by 27 points as 7 of 21 events has been completed at the 2021 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships

Cal and Texas have brought out the best in each other for the past decade as the two programs vie for the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships yearly. So far, the 2021 meet has been even more competitive than normal. Seeking to beat the Texas Longhorns again, just like in 2019, the California Golden Bears hold a 27 point (the equivalent of a 1st place plus a 10th place in an individual event) going into Friday.

As I forecasted in the preview, both Cal and Texas have outperformed the psych sheet so far, placing more student-athletes into scoring positions across all events so far. Expect this battle of two collegiate swimming heavyweights to remain close until the final event on Saturday night has been completed. You can follow our Live Updates post to follow this Cal vs. Texas battle through the end of the meet.

On Thursday, the Golden Bears added two more NCAA National Championships to the annual “National Championships Week” celebration next school year.

200-yard freestyle relay

Freshman Björn Seeliger, senior Ryan Hoffer, senior Daniel Carr, and senior Nate Biondi earned Cal’s first NCAA title of this meet with a time of 1:14.36. Seeliger and Hoffer, the two fastest Bears as shown in their 50y Free results, gave Cal the lead until Biondi, in his only event this week, was just able to hold off Florida to preserve the win.

Texas finished behind Florida for 3rd in this fastest heat. The Longhorns actually ended up 6th overall, giving the Golden Bears the lead in the team championship race that they will not relinquish through the end of Day 2.

50-yard freestyle

Ryan Hoffer earned the win with an 18.33 that is the 10th fastest time ever! Better yet, Björn Seeliger took 2nd with 18.71! The Golden Bears took the maximum possible points in this event. It is also promising for Cal’s future that Seeliger, the freshman from Sweden, may be able to take over this event next year from the senior Hoffer.

While the Cal Bears did not touch the wall first in the rest of the completed events, there are a lot of exciting races. You can watch the Golden Bears fight for every possible place in these videos below.

800-yard freestyle relay

In what is probably Cal’s weakest relay, the quartet of senior Trenton Julian, senior Daniel Carr, freshman Destin Lasco, and senior Bryce Mefford finished in second-place — a one place improvement on their seed. In this opening event of the whole meet, the Bears showed that they will way outperform their seed time by improving on it by over 3 seconds and nearly catching the top seed Texas.

500-yard freestyle

Trenton Julian went out fast and had the lead until the last 50 yards. Julian ended up 4th (4:09.78) just ahead of Texas’ Drew Kibler. Sean Grieshop (4:11.82) earned 7th place. Georgia freshman Jake Magahey, the top seed, won this race with a time of 4:07.97.

In the B-Final, Zach Yeadon cruised to the win (4:11.37) to earn 9 points. The two Texas Longhorns finished 7th and 8th for just 3 points total.

200-yard individual medley

Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas ended up winning this event with the time of 1:39.53. Still, Cal has got to be content that the duo of Hugo Gonzalez (1:39.99) and Destin Lasco (1:40.01) both finished ahead of Texas’ Carson Foster (1:40.99). Both Gonzalez and Lasco set new personal-best times in this event.

In the B-Final, 3 Cal Bears and 3 Texas Longhorns raced for points. Bears finished 1st (Bryce Mefford), 5th (Daniel carr), and 6th (Reece Whitley) for 16 points. Texas got 2nd (Jake Foster), 4th (Vines), and 7th (Corbeau) for 14 points.

400-yard medley relay

Destin Lasco (backstroke), Reece Whitley (breaststroke), Ryan Hoffer (butterfly), and Bjorn Seeliger (freestyle) nearly earned another Cal relay win, but Texas was able to win the final event of Day 2 by edging the Bears by 0.5 seconds. Lasco started slightly slow and was faster in his second 50 than the first 50. Whitley was also slightly slower than his Texas counterpart. Hoffer’s 43.80 butterfly leg split nearly got the Bears even, but Seeliger was not able to match Texas’ Krueger in the final leg.

Looking ahead to Friday AKA “Moving Day”:

Not shown above was Texas’ dominance in the 1-meter diving. The Longhorns placed 1st (senior Jordan Windle) and 2nd (freshman Noah Duperre) as well as got a point for a 16th place finish. Without diving (there are two more of them), Cal will be in command of the NCAA team championship battle.

Hoffer’s butterfly split in the 400y medley relay was very encouraging for Friday’s 100y Fly. Lasco’s back split and Whitley’s breast split were less so. Nonetheless, Lasco and Whitley now know that they might need to go a bit more full out on Friday morning to secure A-Finalist spots in 100y Back and 100y Breast, respectively.

While Hugo Gonzalez and Sean Grieshop should battle Texas’ Carson Foster in 400y IM to make that even, 200y Free and 3-meter diving may allow the Longhorns to earn a lot of points. Texas can certainly lose the team race if they do not do that well in Friday morning’s prelims session.

While Cal had at least one contender in every swimming event, the bigger takeaway for me was how numerous Bears stepped up on Thursday to earn points. Cal will need to keep doing that on Friday — we shall see if the underclassmen: freshmen Dare Rose (100y Free), Tyler Kopp (400y IM), Björn Seeliger (200y Free) and sophomores Colby Mefford (200y Free), Sebastian Somerset (100y Back) can find their way into the finals. As a physicist, I do not particularly like how the word momentum is used in sports typically. Nonetheless, you do see in this meet every year how teammates can suddenly be inspired to set personal records in bunches after a special moment. In the best-case scenario for the Golden Bears, the entire tone of the Friday prelim session could be set if Tyler Kopp and/or Chris Jhong can earn their first career NCAA points by making the 400y IM B-Final.