Cal Men's Swimming and Diving win Fourth-Consecutive Pac-12 Swimming & Diving Championships
In their quest to defend the NCAA Championship title, the Bears sweep through the Pac-12 in dominating fashion.
For four days, the Cal men’s swimming and diving team were truly a source of entertainment. Their … um, paw-prints were all over the meet with victories in all swimming events except the 200-yard freestyle. In pursuit of their fourth-consecutive conference title, the California Golden Bears were absolutely relentless. Despite starting the meet with just 22 points from diving events and spotting eventual second-place Stanford Cardinal 85 points, the Bears roared their way back to a nearly 200-point victory.
Here are the final team standings:
Without a credible threat within the conference, Cal may have had their focus on the NCAA Championship in Greensboro later this month. Under head coach Dave Durden, the Pac-12 Championships aren’t always a focus as he’s previously allowed swimmers with Olympic aspirations to forego this meet in lieu of an Olympic preparation meet five years ago. So, while the goal is to always swim fast, it makes you wonder how much he’s concealing from what the Bears will show in a few weeks.
As talked about previously, swimming is about racing at the absolute fastest possible at the meet that you want it to happen. There’s no perfect science to controlling that, but it’s about shaving, about resting, and about tapering so that the muscles are at its peak twitchiness and performance, which would give swimmers every possible advantage to hit career-best times in their quest for an NCAA Championship. Coach Durden has proven his ability to get the Cal Bears firing on all cylinders—just look at how they performed at the last NCAA Championship.
Evidently, at this meet, swimmers were still with their beards and you could see some tightening up at the end of their races, as though a piano were on their backs as they attempted to hit the wall first. This is often a sign that swimmers aren’t fully-rested and at their peak yet. In spite of that, Cal managed to hit several personal-best times and their times are among the top-10 times in the country for many events.
This team is led by their senior group—a class that is as talented and versatile as any in the country. It may even be among the singular greatest and most productive classes in history. Ryan Hoffer continued his quest for becoming the king of sprinting with three individual conference titles and was a part of four winning relays. Trenton Julian cemented his status as one of the premier middle-distance freestyle and butterfly specialists with two individual titles and a second-place finish by .09 seconds, to go alongside a relay win in the 800-yard freestyle relay. It’s fairly telling how deep a team is that Julian was often left off relays or featured in the “B” relay throughout this meet.
Duo Daniel Carr and Bryce Mefford continued their side-by-side control of backstroke in the conference while also contributing to the freestyle and individual medley depth for Cal. Sean Grieshop, who was SwimSwam #2 overall recruit for this class, had a rather quiet meet, but he still managed 3rd, 5th, and 6th place finishes in the 400-yard individual medley, 1650-yard freestyle, and 500-yard freestyle, respectively. Zach Yeadon, a distance freestyle specialist who transferred from Notre Dame, added 1st, 2nd, and 7th place finishes in the longer freestyle races. The six of them will score major points in Greensboro.
All the talk about the talented seniors doesn’t even begin to consider the star breaststroke specialist Reece Whitley, who a or all-around Spanish Olympian Hugo Gonzalez, both of whom are juniors. Nor does it talk about freshmen phenoms Destin Lasco or Bjorn Seeliger. All of this is to say that the Bears have a new target in sight and a credible foe ahead. Nevertheless, one meet at a time and congratulations to the enormously talented squad on their championship win.
You can find a more detailed recap of the 21 events of the 2021 Pac-12 Championships below.
Senior Zach Yeadon has continued the recent distance freestyle tradition that is building up at Cal. He led a quartet of Bears to finish in 1st, 5th, 6th, and 9th. Yeadon, a Notre Dame transfer, completed swimming’s longest race in a time of 14:33.69 to take down the meet record by .27 seconds. That time is the fourth-fastest in the country, and Yeadon is still a couple seconds off his best time. Congratulations to Yeadon on his win and to freshman Tyler Kopp on his new personal-best by 10 seconds!
In a meet where Cal has won all but one swimming event thus far, it’s no surprise that the team could pull a 1-2-3-4-5-6 sweep of a race. The “BackstrokeU” Bears certainly indicated to every prospective recruit if you want to develop into an elite backstroke specialist, being able to train with one of the deepest and most talented backstroke groups in the world is absolutely critical. Freshman backstroke phenom Destin Lasco led the way with a new personal-best time and the second-fastest time in the country this year. Senior Daniel Carr, the defending champion, was second. Third was the junior Hugo Gonzalez. They were followed by the Mefford brothers and sophomore Sebastian Somerset. All six of them are now in the top-13 times in the country this year, which means big points at NCAA Championships in a couple weeks. Congratulations to all!
Senior Ryan Hoffer earned a third individual victory of the championship. With his time of 41.57 (still .24 seconds off his personal-best time from high school), Hoffer has likely cemented his status of Swimmer of the Meet. He now has the second-fastest time in the country this year, but with Hoffer crushing all of his swims this season, I fully expect him to be even faster in a few weeks. Congratulations to Hoffer on his amazing accomplishments!
6-foot-9 junior Reece Whitley crushed this field and set a new meet record in the process with a time of 1:48.86. His personal best (1:48.53) is the conference record, which he set earlier this season. Whitley looked like he was in cruise control for much of the race and should be the heavy favorite for the individual title in a few weeks. Congratulations to Whitley on his incredible swim!
Senior Trenton Julian lives by the go-out-hard-and-hang-on-for-dear-life mantra that some swimmers take on in the middle-distance races. Perhaps, the growth of Julian is his mentality has shifted to one of go-out-hard-and-stay-fast. Julian got his revenge on USC junior Alexei Sancov, who beat out Julian by .09 seconds last night in the 200-yard freestyle and eliminating Julian’s chances of de-throning Hoffer as Swimmer of the Meet. His time of 1:38.53 is the fastest time in the country and the 4th-fastest time in history. Freshman Dare Rose also hit a new personal-best by over a second to finish in third. Congratulations to Julian and Rose!
400-yard freestyle relay
Congratulations to the squad of Daniel Carr, Destin Lasco, Bjorn Seeliger, and Ryan Hoffer for bringing home the 5th relay victory of the championship!
400-yard individual medley
Hugo Gonzalez, Spanish Olympian, repeats as the 400y IM winner in his 2nd Pac-12 Championships. He posted the 2nd fastest time in the country in this win. Sean Grieshop took 3rd place to also make the podium. Chris Jhong and Tyler Kopp finished 5th and 6th in the A-Final. Jack Meehan also scored some points by placing 15th overall.
In the team standings, Cal has pulled ahead of Stanford. I expect the Golden Bears to pad that lead with each event from now until the end of the meet tomorrow.
It’s yet another Pac-12 title for Ryan Hoffer! Hoffer led the entire way and was able to hold off USC’s Nikola Miljenic. Jarod Hatch finished 6th. Matthew Jensen and Chris Bathurst finished 12th and 13th overall, respectively to also score some points.
Hoffer won the 50 Free, 100 Free, and 100 Fly last year. He is on his way to match that feat this year with 2 wins already.
All good things come to an end as the Bears’ swimming win streak was snapped by USC’s Alexei Sancov, a Moldovan Olympian, who just outraced Trenton Julian in the final 25-yard.
Destin Lasco and Zach Yeadon finished 6th and 7th, respectively. Colby Mefford won the consolation final to finish 9th overall. Dare Rose placed 13th. Finally, Michael Petrides posted an NCAA B time in the Bonus Final, which is notable even if that earned no point for this meet.
Reece Whitley starts a new winning streak for the Cal Bears when he repeats as the Pac-12 100-yard breaststroke winner. Forrest Frazier finished 4th. Jacques Laeuffer placed 13th.
Cal Bears go 1-2-3 as freshman Destin Lesco edged senior teammates, DanielCarr and Bryce Mefford. Lesco took the lead only in the last 25-yard. Sebastian Somerset placed 7th.
Lesco also swam the 200-yard freestyle just moments earlier tonight.
200-yard medley relay
Daniel Carr, Reece Whitley, Ryan Hoffer, and Bjorn Seeliger won Cal’s 4th relay of this meet. The Bears did not quite match their Pac-12 record from lasts year, when Hoffer swam the freestyle leg rather than the butterfly leg.
The 500-yard freestyle may not be the most exciting race in swimming, but when you have four swimmers in the championship final and another four in the consolation final, it’s hard not to jump up-and-down with what Cal could possibly do. They certainly didn’t disappoint. Senior Trenton Julian shot out like a cannon and held on to win after consecutive 2nd-place finishes in this event in the last two years. With a time of 4:09.49, Julian set a new championship record and is now the 4th-fastest in the country. Senior Zach Yeadon closed hard for a 2nd-place finish, while senior Sean Grieshop and sophomore Colby Mefford came in 6th and 7th, respectively. In the consolation final, the four Cal underclassmen finished in 10th, 12th, 13th, and 15th. Congratulations to all the Bears on an incredible event!
200-yard individual medley
When you’ve established dominance over the conference the way Cal has, the only way to follow-up 8 scoring swims is to add 7 more with a 1st, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, and 16th place finishes. Some could even say that Cal under-performed in the morning session; nevertheless, with 62 total points in this event, it’s hard to be disappointed. Congratulations to junior Hugo Gonzalez and senior Daniel Carr for their podium finishes!
While the Bears didn’t have as many scorers in this event, it doesn’t really matter when you take 1st and 2nd place by over half-body length in the sport’s fastest race. Senior Ryan Hoffer took first place in 18.81 seconds while Swedish freshman Bjorn Seeliger was second in 18.84 seconds. Hoffer and former Cal standout Pawel Sendyk went first and second at the 2019 NCAA Championship and it’s very realistic for Cal to do it again. Also notable, senior Nate Biondi finished in 6th-place in 19.63 seconds, which is his best time in two years. Congratulations to Hoffer, Seeliger and Biondi for finishing the Bears’ sweep of individual events thus far.
200-yard freestyle relay
Look when you have 3 swimmers in the top eight of the 50-yard freestyle, you’re going to win this race—the only question is by how much? The answer is 1.57 seconds. The Cal squad of senior Nate Biondi, freshman Bjorn Seeliger, senior Ryan Hoffer, and senior Daniel Carr rocketed to the victory in a time of 1:15.80, which is 3rd-fastest in the country. Despite having three sub-19 splits (standard for elite status in the 50-yard freestyle) and the only relay squad to have a sub-19 split, it’s clear Cal can be faster later this month at the NCAA Championship. With this win, Cal is now within 5 points of the lead in the championship. Congratulations to Biondi, Seeliger, Hoffer, and Carr on their victory and for helping the Bears win every swimming event in the meet through two days!
800-yard freestyle relay
Stanford freshman Preston Forst gave Cal a good scare with his swim, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the behemoth that Cal swimming has become. Freshman Destin Lasco made his championship debut as a Bear win a solid lead-off swim and a new personal-best. He handed things over to seniors Daniel Carr, Trenton Julian, and Zach Yeadon who reliably brought Cal their first victory of the championship in a time of 6:11.98. Congratulations to the Bears on their 3rd-fastest time of the country!
400-yard medley relay
Senior Bryce Mefford, junior Reece Whitley, senior Ryan Hoffer, and freshman Bjorn Seeliger combined for a dominating victory to close out the first night of competition. Their time of 3:02.60 was nearly 3 seconds faster than the field, which broke the 12-year old championship record and was the 2nd-fastest time in the country this year. Congratulations to the quartet for their incredible race!
Cal Men’s Diving has one new diver on the roster this season in sophomore transfer from Cal Poly in Tyler Wesson.
Wesson placed 11th in 1-meter diving, 10th in 3-meter diving, and 9th in platform diving. Wesson was unable to outscore the 3 Utah divers, 2 USC divers, 2 Arizona divers, and the 1 Stanford diver. The Golden Bears go into the swimming portion of these Pac-12 championships with an 85 point deficit to Stanford.