boomtho: I have to admit I really only follow football and MBB, so I'm sure I've missed many folks equally/more deserving than the person I'll name.
With that caveat, my Cal athlete of 2016 is Ivan Rabb. Coming onto campus with high expectations, Rabb played a phenomenal freshman season, showing poise and basketball intelligence well beyond his years (and, in fact, well beyond some of his more experienced teammates). Rabb helped lead Cal to an undefeated home record and to the highest seed in school history in the NCAA tourney. He also finished second team all Pac-12.
But those aren't the only reasons he's my Cal athlete of 2016 - it's also because he chose to come back to Cal, bucking conventional wisdom and the chance to achieve his NBA Dreams for another go-round in Berkeley. This is such a small gesture, but I wanted to show appreciation to guy that had every right to leave, yet came back and has continued to be an excellent representative of the university. Thanks Ivan!
Ruey Yen: As the resident Olympic sports writer, I am going to break the rule and nominate two guys:
Russell Webb - Webb captained Cal Rugby in the spring of 2016 to the program's first "Double" in history - leading the Golden Bears to win both the Varsity Cup (Rugby 15s national championship) 40-29 over the favored BYU and then four-peat at the Collegiate Rugby Championship (Rugby 7s national championship). Of course, Cal only started to play in a rugby 7s championship in this decade (so past Cal Ruggers couldn't possibly win two national titles); nevertheless, the 15s win alone was probably enough for Webb to be considered the Athlete of 2016.
Webb, who plays the flyhalf position, used his vision and kicking ability to keep BYU defense off balanced. He was named the Man of the Match for the Varsity Cup championship match where the Bears stormed back from a 10 point deficit late.
In the Collegiate Rugby Championships, Webb converted 18 of 28 kicks for the tournament, including several from extreme angles. Even when he is not scoring the tries, Webb was in the middle of almost all of the Cal drives.
Due to murky rugby eligibility rules, Webb is back to lead the Bears for one more campaign as a 5th year senior. He lead the Bears to another PAC Rugby 7s tournament title this fall.
Since this is an Olympic year, I have to also include Calympian Ryan Murphy.
Ryan Murphy - If not for that Michael Phelps guy, Ryan Murphy probably would have gotten much more press during the Rio 2016 games when he won 3 Gold medals and broke a new world record in the process. Murphy won Golds in both the 100m back and the 200m back. His leadoff leg split of 51.85 for the 4x100 medley relay broke the record for 100m back.
During the school year, then junior Murphy won both the 100 yard back and 200 yard back at the NCAA championships for the 3rd straight year. Oh year, Ryan also managed to break his own American record for both distances during the meet. Murphy also swam in several relays for the Bears, helping the Bears to 2nd place finishes in those medley relays and 2nd overall as a team. Murphy shared the Swimmer of the Meet honor with Texas' Schooling and Florida's Dressel.
In his senior year this fall, Murphy has already set the NCAA A standard times for both the 100 and 200 Back - winning both events at the stacked field of the recent Georgia Fall Invitational. The Florida native will go for the rare (if not unprecedented) 4 straight NCAA championships in both the 100 and 200 back next Spring.
Piotr Le: I am a football guy so I will stick to that ( although special shout out to the Cal Men’s Water Polo team as a whole).
The one and only. The man with impeccable hair. The ballerina of the sideline. The meme maker of the end-zone. The one and only Chad “Oh So Handsome” Hansen. I really like his story, although it was beaten to earth by every Cal game announcer. If he comes back, although I hope not he will be drafted this year to an NFL squad no doubt, he will probably be the focal point of the offense and the QB’s bestie.
Nik Jam: Jaylen Brown. He was picked 3rd in the NBA Draft after leading our team to a #4 seed. The one-and-done result in the tournament was not all his fault. I remember he was a very unpopular pick in the NBA twittersphere and he is already proving the doubters wrong.
I look forward to seeing him when the Boston Celtics play the Warriors in Oakland next March.