California Golden Bears Men’s Swimming had a very impressive week of racing from Federal Way, Washington this past week. The top ranked Bears won 11 of 18 swimming events to nearly close the very large lead that Stanford had build thanks to their diving depth from the 3 diving events last week (Stanford had 154 diving points to Cal’s 37). While I had thought that the 37 points from Cal freshman diver Connor Callahan last week would just be what the Bears need, Stanford finished the meet with a slim 784 to 767 edge in the team points. Stanford won their 33rd Pac-12 title in men’s swimming, even though the current state of their men’s swimming program is nowhere as exciting as that of their women’s program. Obviously, Stanford also have some great swimmers, particularly in distance swimming - their 1-2-3 podium sweep in 1650 Free by freshman True Sweetser, freshman Grant Shoults (who also won 500 Free), and junior Liam Egan essentially clinched the Pac-12 team title. Nonetheless, by swimming points alone - Cal would have easily won 730 to 630.
Fortunately for the Golden Bears, their NCAA team championship outlook is brighter. While Stanford and perennial NCAA contender Texas both will score more diving points than Cal, they will split those diving points between them and other diving schools. For the Bears’ long term probability to win these Pac-12 titles (Bears have only won 4 vs. 5 NCAA titles), the opening of Legends Aquatic Center and the existence of platform diving there should be the game changer. No longer do Cal divers need to travel down to The Farm to train twice a week, Bears should steadily produce more and better divers to help with the team scoring in these Swimming and Diving Championships.
Back to the present, senior and Calympian superstar Ryan Murphy concluded his Pac-12 Championships career with a perfect 6 for 6 on the two backstroke events (Murphy along with fellow Calympians Josh Prenot and Jacob Pebley did not compete in the Pac-12 last year as the Bears sent their Olympic hopefuls to a long course meet that weekend). Murphy won the 200 Back on Saturday with a Pac-12 record time of 1:38.07. This record was on top of the 100 Back Pac-12 record (and title) that Murph set on Friday night for the 100 Back - a time of 44.76. Ryan Murphy will next attempt to break his own NCAA records for both 100 and 200 Back while going 8 for 8 in his collegiate career at the NCAA Championships in three weeks. It will be shocking to the swim world if he does not achieve that feat.
Duplicating his feat of three individual Pac-12 titles from last year was Cal sophomore (and likely future Calympian) Andrew Seliskar. Selikar repeated as Pac-12 title winners in 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 Fly.
Seliskar won the 200 IM just ahead of his teammate Ryan Murphy (overtaking Murphy in the breaststroke leg and never looked back). He posted the fastest time in the country for that event.
In the 200 Fly, Seliskar finished ahead of fellow Cal sophomore in Michael Thomas.
Two other Cal Bears claimed Pac-12 titles, junior Matthew Josa in 100 Fly (over teammate and last year’s winner Justin Lynch) and freshman Pawel Syndek in 50 Free.
Bears also came close in a few events that they did not win. Connor Hoppe was 3rd in 100 Breast, Justin Lynch was 3rd in 100 Free, and senior Hunter Cobleigh was 2nd in 200 Breast.
In relays, Bears won 4 out of 5; while setting a few more records in the process. Bears won the 200 Free, 800 Free, 200 Medley, and 400 Medley relays. Ryan Murphy and Michael Jensen swam in all 4 of those relays while Andrew Seliskar, Justin Lynch, and Pawel Sendyk swam in two.
The lone relay that the Bears did not win was the meet ending 400 Free relay where they finished 3rd behind ASU and USC.
Despite not coming home with the team title, Cal Men’s Swimming did about as well as one could expect at the 2017 Pac-12 championships. Golden Bears are on target to post personal records across the board at the NCAA Championships from Indianapolis from March 22nd-25th. I am very thrilled to be able to see the Bears in action in person then (in addition to being able to speak to the winners).