In what are expected to be yet again tight races for the NCAA team Championships in March, Cal Men’s and Women’s Swimming (and Diving) have each added a new key piece.
Hugo Gonzalez joins Cal Men’s Swimming from Auburn
It was reported late in December that Spanish Olympian Hugo Gonzalez has opted to transfer to Cal over Florida after a fantastic freshman season for the Auburn Tigers last year. Gonzalez came to the US to swim for head coach Sergio Lopez at Auburn; however, Lopez moved to Virginia Tech last summer, putting Gonzalez’s future in doubt. After originally deciding to follow Lopez to Virginia Tech, Hugo Gonzalez (de Oliveira) ended up spending the fall semester back in Spain, including representation on the Spanish national team at both the FINA Swimming World Cup in Budapest, Hungary and the recent FINA Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou, China.
It is not yet announced whether Hugo Gonzalez will indeed be eligible to swim for the California Golden Bears in the spring of 2019, but the consensus online (take that with a grain of salt, of course) is that he will get the eligibility thing sorted out way before the NCAA championship in late March. Golden Bears have also added a late impact swimmer to the mix two years ago when Singapore Olympian (now junior) Zheng Wen Quah joined the team just in time for the NCAA championships. Cal has also benefited in recent years from transfers such as the recently graduated US National team member Matthew Josa from Queens University of Charlotte (a Division II school) and the breaststroker/magician Chuck Katis from Harvard (a school not that famous for things other than swimming).
Gonzalez is the reigning SEC Swimming and Diving Freshman of the Year. Hugo peaked a bit too early by posting his season best time at the SEC championship.
Hugo Gonzalez named SEC S&D Male Freshman of the Year https://t.co/y4c98egIUq— Auburn Swim & Dive (@AuburnSwimDive) April 5, 2018
From the SwimSwam article, these were his top times from last year:
Gonzalez was the SEC champion in the 400 IM (3:35.76), runner-up in the 200 IM (1:40.67), and 3rd place finisher in the 200 back (1:40.82). He was slightly off those performances at NCAAs last year, only scoring in the 200 IM, where he came in 10th.
Gonzalez has the 2nd best returning time in the 400 IM behind Stanford’s Abraham DeVine. He is also capable of scoring A-Final points in both the 200 Back and the 200 IM. Additionally, Gonzalez is a good enough 200 Free swimmer to help Cal also in the 4x200 Free relay, which is arguably the weakest of the 5 relays for the Golden Bears.
At Cal, Gonzalez may be able to improve on his 200 Back time by training with Calympians Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley, both recent graduates but still training in Cal’s Pro Group. Cal senior Andrew Seliskar has swam some IM events in the past, while the Bears add some depth in IM along side Cal sophomore Sean Greishop (who has made the US National team with a good performance at the US Nationals this past summer). In short, Gonzalez gives Cal head coach Dave Durden a versatile weapon to add to his swimming lineups.
In what is expected to be another tight race for the NCAA team championship between Cal and Texas, Gonzalez (IF eligible to compete in 2019) should be able to add another 20-40 points to the team total. Last year, Cal finish behind Texas by 11.5 points (largely in part due to Texas’ 81 points from diving where Cal got 0). This addition could be the game changer that vaults the Cal Men’s Swimming to the program’s 6th NCAA team title, and first since 2014.
Isabel Ivey graduates high school early to join Cal Women’s Swimming
On the Cal women’s side, there is also a big addition to the squad for the 2019 spring semester. After Kathleen Baker’s decision to turn pro, Cal women’s swimming head coach Teri McKeever apparently lobbied for her new ace recruit, Isabel Ivey, to graduate high school early and to join the Cal swim team. In November, it was announced that Ivey will do just that and start her California Golden Bears career now.
As the top overall recruit in women’s swimming for the 2019 high school class, Isabel Ivey is a great bet to be a future Calympian. In fact, if she fulfills her destiny sooner than later, there is a nonzero chance of her ascending the international scene quickly enough in the next 1.5 years to consider turning pro before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (although Cal fans would obviously love to have Ivey for all 4 years).
I’m very excited to announce my verbal commitment to further my academics and swimming at the University of California Berkeley class of 2023! I would like to thank my parents, teammates and friends, along with my coach Robert Pinter for their continuous support. GO BEARS! pic.twitter.com/Iiwahlr3vr— Isabel Ivey (@Isabel__ivey) January 28, 2018
Over the summer, Ivey managed to made the A-Final (top 8) in both 100 and 200 Free as well as 100 Fly at the US Nationals (this was a long course race, slightly different from the NCAA). She is strong in all 4 strokes and her career best times in short yard courses, like the ones used in NCAA, are already good enough to make the A-Final in the 200 Free in the 2018 NCAA championships as well as score B-Final (place 9th to 16th) points in 100 Free and 200 IM. Ivey gives head coach Teri McKeever a lot more options to mix and match her lineups for the relays (although Cal have done a great job in the relays this fall).
At Cal, Ivey will get to train with junior 2016 Rio Calympian Abbey Weitzeil, who had really excelled this past fall as the undisputed top swimmer on the squad. Ivey also has a good shot to preserve the Cal dominance in the backstroke following the legacy of Natalie Coughlin, Missy Franklin, and Kathleen Baker.
With the graduation of Simone Manuel and the turning pro of Katie Ledecky at Stanford (who dominated the last two NCAA championships), the field is wide open for the 2019 NCAA team championship. With Ivey (easily a likely 20-40 points addition individually at the NCAA), Cal is right in the mix with Stanford, Michigan, and Texas in the team race projection. McKeever’s Golden Bears are seeking the program’s 5th NCAA team title, first since 2015 when the recently retired Missy Franklin led the way for the Bears.
Of course, both Cal men’s and women’s head coaches have great track records of getting the best out of their athletes - the reason why Cal consistently attracts the best swimmers in the world to Berkeley. The expectations are that both Hugo Gonzalez and Isabel Ivey will soon be creating more new personal bests come March (and we may all laugh at my modest projections of their impacts in this post then).
Additionally these are two new names to note comes the Olympic Trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where both could be earning the distinction of becoming “Calympians”. Cal fans should be excited about their bright futures representing the Blue and Gold in both the college swimming and the international scenes.
Welcome to the Cal family, Hugo and Isabel!