The last time when the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships were competed from Austin, Texas in 2014, the home of the men’s swimming AND diving dynasty that is Texas Longhorns under legendary head coach Eddie Reese, California Golden Bears emerged with the program’s 5th NCAA team title. The 2019 NCAA Championships is shaping up to possibly have that same ending.
While the Golden Bears have placed 2nd consistently behind Texas for the past 4 years (often winning the team title IF one only counts the 18 swimming events and ignore the 3 diving events), they wanted more. Head coach Dave Durden’s squad as well as all the loud swimming alumni (including numerous US Olympians who are still training daily in Berkeley in the Cal pro group) in the stands, many wearing bear suits, KNOW that the Cal program is the best in the world right now in swimming (particularly if you measure by Olympic success); they want that validation in the NCAA team championship that the Cal Bears are so good in the pool that they can make up for Texas’ 60-85 point edge from diving.
At the midway point of the 4 day meet, things are looking great for the Golden Bears in another very tight team fight with the Texas Longhorns.
Let’s hear what Cal head coach Dave Durden has to say about the performances of the Golden Bears.
No doubt about it, it was a great night of swimming by the Cal Bears to really take control of this meet in hostile territory. Sure, the 3 Cal B-Final winners showed that they are fast enough to make the A-Final and score more points (and really put this meet away early), but the Golden Bears consistently outperformed their heat sheet by quite a bit.
Even more importantly, Bears did just enough to out touch the wall compared to their opponents. In several key events, Cal Bears won by the slimmest of margins.
If you enjoy watching the occasion swimming every 4 years during the Olympics, you might be interested in watching the Cal dominance on Thursday night on the free WatchESPN replay (linked here).
200y Free Relay
Foreshadowing their dominance later in the night in the 50 Free race, Cal opened Night 2 with a new school record.
.@calmenswim is setting school records on the national stage— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 28, 2019
Pawel Sendyk, Ryan Hoffer, Michael Jensen and Andrew Seliskar clock in at 1:14.46 in the 200 free relay to claim the natty pic.twitter.com/xO525uOinS
Junior Pawel Sendyk, sophomore Ryan Hoffer, junior Michael Jensen, and senior Andrew Seliskar won this event with a time of 1:14.46. Texas took 3rd place (just the reverse of Wednesday night’s 800 Free relay when Cal took 3rd) with NC State 2nd.
Sophomore Trenton Julian had a personal record swim to easily take the B-Final (his time would have been good for 4th overall if in the A-Final). In the A-Final, it was a dominant record breaking performance by Texas senior Olympian Townley Haas, but Cal sophomore Sean Grieshop took a very important 2nd place finish.
Cal senior Mike Thomas won the B-Final with teammate Daniel Carr just behind him for 3rd place.
Senior Andrew Seliskar, the top overall recruit of his class several years ago, had steadily improved but really took a huge leap this past season to be a legit contender as the next great Calympian comes 2020 Tokyo game. “Seli” also finally won his first NCAA individual event by taking the 200 IM. Seliskar nearly set a new NCAA record but had to settle for just a new school record and the NCAA 2nd best time ever.
Texas’ John Shebat (who used to be just a backstroke specialist) took 3rd in this event.
In the B-Final, Cal junior Michael Jensen surprised by touching the wall at the same time as the favorite in Texas’s Drew Kibler.
Bears than go 1 and 2 in the A-Final with sophomore Ryan Hoffer (the No.1 recruit of his class) edging teammate Pawel Sendyk in the fastest event of the meet.
Texas’s Tate Jackson took 7th in the A-Final.
Cal’s junior Connor Callahan just missed out on scoring with a 18th place finish.
Texas ended up with two A-Finalists in Jordan Windle (4th) and Grayson Campbell (7th). Tennessee’s Zhipeng Zheng took the win in this event.
400 Medley Relay
No one can catch Indiana, but Bears got some key 4 point swing in their favor by out touching Texas by 0.02 second for 2nd place.
Cal quartet of Daniel Carr, Reese Whitley (top recruit of this past freshman class in the country), Andrew Seliskar, and Ryan Hoffer got the job done.
Team Standings After 7 of 21 events:
Golden Bears have a healthy 24 point lead. Last year’s NCAA title was decided by a mere 11.5 points between Texas and Cal.
(I’m including enough places to find Stanford)
1. California 212
2. Texas 188
3. Indiana 155
4. NC State 136
5. Florida 76
6. Louisville 71
7. Harvard 70
8. Alabama 60
8. Missouri 60
10. Texas A&M 54
11. Arizona 42
12. Ohio St 40
13. Virginia 38
14. Florida St 37
15. Southern Cali 32
16. Tennessee 30
16. Michigan 30
18. Minnesota 29
19. Stanford 22
20. Georgia 21
FRIDAY NIGHT PREVIEW
Bears’ sophomore Daniel Carr got a big reswim in the 100 Back due to his starting wedge not being taken out (some hometown sabotage by Texas? probably not) and capitalized on opportunity by earning an A-Final berth. In the process, he knocked the original 16th place finisher (Texas’s Katz from scoring position).
But before we got to that point, it was all Cal Bears early...across all the events.
Cal got Greishop (3rd), Thomas (4th), and Julian (5th) in the A-Final. Texas has no one, A nor B. Julian did not have a top time in 400 IM coming into this meet, so that 5th place finish was very very impressive.
3/0 for Cal, 0/0 for Texas.
Cal got Hoffer (3rd) and Singapore Olympian Quah (5th) in the A-Final. Sendyk just misses out with the 9th place. No Longhorns again helped.
2/1 for Cal, 0/0 for Texas.
200 Free: (Texas’ strongest event of the night)
Seliskar got the top overall seed as the lone Bears. He will race 3 Longhorns in A. 9th place is another Longhorn. Cal’s Byrce Mefford made the A-Final last year, but everyone was significantly faster across the board this year that he missed out on the top 16 by posting the same time.
1/0 for Cal, 3/1 for Texas
Whitley is Cal’s lone rep in the A. Arvidsson finished 22nd to miss out on B. Texas has one swimmer in B.
1/0 for Cal, 0/1 for Texas
After Carr’s reswim, he had program’s 2nd best time ever (no.1 spot belong to Ryan Murphy) for 4th seed in the A-Final. He will be joined by 2 Texas Longhorns (Shebat and Hardy), but like I had mentioned earlier, Carr’s reswim (he finished 17th originally) knocked a Longhorn out of the B-Final.
1/0 for Cal, 2/0 for Texas
200 Medley Relay:
Both Cal and Texas will make the A-Final despite both not having a great seed time. Unlike yesterday when Durden went with 4 different swimmers for the morning’s prelim swim for the 400 Medley Relay, he went with more of a regular lineup this morning.
With the Bears so close to a rare NCAA team title, I doubt fatigue will factor big tonight nor tomorrow.
Texas’s Wendle and Campbell both made the A-Final last year. I’ll just give them that. Cal does have Callahan competing in this event as well.
Tentatively: 0/0 for Cal, 2/0 for Texas
Including the tentative divers for Texas, we have for the individual events:
8/1 for the Bears (nearly 9/0 too) and 7/2 for the Texas Longhorns. Places within the A-Finals will impact things, but the Golden Bears definitely had an optimal morning to likely guarantee a decent sized lead going into the final day on Saturday.
In case you’re new to swimming (I’ve dropped this section from my coverage the past few years):
Swimmers qualified for the NCAA championships by their in-season seed times. However, almost all of the top swimmers will drop significant amount of time (not just fraction of seconds but several seconds sometimes) between a month ago and now (called “taper” by those in the swimming world). The seed time gives one a good idea of what to expect, although swimmers who already qualified for an event may also swim additional events at the NCAA - Cal has already got some key points from these unexpected sources.
Divers qualified via a NCAA diving qualifier that took place after the conference championships.
In the morning, all the individual events (outside the 1650y swim AKA the “mile swim”) and relays (outside the day 1 800y Free) would have to qualify for the evening sessions’ A (1st through 8th) and B (9th through 16th) finals. Swimmers who made the A-Final earns All-American honors, while B-Finalists are All-American Honorable Mentions. Points are awarded to finishers in the A and B Finals.
Diving do their prelim in the afternoon where the top 8 will advance to the evening’s final session. 16th to 9th places are decided during the afternoon session.
For B finals:
16th place gets 1 points; 15th place gets 2 point; 14th place gets 3 points; 13th place gets 4 points; 12th place gets 5 points; 11th place gets 6 points; 10th place gets 7 points; 9th place gets 9 point (bonus point for winning the heat).
For A finals:
8th place gets 11 points; 7th place gets 12 points; 6th place gets 13 points; 5th place gets 14 points; 4th place gets 15 points; 3rd place gets 16 points; 2nd place gets 17 points; 1st place gets 20 points.
Relay points are doubles that of the individual swimming or diving events.
HOW TO WATCH:
Prelims in the morning are streamed by UT Texas online while ESPN3 has the live coverage of the evening sessions online at 4 pm PT. ESPNU will have a recut version of the entire championships on regular TV at a future date of April 8th at 6pm PT.
Meet results can also be found here.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!