After a highly dominant year that saw the Cal men’s swim and dive team complete an undefeated season, the Bears headed up to Federal Way, Washington to do what has now become the expectation: win. And win they did, swimming to the top with 856 points, well ahead of second place Arizona’s 578 points.
This victory marks the third consecutive and seventh overall Pac-12 title for the blue and gold, and the fifth title under head coach David Durden.
“It’s always good to go into a competition as a team and … be the last team on the podium or to win it, essentially. I mean, we certainly don’t go into any competition and think about other things than that, so we felt good about that, coming away with the Pac-12 title,” Durden said.
After an early blip on the first day of the competition, where an early take off by junior Ryan Hoffer in the third leg of the race disqualified fellow relay racers Reece Whitley, Pawel Sendyk and Ethan Young in the 400-yard medley relay, the rest of the meet was met with dominant performances from the Bears.
“We just felt really good about the depth and breadth of our team that it wasn’t a big deal,” Durden said. “It wasn’t the first time that we’ve disqualified a relay at a Pac-12 championships and won a Pac-12 championship so … it just didn’t ruffle our feathers at all.”
After taking home three individual and two relay wins, Hoffer was named the Pac-12 swimmer of the meet and semifinalist for the 90th James E. Sullivan Award. The defending 50-yard freestyle NCAA champ has had a stellar season thus far and this meet was no exception.
Hoffer continued to prove he is a tour de force in the event, edging out teammates Sendyk and senior Michael Jensen for first with a time of 18.87. He also swam a career-best of 44.85 in the 100-yard butterfly.
Junior Daniel Carr made waves as he broke the meet record in the 200 back previously held by Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy with a time of 1:37.87. Senior Zheng Wen Quah broke his own meet record in the 200 fly with a 1:39.15 and redshirt sophomore Hugo Gonzalez set a new Pac-12 record of 3:36.60 in the 400 IM, as Whitley broke a school record in the 100 breast with a 50.85. Whitley would go on to sweep the breaststroke events by winning the 200 breast in 1:49.85.
The Bears also proved their strength as a team, touching the wall first in every relay — including their disqualified run. Not only did they win, they broke several meet records, including ones they themselves had set in years prior.
In the 200 medley relay, the blue and gold broke their previous meet record as the team of Carr, Whitley, Sendyk and Hoffer finished with a time of 1:22.16. A team of Jensen, Sendyk, Carr and Hoffer also set a new meet record in the 400 free relay with 2:46.92. Jensen, Sendyk, Hoffer and Quah ended up tying a Pac-12 record in the 200 free relay, swimming the nation’s fastest time of the season in 1:15.54.
Moving forward, the Bears have no intention of taking a break, as they shift their focus to the upcoming NCAA Championships.
“Pac-12 is never a sort of a pause in what we’re doing…it’s just kind of a continuation of a preparation and a continuation of our move towards NCAAs,” Durden said. “I think we’re in a really good spot there, so I think we’ll just carry that into the next couple of weeks before we head out to Indiana.”
Under Durden’s leadership, Cal has finished first or second at the NCAA Championships for 10 years in a row, an impressive trend they will hope to continue later this month.