For the doubters; for the haters; for the jests, jokes and slander.
On Saturday, March 26, Cal men’s swim and dive won the NCAA men’s swimming and diving championship, scoring 487.5 points to its longtime rival Texas’ 436.5.
For the fans; for the community; for the praise, grace and gratification.
Though this is only Cal’s seventh national title in school history, Saturday’s triumph marks the 12th consecutive year the Bears have finished in the top two on the national stage. It is also the fifth national championship earned under head coach David Durden.
For the team; for the coaches. Did you expect anything less? They did this for themselves.
On March 23, 18 Bears traveled to McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia, for the NCAA men’s swimming and diving championship. Inspired by their desire to win it all, the blue and gold were also grounded by an understanding that success is rare, fleeting and hard-won. After a frustrating loss to the Longhorns last year, the Bears were determined to plow past the 36 other teams and find the top spot on the podium this time around.
The blue and gold reaffirmed their commitment toward excellence on the very first night, breaking the school record in the 200-yard medley relay and 800-yard free relay with times of 1:21.69 and 6:06.90, respectively. During his leg in the 200-yard medley relay, sophomore Björn Seeliger swam the fastest 50-yard backstroke recorded in program history at 20.08 seconds.
The Bears followed up their historic first night with three second-place finishes the next day: Sophomore Destin Lasco saw second in the 200-yard individual medley, and Seeliger earned his second consecutive silver medal in the 50-yard free, falling just 0.03 seconds behind Louisiana State junior Brooks Curry. Last year, the Swedish Olympian was just 0.48 seconds behind teammate Ryan Hoffer, who took home first.
Later that night, the team of Seeliger, Lasco, Jack Alexy and Daniel Carr swam 1:14.36 in the 200-yard free relay, less than half of a second behind first-place Florida’s time of 1:14.11.
Remarkably, the Bears walked into the national championship competition without a diving core; the team understood its lack of participation in the diving events would put it at a disadvantage, so it would have to make up those lost points with stellar swim times. But despite the chip on their shoulder, the Bears climbed into first after the third day of competition, behind Hugo González’s championship performance in the 400-yard individual medley and a win in the 400-yard medley relay. On Saturday morning, Cal was up by 7.5 points.
Cal’s unforgettable excursion in Atlanta was stamped off by a win in the 200-yard backstroke by Lasco, who barely missed first in the event last season. Carr took home third behind Texas’ Carson Foster. Seeliger also earned his second silver medal of the week in the 100-yard free, again falling to LSU’s Curry by less than half of a second.
Three event wins; 487.5 points; one national championship.