The ’96-’97 Bulls, the ’98 Broncos, and the … ’22-’23 Cal men’s swim and dive?
While one team has most likely never been said in the same breath as the other two, there is one underlying commonality between them. Heading into their respective seasons, the Bulls and Broncos were hoping to repeat as national champions, having handedly dominated their competition the previous year.
Heading into the ’22-’23 swim season, the Bears hope to do the same coming off of their ’21-’22 season where they earned their seventh title in program history.
While the significance and impact of the Bears’ upcoming season in comparison to the aforementioned teams can be argued, one thing cannot: The blue and gold will certainly have a tougher path to the crown this season.
Key losses to their roster from last year include Hugo González and Trenton Julian, both of whom played a vital role in Cal’s winning performance at the 2022 NCAA championships this past March.
To give an idea as to just how crucial they were, the gap separating first-place Cal from second-place Texas was a total of 51 points. Julian and González alone accounted for 80 points earned through individual events, and this doesn’t include the points they helped earn through the relays both swimmers were on.
To make up for these losses, the blue and gold have bolstered their roster with new members including freshman Matthew Chai, who has earned a reputation as being one of the fastest long distance swimmers during his high school career. With the absence of Julian and Sean Grieshop, Chai fills in a much-needed distance position for the Bears.
Returning members of the team have also displayed improved times over the course of the summer. Sophomore Gabriel Jett was crowned the national champion in the 200 fly at the 2022 Phillips 66 National Championships, and he set a personal best in the 100 fly, which earned him a bronze finish. Cal will certainly be looking towards Jett and other members of the team to take a leap from last year to make up for the losses of Julian and González.
That being said, the annual season opener against Cal Poly kicks off Sept. 30 at the Anderson Aquatic Center. This particular competition always proves to be an entertaining watch due to the meet’s unique format as a pentathlon.
Instead of the traditional scoring format, where swimmers gain points based on their results in one individual event, all swimmers at this meet swim the same five events: 100 free, 100 fly, 100 breast, 100 back, and the 100 IM.
The winner of this race format is decided by the swimmer who has the lowest combined times in all five events, and is aptly titled “King of the Pool.” Last year’s King of the Pool? None other than González, meaning a new King will be crowned this upcoming Friday.
A rather low-stakes competition, this meet gives the swimmers a chance to shake off any rust as they transition from the long course meters format of the summer to the short course yards of fall and winter.
More importantly, it will give an idea as to whether the Bears season will end in triumph like the ’96-’97 Bulls and ’98 Broncos, or whether the championship hangover is very much a real effect in sports.