Cal Swimming Celebrates Repeat NCAA Title With ‘Incredible Lineage of World Class Gentlemen’

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In one of the most anticipated showdowns in recent men’s NCAA swimming history, Cal, Texas and Arizona State all were within striking distance of the title on the final day.

That has only happened two other times in the past 12 years as most of the decade has been Cal and Texas and everyone else.

The Golden Bears lost a ton of point scorers last year, but maintained a strong core – especially with the fifth-year return of Hugo Gonzalez and Reece Whitley.

That boost of returners, along with the rise and emergence of some sophomores and juniors, was enough to build another winner.

“This is exactly why I came back. To be with these guys – I couldn’t not. It was a really decision after thinking about it for a while. This one definitely means the most. There were a lot of challenges this year,” Whitley said. “We really do hold each other accountable. It is an incredible lineage of world-class gentlemen – all those guys in bear suits, that is who I wanted to be when I committed to Cal. I am a Bear for life.”

Whitley quickly fit that description when he arrived on campus.

“Reece came to this meet in 2018 and we lost by 11. He was over the railing (cheering) and that seems like so long ago,” Cal coach Dave Durden said. “What you miss with Reece is a presence, a level of maturity that is beyond his years. He is so easy to talk to about so many facets of life. Knowing he has a plan beyond his swimming and academic pursuits (is amazing). He makes such an impression on people and I have had that benefit for the past five years. He makes me a better coach.”


Reece Whitley. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The Golden Bears scored 482 points after finishing runner-up in the 400 free relay. Arizona State was second with 430, followed by Texas (384), Indiana (379), NC State (373.5), Florida (367.5), Tennessee (216.5), Stanford (143.5), Virginia Tech (133) and Auburn (127), rounding out the top 10.

Even more impressive was the fact that the Golden Bears won just one event the entire meet.

Cal repeated as team champion and won for the third time in the past four meets (with 2020 canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic). Unfortunately, the 2020 meet could have been the most epic duel of all between Cal and Texas, but we will never know.

The Golden Bears have been first or second for the past 12 years and this is the team’s eighth NCAA title.

What is the reason for that consistency?

“Durden,” Whitley said simply.

“The reason I came back was to support the guys that I love and the program that has made me become the swimmer and the person that I am,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to score the most points in my events for the team that I could score. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

Lasco won the 200 Backstroke, going 1-2 with Gonzalez in the biggest individual performance of the meet, leading off the non-mile events in the final session.


Destin Lasco. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“This one was a challenge. We were setting school records left and right, but we weren’t winning events. It is a team meet and we did what we needed to do to score points,” Durden said. “This is the legacy of Cal Aquatics.”

Lasco and Gonzalez went 2-3 in the 200 IM. Bjorn Seeliger was third in the 50 and Jack Alexy was sixth. Gonzalez was second in the 400 IM. Gabriel Jett was second in the 200 free. Liam Bell and Whitley were A finalists in the 100 breast. Bell scored in the 50. Lasco was third in the 100 back. Alexy and Seeliger went 2-3 in the 100 free. Jason Louser and Whitley scored in the 200 breast, while Jett and Dare Rose went 3-4 in the 200 Rose was 10th in the 100 fly. Seeliger was 10th in the 100 back. Lucas Henveaux took ninth in the 500 and in the mile. Colby Mefford was 12th in the 200 back and Sebastian Somerset was 16th. Grad transfer Patrick Callan scored on the 800 free relay.

That is a ton of consistent scoring from a group of 11 swimmers individually – eight of them scoring in multiple events.


Gabriel Jet. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I can’t even describe how easy my job is being on this team with these guys, used to being in the trenches every day, bearing the load,” Jett said. “Knowing that they have been through it before, I wake up every day inspired and feel free to swim my own race and ignore the pain.”

Cal got second in the 400 free relay to close the meet.

“I let out all the emotion after that one,” Lesco said. “It starts with Dave and the pro group and our fifth years all the way down. It is not just the relentless pursuit in the pool, but out of the pool.”

Cal made their move on the final morning of prelims, sending seven into the A finals and
three more to the B finals, the 10 total more than Arizona State’s 4-5 and Texas’ 2-3.

The last time three teams came into the final day of the men’s meet with a shot to win was also in Minneapolis five years ago. That time it was Texas, Cal and Indiana.

This time, it was Texas, Cal and Arizona State.

Cal came into the final day with 315 points, not far ahead of Arizona State (302) and Texas (292).

It was been a back-and-forth-and-over-and-back scoring with the three teams all week.

The Golden Bears also led going into Friday. After the 200 free, Arizona State took


Hugo Gonzalez. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

a four-point lead over Cal and 10 over Texas. But after the very next event (the 100 breaststroke), Cal was back in front, Texas was second by 14 points and Arizona State was third, 19 behind. Then the 100 backstroke put Arizona State into second place. Texas used diving to move back into second, but the 400 medley relay put the Sun Devils in second, just 13 points behind Cal and 10 points ahead of Texas heading into the final day.

Cal took care of business in the morning and put the exclamation point on a year of challenges.

“Durden is working double time this year (coaching the women, too), which we are really conscious of,” Whitley said. “We had to be independent and take some of the weight off. We had to adjust and trust one another. This is what happens when you have great coaches and kids who love each other.”

Men - Team Rankings - Through Event 21                      
  1. California                        482   2. Arizona St                        430
  3. Texas                             384   4. Indiana                           379
  5. NC State                        373.5   6. Florida                         367.5
  7. Tennessee                       216.5   8. Stanford                        143.5
  9. Virginia Tech                     133  10. Auburn                            127
 11. Ohio St                           112  12. Georgia                            96
 13. Louisville                         92  14. Texas A&M                          80
 15. Virginia                           78  16. Lsu                              62.5
 16. Missouri                         62.5  18. Notre Dame                         62
 19. Alabama                            57  20. Michigan                           37
 21. Minnesota                          36  22. Southern California                31
 23. Miami                              27  23. UNC                                27
 23. Wisconsin                          27  26. South Carolina                     15
 27. Utah                               14  28. Princeton                          13
 28. Siuc                               13  28. Kentucky                           13
 31. Columbia                           12  32. Arizona                            11
 33. Penn St                             4  33. Pittsburgh                          4
 35. Georgia Tech                        3  36. Air Force                           2
 36. Towson                              2  38. Purdue                              1
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