California Dreaming: ASU-Cal Dual Meet Was One For the Ages …

Cal Team
Photo: Jack Hallahan

California Dreaming: ASU-Cal Dual Meet Was One For the Ages 

On a NorCal winter’s day accented by blustery winds and slashing rainfall, Spieker Pool was under attack.

Arizona State Swimming arrived at Cal after dominating Stanford a day earlier. Everyone knew what happened on “The Farm.”
Avery Aquatic Center’s pool manager is still trying to update the record board after ASU vandalized the numbers with eight pool records.

ASU warmup

Photo: Jack Hallahan

Was Spieker Aquatic Complex the next target? 13 newly minted pool records later…the answer: an emphatic yes!

To witness thirteen pool records fall in a brand new facility makes sense … not a vaunted, storied aquatic center where countless notable meets between Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, ASU, Texas, and other epic duals have been held over the past few decades.

Cal Athletics provided this summary:

Cal’s 200 medley relay set the tempo, with the Bears lineup of Bjorn Seeliger, Liam BellDare Rose, and Jack Alexy finishing with a time of 1:22.87 – the second-fastest time in program history and new pool record. Alexy’s split of 18.44 helped the Bears drop 1.20 seconds off their top time this season.

The Bears got a big boost from the diving contingent. Sophomore Joshua Thai won both the 1-meter and 3-meter dive, , finishing with a score of 337.65 in the 1-meter event. Geoffery Vavitsas placed second with a score of 307.35 while freshman Jack Clark took fourth with a score of 286.50.

In the 200 freestyle, Gabriel Jett dropped 0.39 seconds off his top time this season to finish with a pool record time of 1:31.78. Robin Hanson finished third with a time of 1:33.33.  Destin Lasco out-touched ASU’s Hubert Kos in the 100 backstroke with a time of 44.80 – breaking his own pool record of 45.21.

ASU’s Leon Marchand earned the first of his three individual wins in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 51.37. The Bears’ depth in the event was displayed with strong races from Liam Bell and Jacob Soderlund, who finished in second and third, respectively. Bell had a season-best time of 51.70 and Soderlund registered a time of 51.88 – both improved on their NCAA B qualifying marks.

In the two most dominant races of the day for Cal, Seeliger out-touched Alexy with a pool record time of 18.92 in the 50 free.  Alexy tied the previous pool record time at 18.97. It was Alexy’s turn in the 100, getting the better of Seeliger by 0.01. Alexy’s time of 41.40 is the new record at Speiker and a season-best time. Seeliger finished second with a time of 41.41.

Weathering gray skies all afternoon…fans, coaches, parents, and swimmers packed Spieker’s stands and pool deck frantically wiping raindrops from their eyes. Glance away, and risk missing another record-breaking swim. Before each start, racers focused down on an angry, rain-speckled pool that almost sensed was going to yield records despite the elements in play.

Current and future olympians stood shoulder to shoulder on the blocks to duel it out in race after race. At times, meet announcer Larry Varellas rattled off lane assignments unknowingly sounding like a swimfan name dropper, “Seeliger, Alexy, Dolan, Kharun, Marchand, Kulow, Sarkany, Lasco, Rose, Kos…” and other aquatic icons soon to be vying for the Podium in Paris.

Down to the last relay of what ultimately ended in a tie meet, it was already clear: undaunted by outside factors, these athletes descended on Cal Saturday to bottle the energy only a meet of this caliber can generate. They converted it into record-breaking races much to the delight of a soaking-wet, sold-out crowd speckled with parents and family friends who came to send off a legendary crop of Cal Swimmers for Senior Day. Much to the delight of a NorCal Age Group Coach who rented a bus to haul 50 young swimmers 30 miles to watch history in the making. Much to the delight of rival coaches and alumni swimmers bellowing endless cheers of “Go Bears! Go Bears! Go Bears” rebutted by “Devil Relays!”. 

David Marsh & Jack Alexy

Photo: Jack Hallahan


At the close of the meet, Cal’s Dave Marsh had a face of satisfaction…with a twinkle in his eye as he pondered: “Sets up for a phenomenal PAC 12 Championships!” Cal Director of Swimming and Diving Dave Durden was busy living the moment with his Seniors. No quote. His body language told the story…tell the whole wide world! This is Bear Territory! ASU Coach Bob Bowman summed up the mood as he smiled and gazed across the pool deck: “This was one of the best dual meets ever.”






What happened in Berkeley, California yesterday was nothing short of a Paris Games sneak preview. A dream for some…only it was without taper…hair and all…on such a winter’s day.

Got tickets to PAC 12’s? DM me!




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4 months ago

Excellent article Jack! Felt like I was there watching. Hate to be so close and have missed it.

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