‘Complete Team’ Effort Leads Cal Men to Dominant NCAA Swimming Title

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Texas entered as defending champion and Texas owned home-pool advantage, but any doubts that the California Golden Bears would take the title at this year’s men’s NCAA swimming championships disappeared two days before coach Dave Durden and his team splashed into the water in celebration.

On that day, Cal’s 200 free relay blasted to victory, Sean Grieshop finished second in the 500 free, Andrew Seliskar won his first individual NCAA title in the 200 IM—almost breaking a vaunted American record in the process—and Ryan Hoffer and Pawel Sendyk led a 1-2 finish for the Bears in the 50 free. Oh, and the Bears won all three individual B-finals.

Durden called that Cal’s best day of the meet, rating it 11 on a scale of one to 10. In comparison, he scored the next two days eight out of 10—despite Cal putting multiple swimmers in the top eight in seven of 10 individual events and Seliskar winning two more titles.

“I think we were a pretty complete team, all the strokes and relays,” Durden said. “We weren’t exceptional in one area, we were just good all the way through. This has been building for us.”

Perhaps the best word to describe this Cal team: Complete. They had Grieshop and Nick Norman scoring in the top four in the 1650 free and Grieshop, Mike Thomas and Trenton Julian finishing 2-3-5 in the 400 IM. As expected, freshman Reece Whitley made an immediate impact with top-five finishes in both breaststroke events.

The Bears have backstrokers, a fact made perfectly clear when Daniel Carr jumped up to the fourth seed in his infamous 100 back re-swim and when Bryce Mefford finished third in the 200 back.

And Cal had a Seli.

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Andrew Seliskar — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After three years of looking so close to his breakout, Seliskar’s moment finally came eight months ago, when he won the U.S. national title in the long course 200 free. He returned to college swimming for his senior year playing the part of the country’s best swimmer.

He won his 200 IM title and another in blowout fashion in the 200 free. On the final night of the meet, Seliskar added another win in the 200 breast. He faced only minimal resistance from Minnesota’s Max McHugh and Indiana’s Ian Finnerty on his way to swimming a time of 1:48.70, making him the third-fastest man ever in the event.

Cal had already qualified eight individual A-finalists for the evening’s action, but the Bears swimmers on deck and fans upstairs remained rowdy in anticipation of the coming coronation.

“I always remember these last nights of NCAAs as just being, what team can keep the energy up?” Seliskar said. “What team can stay consistent? Everyone’s swimming a lot of races. Just to feed off the excitement of the guys. I’m standing facing our team area, and the guys on the bleachers were just going crazy. Just being able to feed off that energy was a lot of fun, and I as just happy to put up a good swim.”

At the center of all that screaming and cheering was Durden, the Bears’ oft-stoic 12th-year head coach, a man who has now led his teams to four national titles and six runner-up finishes within the last decade.

Perhaps the moment will go down in Cal lore, when Durden slipped, fell and landed on his backside in exuberance as Carr crushed his re-swim early Friday afternoon.

“That’s the type of energy Dave brings every day. You might not see it on pool deck every meet because he’s a clear-cut guy, but we show up to 6 a.m. practice, and he’s the first one there, bumping house music, drinking coffee, getting everyone fired up,” Seliskar said.

“It just shows how much he cares about what he does. He’s a passionate guy. He’s really invested in this sport and in this team, more so than just times or finishes. He’s someone that can look at each individual swimmer and put trust in them, put confidence in them and teach them how to be more than just an athlete. He just kind of raises people to be the best they can be, in and out of the pool.”

As Durden sat damp, tired and proud, he ran his fingers through his short hair. He couldn’t find the words to properly cap off this landmark week.

“It was a blast coaching these guys throughout the course of this year,” Durden said. “I just feel like we’ve been in a really good place. We’ve had challenges, but I think our guys have shown great maturity in solving those things. I don’t know what it means to be national champions again. I just know it’s been really fun to coach these guys. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back to campus and do it again real soon.”

Dan D’Addona contributed reporting.

5 comments

  1. avatar
    Daniel D'Addona

    This was really an incredible performance by the Bears. They built one great swim after another.

  2. Taylor Covington

    Amazing!! Awesome coverage by SW!!!

  3. Taylor Byers

    What a meet by Cal!!

  4. Juliee Beyt

    Go Bears! Awesome meet, fantastic team in the stands, too