FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – As he was leaving the natatorium late Friday night, Texas coach Eddie Reese said simply that the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships team title would be decided Saturday morning.
He was right but wished he wasn’t.
“This morning wasn’t near what we had hoped our last day would be,” Reese said as he neared the last session of his 31 years with the Longhorns. “We dropped the ball today and Cal stood up and swam really well. I would say they’re going to win the meet.
“They’ve swum tough in everything.”
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Cal went into Saturday morning’s session at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center with 379.5 points. Texas was second with 343.5, followed by Arizona with 283 and Stanford with 277.
“Our guys came out and raced this morning,” said Cal coach Dave Durden, whose Bears are trying to repeat as team champs. “It’s a testament to our seniors.”
Cal answered the bell all morning, starting with the 200-yard backstroke. The only swimmer between the two teams to make the final was Cal senior Mathias Gydesen. Cal’s Marcin Tarczynski made the second eight and so did three Texas swimmers, so that event will be, at best for Texas, a wash.
“That’s Mathias’ first final in that event – ever,” Durden exclaimed.
Both teams got two into the 100 free final, Cal freshman Tyler Messerschmidt and Texas senior Jimmy Feigen, who won the 50 on Thursday. Dax Hill of Texas in the B final. Texas will likely gain a few points in that event.
The 200 breaststroke was all Cal in the team race. While Arizona’s Kevin Cordes,who set the American record and then won the 100 Friday, qualified first, Cal had three make the final eight, senior Martin Liivamagi, junior Trevor Hoyt and senior Nolan Koon. Texas junior Nicholas D’Innocenzo made the B final. Clearly Cal will pad its margin in that event.
“Nolan Koon is not having a great meet but came back and finaled and Martin Liivamagi, who has never finaled in the 200 breast made the final,” Durden said with a smile.
Advantage Cal in the 200 butterfly, where do-everything junior Tom Shields qualified first, followed closely by Texas senior Neil Caskey. But Cal freshman Will Hamilton also made the final eight and senior Robert Sullivan made it into the B final. Again, big boost for the Bears.
“Robbie had a gutsy swim,” Durden said.
Texas will make up ground in the platform diving, where it has two competitors and Cal none, and it will probably outscore Cal in the mile, the 1,650-yard freestyle.
But it won’t be enough and then both teams are in the 400 free relay, the meet’s last event. Cal’s foursome features Shields and UT’s Feigen, so even if the team race is decided that event will rock the house.
After the break, the meet resumes at 5 p.m. Pacific with the four-timed finals heats of the 1,650.