Cal eyes third national title in a row
Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Stanford have chance to end streak
INDIANAPOLIS -- Nine-time national champion Tom Shields of California will be a busy swimmer the next three nights at the Men's Division I Swimming and Diving Championships. The championships begin with preliminary competition in six events on Thursday at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI, and Shields returns with many accolades to live up to.
A senior from Huntington Beach, Calif., he was a triple individual winner at this year's Pac-12 Championships. He's also the defending national champion in the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 2012 Championship Swimmer of the Meet.
He is the top seed in the 100 fly. He’ll also swim in the 200 fly, 100 backstroke and four relay events.
“We ask him to do everything and he does it without complaint,” Cal coach David Durden said.
Shields will take a leading role as Cal seeks a third consecutive national championship. The Golden Bears are dominant in the relays, and Shields won two more Pac-12 championships this year on the 200 and 400 medley relays. They’ll face a battle in those relays from three-time Big Ten champion Michigan, which won all five relay races at its conference championships.
“Unlike a lot of the teams in the country, we put 100 percent in our conference, we put 100 percent in our dual meets,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom, who was the 2012 Olympics coach for Serbia. “You see what you’ve got. We know that Stanford and Cal and Florida and Texas have been doing it a different way. And that’s OK. I guess you give them something to shoot for.”
“Michigan has really, really five good relays,” Durden said, “and it’s going to be tough to catch them. They’re just in a really good spot. I like where our guys are at. We know that we’re going to have swim really well here to compete. That’s what we want. We want to see swimmers and teams at their best this weekend.”
Cal is attempting to win three titles in a row for the first time in school history. The last school to accomplish the feat was Auburn, which won five in a row from 2003 to 2007.
Winning a three-peat championship will not come easily for the Bears. The field of 235 swimmers and 35 divers is loaded with title contenders who may be reaching for American records the same way the women were at last week‘s championships. On the final night alone at the women‘s championships, three NCAA and American records were broken.
“I think three or four teams could win,” said Georgia men’s and women’s swimming coach Jack Bauerle, who spent the weekend in Indianapolis after coaching the Lady Bulldogs to their fifth national championship last week. “I think Arizona’s got a shot, I think Florida’s got a shot. Michigan’s got numbers.”
A strong field of 35 divers includes 2012 Olympians Kristian Ipsen of Stanford and Nick McCrory of Duke. Ipsen won all three events -- the 1-, 3- and 10-meter -- at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships. Ipsen won a bronze medal in the 3-meter synchronized event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Kevin Cordes of Arizona is the top seed in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and the American record-holder in both events.
Cal is coming off a strong team performance at the Pac-12 Championships. It was the first time in 32 years that Stanford did not win the conference championship as the Bears outscored Stanford 825-800.
Michigan, the Big Ten champ, has more qualified individual swimmers than anybody else with 17. The Wolverines, fifth-place finishers in 2012, won the national championship the last time the meet was held in Indianapolis in 1995.
Michigan is seeded No. 1 in the 200 and 400 medley relays, setting up a points-scoring battle with Cal. The Wolverines also are seeded No. 1 in 800 freestyle relay, No. 2 in the 200 free relay and No. 6 in the 400 free relay. For the first time in school history, they won every relay event at the Big Ten Championships.
“Momentum is an undervalued commodity in swimming,” Bottom said.
Connor Jaeger led a 1-2-3-4 Michigan sweep in the 1,650 freestyle. He is seeded No. 2 behind Michael McBroom of Texas at the national championships. Michigan freshman Dylan Bosch is seeded No. 1 in the 200 butterfly, ahead of Shields, after winning that event in the Big Ten Championships with a time of 1:41.18 (:0.05 quicker than Shields’ best time).
Florida, the Southeastern Conference champ, qualified 14 swimmers, including Marcin Cieslak, whose time of 1:42.17 in the 200 fly trails only Bosch and Shields. He had three top-three finishes last year.
Outside of Michigan and Florida, the championships may resemble the Pac-12 Championships. Cal, Stanford, Arizona each have at least 14 swimmers and divers. Southern Cal has 10. Including relay swimmers, Arizona arrives with 18 swimmers and one diver. No other school has more than 11 swimmers, though Texas qualified 11 swimmers and two divers.
Both Southern Cal and Indiana have two swimmers with top seeds. USC’s Cristian Quintero is No. 1 in the 500 free and Vladimir Morozov is No. 1 in the 100 free. Indiana’s Cody Miller is the top seed in the 200 individual medley and James Wells is No. 1 in the 100 backstroke.