March 27, 2010

By Doug Bean, Special to

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Much like the third round of a professional golf tournament, the second day of the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships is considered moving day.

With finals in eight of the meet's 21 events, the second day is pivotal for those in title contention to move into position on the leader board to make a strong closing run. The championship can't be won Saturday, but it can be lost. A team can fall so far behind that a comeback becomes nearly impossible.

California made sure it wasn't left behind. The Golden Bears brought their moving van to Ohio State University's McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, displaying impressive depth in the afternoon preliminaries and the evening finals that catapulted them to the top of the team standings with 348.5 points before a sellout crowd of 1,465.

Damir Dugonjic won the 100-yard breaststroke for the second straight year and was part of the winning 200 medley relay, and freshman Tom Shields secured a victory in the 100 butterfly to power Cal.

"We're definitely feeding off of each other," said Dugonjic, a native of Slovenia. "I knew we would be really fast here. That was our main focus this year - the NCAAs. I'm surprised that some of our guys have really stepped it up in the finals."

Surprising Cal, which finished second to Stanford in the 2010 Pac-10 Championships, will be bidding for its first NCAA men's swimming title since 1980 in the final two sessions Sunday.

Cal coach Dave Durden isn't thinking ahead yet.

"We're just enjoying what we're doing," he said. "I think our guys are in a good place and racing really well.

"I don't know if I'm surprised (to be in first). We're just enjoying where we're at."

First-day leader Texas fell back slightly but remained well within striking distance in second place with 330 points. The Longhorns won the night's final event, the 800 freestyle relay, to tighten the gap and set up what is expected to be a hotly contested fight to the finish.

Arizona showed few ill effects of the virus that struck at least 10 of its athletes before the meet and delayed the start one day. The Wildcats swam well and had a diving finalist for the first time in eight years to climb into third place with 269 points.

"It's obviously not optimal," said Clark Burckle, who was one of the Wildcats hit with the norovirus this week but rallied to take fifth in the 400 individual medley. "But I try not to think about it. I'm just trying to ride the wave and get everyone excited."

Florida (264) stood fourth and Stanford (221) fifth. Auburn (215.5), which has won six of the last seven titles, stayed in the hunt but will need an outstanding final session to make up ground.

Cal entered the evening in second place behind Texas but quickly set the tone by dominating the 200 medley relay. The Golden Bears led through all four legs and established a pool record of 1 minute, 23.08 seconds. Second-place Auburn was more than a second behind.

"The relay was unbelievable. Guy (Barnea) started us off. Damir and Graeme (Moore) had great splits to give us the lead and I finished it off," said Joshua Daniels, who swan the anchor leg. "I couldn't be more proud of my teammates. We are just feeling great and having a blast. Having a blast."

The relays loom large in the team battle because points are doubled.

The Golden Bears displayed their depth in the 100 butterfly. Shields pulled away from the field and won in a pool-record 44.91. Teammates Mathias Gydesen took second and Moore tied for fifth to help Cal climb ahead of Texas in the standings after the third event of the night.

Cal again had three place-winners two events later when Dugonjic claimed the 100 breaststroke in a pool-record 51.65. Teammates Martti Aljand and Sean Mahoney were third and sixth.

At that point, the Golden Bears pushed ahead of Texas and stayed in front the rest of the session.

Michigan's Tyler Clary won the 400 IM for the second consecutive year in a pool-record 3:38.89. Clary pulled away early and owned the field, touching nearly two seconds before Gal Nevo of Georgia Tech.

Stanford's Eugene Godsoe prevailed in the 100 backstroke and Purdue's David Boudia added the 3-meter diving title to his 1-meter victory Friday.