Worldly Experience Inspires Swimmers in 2009-10

Photo: <b>Senior Sean Mahoney</b>, a breaststroke specialist, returns to Cal after being named to the U.S. Swimming 2009-10 National Team.
Shannon Hamilton/File
Senior Sean Mahoney, a breaststroke specialist, returns to Cal after being named to the U.S. Swimming 2009-10 National Team.

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Men's Swimming Season Preview

Beat writer Christina Jones previews the upcoming fall season for the Cal men's swimming team, including what Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian did this summer.

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The philosophy of the Cal men's swimming team can be summed up by its motto: "People not performance."

"In the past, we spent a lot of time defining what success is. This year has become more about them caring for their teammates (and) starting to look at each other not as a group of athletes, but as men," coach David Durden said.

For the first time in Durden's three-year tenure, the roster consists predominantly of returning swimmers, which gives the Bears a clear advantage compared to years past.

The core swimmers' shared experiences over the past two years have given them a more tangible understanding of their capabilities and goals, allowing the group to focus even more on character-building.

Those capabilities led Cal to a second consecutive fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships last season. The Bears also picked up three individual national titles.

Junior standout Nathan Adrian claimed the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events, while junior Damir Dugonjic took the 100-yard breaststroke crown.

Their accolades also transcend intercollegiate competitions. This summer, six Cal swimmers represented their native countries in the World Championships in Rome.

Adrian, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2009 Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year, swam the anchor leg of the 400-meter freestyle relay for the Americans, earning another gold medal. At the ConocoPhillips National Championships in July, Adrian took both the 50- and 100-meter freestyle.

Senior Sean Mahoney and junior Guy Barnea elected to participate in the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. Mahoney swam the second fastest time in the 200-meter breaststroke.

"Everyone got a lot of good experience we can bring back," said junior Graeme Moore, who represented South Africa at the World Championships. As one of the veteran members of the Cal squad, Adrian took particular inspiration from being surrounded by older, more experienced swimmers at the World Championships.

"It is important to be a model ... (and) take little aspects of guys' personalities and mold it into your own," Adrian said.

Teammates play a pivotal role in the team's mission, which Adrian identifies as "to race tough when you're not feeling great," and being able to recover mentally from an unsatisfactory performance.

Key to the Bears' success is to integrate the newcomers into their culture. The freshmen will see their first collegiate action as the team opens its season this Friday against Hawaii at Spieker Aquatics Center.

"I'm excited to turn our freshmen loose and get them some experience," Durden said.

The Bears' eyes are firmly fixated on the NCAA Championships, to be held in the end of March in Columbus, Ohio, viewing current meets as opportunities to practice what Barnea calls "the small details of the race."

Cal is also looking forward to head-to-head competition against Stanford and Arizona, the teams that handed Cal its only two losses last season.

"I really want to beat Stanford," Barnea said with a smile.

For 28 straight years, Stanford has claimed the Pac-10 Championship, a streak Cal hopes to snap this year.

According to the Bears, it seems feasible.

"We have in each event two really good swimmers," Dugonjic said. "(But) we need to get better mentally."


Contact Christina Jones at [email protected]

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