Bears Avoid Repeat of 2010 To Win Team ChampionshipAdrian and Company Overcome Late Texas Lead to Claim First NCAA Title in 31 Years
Monday, March 28, 2011
Category: Sports > Winter > Swimming (Men's)
When Texas took a half-point lead with just three events remaining in the 2011 NCAA Championships, it looked like history was going to repeat itself in the worst way possible for the Cal men's swimming team.
The Bears had flashbacks of 2010, when the Longhorns overtook them on the final day of competition to take the NCAA title.
This time, Cal took back the lead on the heels of sophomore Tom Shields' third-place finish in the 200-yard butterfly and never looked back. When senior Nathan Adrian dove in for the final leg of the 400 freestyle relay and took a commanding body-length lead, the Bears secured their advantage and became national champions.
"Everything that happened last year, we made sure to move forward and learn from it," Adrian said. "We changed up the training schedule a little bit and made sure that I would go a lot faster at the end of the season as opposed to going some pretty fast in-season times."
Cal finished the meet at Dorothy L. Sheppard Pool in Minneapolis with 493 points to Texas' 470.5.
Adrian added yet another outstanding performance to his already sterling resume. He started off the weekend by breaking his own American record in the 50 freestyle (18.66). He then came back on the final day of competition to win the 100 freestyle (41.10), joining Matt Biondi and Anthony Ervin - both Olympic gold medalists - as the third Bear in school history to win the event three years in a row.
"This is such an awesome experience," coach David Durden said. "I came to Cal four years ago and to be able to work with this group of seniors ... it is just wonderful to be able to finish this way with them."
Senior Damir Dugonjic also turned in another impressive meet, winning the 100 breastroke for the third year in a row in a school record time of 50.49. Junior Nolan Koon followed that mark to finish second (51.63).
Koon also had to deal with some adversity in the 200 breastroke. His cap and goggles fell off midway through the race, and he had to settle for 15th place.
"We just have had so many bizarre things happen in this meet, and it was just kind of surviving until the finish," Durden said.
Entering the final race of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay, the Bears needed to finish no worse than five places behind the Longhorns. Despite overly safe starts, two slower than 0.3 seconds, the tandem of Adrian, Shields, senior Graeme Moore and senior Josh Daniels blew away the rest of the field, putting an exclamation mark on their team championship - Cal's first since 1980.
"We got second place at Texas (in 2010) and I said, 'You know what, we're going to be back next year,'" Daniels said. "We did exactly what we wanted to do. We raced and we had fun this year and look what happened. We're on top."
Connor Byrne covers men's swimming. Contact him at [email protected]
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