Jan. 22, 2008
BERKELEY, CALIF. -
Fri., Jan. 25 Arizona Spieker Aquatics Complex, Berkeley, CA 1 p.m. Sat., Jan. 26 Arizona St. Spieker Aquatics Complex, Berkeley, CA 12 p.m.
The No. 11-ranked California men's swimming and diving team (2-0, 1-0), fresh off an 18-day trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, compete in its first dual meets of 2008 against No. 3 Arizona (5-0, 2-0) on Friday and Arizona State (2-5, 1-1) on Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Complex. This weekend's dual meets will feature the best in collegiate swimming and diving, including Friday's 200 freestyle that has last year's Arizona's NCAA champion, Darian Townsend, battling Cal's 2007 national runner-up, Dominik Meichtry. Saturday's meet against Arizona State will be an opportunity for fans to honor the Golden Bears' 11 seniors who will be competiting in their final dual meet at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal is coming off an eighth-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Championships and a second-place finish at the 2007 Pac-10 Meet. The Bears have nine returning All-Americans, including Meichtry, the 2007 Pac-10 champion in the 200 freestyle. The Bears also welcome new head coach David Durden, the former top assistant at Auburn who helped guide the Tigers' men and women's teams to six NCAA team championships from 2002-05. Durden was most recently the head men's and women's swimming coach at Maryland from 2005-06.
Cal Versus The Arizona Schools
Cal faces its toughest dual meet competition of the season Friday when it hosts No. 3-ranked Arizona (Cal leads the series 22-4). Besides the match-up of Townsend and Meichtry in the 200 free, another top race will be the Bears' David Russell versus the Wildcats' Albert Subirats in the 100 back. Russell was last years' Pac-10 champion in the 100 back, while Subirats was the 2007 NCAA champion in that event. Subirats was also the 2007 national champion in the 100 fly, where on Friday he will battle Cal's top sprint butterflyer, senior Jernej Godec. Last season, Arizona topped the Bears, 124-118, in a dual meet in Tucson and placed third at the NCAA championships. On Saturday, the Bears will honor seniors Meichtry, Godec, Dominic Cathey, William Copeland, Eric Dunipace, Mark Eckert, Richard Hunter, Michael Jafari, Justin Pollard, Louis Vayo and Joe Whittington. Unranked Arizona State (Cal leads the series 24-4) features senior CJ Nuess, a top distance freestyler and IMer, and junior Gal Nevo, the 2007 Pac-10 champion in the 400 IM. Last season, Cal defeated ASU, 185-115, in Tempe.
Bears' 2008 NCAA Qualifiers
The Bears' standout junior backstroker, David Russell, has already qualified for the 2008 NCAA championships with A standard times of 46.56 in the 100 back, and 1:42.58 in the 200 back. Freshman Damir Dugonjic (Ravne na Koroskern, Slovenia) is Cal's other NCAA automatic qualifier with a time of 53.46 in the 100 breast. The Bears have several NCAA B standard times as well. Cal's top three sprint freestyles in the 50 and 100 free (Godec, Joe Whittington, William Copeland) own B standard times. Godec has a B standard time in the 100 fly (47.72); senior Mark Eckert has B standard times in the 100 back (48.71), 200 back (1:45.41) and 200 IM (1:48.18); senior Louis Vayo has B standard times in the 200 IM (1:49.13) and 400 IM (3:54.56); while sophomore Sean Mahoney has B standard times in the 100 breast (54.95) and 200 breast (1:57.62). Additionally, the Bears have NCAA B standard times in all their relays - 200 medley (1:27.27 Russell, Dugonjic, Godec, Whittington), 400 medley (3:11.80 Russell, Dugoncic, Godec, Copeland), 200 free (1:20.15 Copeland, Godec, Whittington, Graeme Moore), 400 free (2:55.49 Whittington, Copeland, Godec, Moore) and 800 free (6:37.39 Vayo, Copeland, Aaron Casey, Martti Aljand).
Cal's All-American Line-up
Cal's returning All-Americans from last season include Meichtry (free), Eckert (backstroke/Individual medley), Richard Hunter (breaststroke), Copeland (sprint free), Godec (free/fly/back), Whittington (free), Vayo (back/IM/free), and Russell (backstroke). Meichtry placed second at the NCAA meet with a time of 1:33.45 in the 200 free, the second-fastest time in school history behind the eight-time Olympic gold medalist Matt Biondi's time of 1:33.03 set in 1987. He also helped the Bears to a seventh-place finish in the 800-free relay at the NCAA meet, along with fellow senior Vayo. Meichtry was the 2007 Pac-10 champion in the 200 free with a time of 1:33.82. He has the school's second-fastest time in the 500 free (4:15.89), set in 2006, and is a member of the school-record 800 free relay team. The Bears' 200-yard freestyle relay placed sixth in the 2007 NCAA meet and returns three of its members - Copeland, Godec and Whittington. Godec was second in the Pac-10 meet in the 50 free and has the school's third-best all-time mark in the 100 fly (46.32). Russell placed ninth at the NCAA Championships with his time of 1:41.81 in 200-yard backstroke, and was a member of Cal's 200 and 400 medley relays. He was the 2007 Pac-10 champion in the 100 back and has the school's second-best all-time mark in the 200 back (1:41.81) and third-best time in the 100 back (46.70). Eckert was second in the 200 back, third in the 400 IM and fourth in the 200 IM at the Pac-10 meet, and has the school's third-best all-time mark in the 400 IM (3:46.63). Hunter was seventh in the Pac-10 meet in the 100 breast. Copeland, besides being a member of Cal's 200 free and 200 medley relays, is on the school's all-time top 10 list in the 50 (19.59, 10th) and 100 free (42.97, 7th). Vayo was a member of the Bears' 800 free relay that placed seventh in the NCAAs. He joins Meichtry as a member of the school record-setting 800-free relay. Vayo has the school's fifth-best all-time mark in both the 200 (1:45.82) and 400 IM (3:48.54). Whittington, besides being a member of Cal's sixth-place 200 free relay, was on the Bears' 200 free relay that placed second at the Pac-10 Championships.
Introducing David Durden
Durden was hired to direct Cal's men's swimming program on Aug. 27, replacing Hall of Fame coach Nort Thornton, who retired in July after 33 years at the helm of Golden Bear swimming. Thornton will remain involved in the men's swimming program as an assistant. Durden, 31, spent five seasons at Auburn, including 2005 when he was the assistant head men's coach for the 2005 NCAA champion Tigers. Prior to being the No. 1 assistant and chief recruiting coordinator for the powerhouse Auburn men's team, he was an assistant coach for both the Tigers' men's and women's swim programs. During his tenure, the Tiger men's and women's teams won a total of six NCAA team championships - the men winning in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and the women winning in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The Auburn women finished second at the national meet in 2005. At Auburn, Durden was the primary coach for a number of world-class/postgraduate swimmers who were preparing for the World Championships and the World University Games. He mentored multiple world and NCAA record holders. Durden also served as the head coach for the Panama team at the 2004 Olympic Games and the 2003 Pan American Games. A 1998 graduate of UC Irvine, Durden earned a degree in electrical engineering. He competed on the Anteaters' swim team from 1994-97 and was the 1997 Big West Conference champion in the 200 butterfly.
2006-07 Golden Bear Team Recap
In 2006-07, Thornton's Bears compiled a 5-3 dual-meet record (2-2 in Pac-10). With Cal's eighth-place finish at the 2007 NCAA meet, it was the 28th time in Thornton's 33-year career the Bears were in the top 10 at the national meet. Of Pac-10 schools, only Stanford (second) and Arizona (third) placed higher. Cal collected its 35th individual national champion under Thornton when Patrick O'Neill captured the NCAA title in the 200-yard butterfly with a school-record 1:42.98. The Bears placed second at the 2007 Pac-10 meet, led by Meichtry, Russell and O'Neil. Meichtry captured the 200 free (1:33.82), Russell won the 100 back (46.93) and O'Neil won the 200 fly (1:45.00). The Bears were also conference runners-up in the 200 free, 400 free and 200 medley relays.
Honoring Nort Thornton
Former Cal head coach Nort Thornton retired after 33 years at the helm of the Bears men's swimming program on July 26. Thornton led Cal to a dual-meet record of 231-85 (.731 winning percentage), produced back-to-back NCAA team titles in 1979 and 1980, and produced numerous individual national champions, including O'Neil, who won the 200-yard butterfly crown at the 2007 NCAA Championships. His Bears have won 48 individual and relay NCAA championships and 108 Pac-10 individual, relay and diving titles. His 1979-80 and 1980-81 teams also captured Pac-10 team championships.Thornton started his Bears' career with the 1974-75 season. The veteran coach has been named National Coach of the Year twice and has been the Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, most recently in 1999. A product of San Jose State, Thornton led the Bears to NCAA team titles in 1979 and 1980 and produced a long list of stellar All-Americans. He has an even more impressive collection of Olympians, including world record holder Matt Biondi, Anthony Ervin, who won the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Duje Draganja, who took silver in the 50-meter free at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Since Thornton took over the Cal program, 48 Cal athletes have represented several countries in the Olympic Games, winning 29 medals, including 14 gold, 10 silver and five bronze.