Jan. 15, 2010
BERKELEY, CALIF. -
David Durden interview on Swimming World TV
The 2009-10 California men's swimming and diving team has all the makings to be one of the top squads in school history, and that is saying a lot considering the long and storied history of Golden Bear aquatics. Yet with a quick look at what third-year coach David Durden troops have to offer, it is easy to see why Cal is expected to make a huge splash in the pool this season.
The Bears have one of the world's best freestylers in junior Nathan Adrian. The 2009 Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year was last season's NCAA champion in the 50 (American record 18.71) and 100 free (American record 41.08) after capturing the conference title in the 50, 100 and 200 free.
As good as he was last year, the 6-6, 215-pound Adrian is now approaching Matt Biondi-like status (Cal's eight-time Olympic gold medalist). Most recently in December 2009 at the Duel in the Pool in Manchester, England, he won the 50 and 100-meter free in record times of 20.71 and 45.42, respectively, and was a key component on world record-setting 400 medley (free leg) and 400 free (lead-off 45.08) relays. Adrian is the school record-holder in the 50, 100 and 200 free (1:32.98), and has been a member of every school record-setting relay.
Cal also features junior breaststroker Damir Dugonjic from Slovenia, the 2009 NCAA champion in the 100 breast with an NCAA and American record time of 50.86. According to Durden, the 6-7 Dugonjic has the potential to be one of the world's best breaststrokers with his unbelievable size and technique. He is the Cal record holder in the 100 breast and swam the breaststroke on the Bears' school record-setting 200 and 400 medley relays last season.
Another leading breaststroker for Cal is senior Sean Mahoney, who is ready to grind out a national title in the 200 breast after narrowly missing the feat in 2009. Mahoney joined Adrian in the Duel in the Pool as one of the nation's top breaststrokers and finished third in the meet against top European swimmers. He had set an NCAA record in the prelims with a time of 1:51.96 before being edged out in the finals. Besides owning the school record in the 200 breast, Mahoney has the second-best all-time mark in the 100 breast (52.07) and third-best mark in the 200 IM (1:44.29)
Speaking of the individual medley events, the Bears have two potential national champions in the 200 and 400 IM in junior Martti Aljand and sophomore Martin Liivamagi. Both hailing from Tallinn, Estonia, Aljand and Liivamagi are two of the hardest training swimmers on the Cal squad according to Durden. Aljand is the school record-holder and was the 2009 Pac-10 champion in the 200 IM (1:43.21), while Liivamagi is the Bears' record-holder in the 400 IM (3:43.55), set as a freshman in 2009.
Not to be overshadowed by the accomplishments of Adrian, junior Graeme Moore is also one of the nation's top sprinters and will again be extremely valuable in Cal's hunt for a national team title. Moore, from Johannesburg, South Africa, swam the butterfly legs of Cal's 200 and 400 medley relays that were 2009 national runners-up, and was the second leg of the Bears' 200 and 400 free relays that were third in the nation in '09. He owns the school's third-best all-time mark in the 100 fly (46.02) and is on the Cal all-time Top 10 list in the 50 and 100 free.
Another outstanding international competitor for the Bears is junior Guy Barnea, a native of Israel who placed eighth in the 100 back at last year's NCAA meet and led-off Cal's school record-setting 200 medley relay that was the 2009 national runners-up. Barnea also owns the school's third-best all-time in the 100 back (46.33) and placed third in the 50 back in this past summer's World University Games.
The Bears have an additional array of talented athletes ready to make their mark upon the school record books. Sophomore Nolan Koon showed his abilities when he won the 2009 Pac-10 title in the 200 breast and was second in the 200 IM as a true freshman. Koon already has the school's second-best all-time mark in the 200 IM (1:44.10) and third-best time in the 200 breast (1:53.78).
Junior Josh Daniels has developed into a force on the Cal relays, swimming the third leg of the Bears' school record-setting 200 and 400 free relays that placed third at the 2009 NCAA meet. The former walk-on has continued to improve under the guidance of the Cal coaches and is now in position to help in the individual sprints as well.
The talent list continues with a pair of seniors who are on the school's all-time Top 10 list, Peter Davis and Aaron Casey. Davis is a member of the school record-setting 800 free relay, has the third-best all-time mark in the 200 fly (1:43.49) and is in the Top 10 in the 100 back and 100 fly. Casey has the school's second-fastest time in the 400 IM (3:44.43) and is in the Top 10 in the 200 back and 1000 free.
What could additionally elevate the Bears' status this season is their strong group of newcomers. Cal landed one of the nation's premier high school recruits in 2009 in Tom Shields from Huntington Beach (Edison High School). Shields was named the 2009 National High School Swimmer of the Year after setting the national high school record in the 200 free (1:33.83) last May, as well as capturing four-straight CIF Southern Section 200 free titles and two-straight 100 fly championships.
An additional freshman standout for the Bears is multi-talented Ben Hinshaw from Saratoga High School. Hinshaw is set to help Cal in the free, fly and IM events after being the CIF Central Coast record-holder in the 200 IM (1:46.96) and 500 free (4:21.54). The Bears will also benefit from the arrival of sophomore Robert Sullivan from Indian River Community College in Florida, where he was the 2009 national junior college champion in the 200 fly with an NJCAA record 1:46.18.
"In the three years I have been here, this is the most comfortable I have been," explained Durden, who in his two seasons as the Bears' head coach has seen his swimmers establish 14 new school records, including all five relays. "This is the first time I have a good feel of how we are going to work within an NCAA meet dynamic because we now have a seasoned group of athletes. I learned a lot from last year, not just with what Nathan and Damir could do, but with how all our other swimmers would react. I feel confident we will do a really nice job of maximizing the abilities that we have."