March 24, 2012
FEDERAL WAY, WASH. - The University of California men's swimming and diving team, ranked No. 6 entering the meet, surprised the swimming world by winning its second straight national team title Saturday night at the 2012 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships held at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash. The Golden Bears - bolstered by titles in the 200 free and 400 medley relays; and NCAA crowns from junior Tom Shields, sophomore Marcin Tarczynski and freshman Will Hamilton - topped second place Texas, 535.5 to 491.
"A lot of people talked about how many people we lost off of last year's national championship team, but actually we had 12 guys returning who brought a lot of experience to this meet," said Cal coach David Durden, who was selected NCAA Coach of the Meet for the third consecutive year. "We were led by our seniors - Martin Liivamagi, Mathias Gydesen, Nolan Koon and Robert Sullivan - who did a great job the last three weeks of guiding these guys."
Shields, named the 2012 NCAA Swimmer of the Meet, won national titles in the 100 fly and the 100 back on Friday and continues to show why he one of the most versatile swimmers in collegiate swimming. He captured the 100 fly and the 100 back in school record times of 44.76 and 44.86, respectively, surpassing former school records Shields had established in 2011. On Thursday, Shields swam the butterfly leg of the Bears' NCAA champion 400 medley relay. He is a nine-time NCAA champion, winning four individual titles and being a part of five national championship relays.
Tarczynski, a sophomore from Warsaw, Poland, won Cal's first NCAA individual title on Thursday with a victory in the 200 IM with a school record time of 1:41.97. Tarczynski broke the record that had been set by Liivamagi, who swam a time of 1:43.05 in 2010. Liivamagi placed fourth in the 200 IM at this year's NCAAs with a mark of 1:42.90.
Freshman Will Hamilton was the Bears' individual national champion on Saturday with a win in the 200 fly, beating out Shields (1:41.07) with a time of 1:40.94. On Thursday, Cal has started the NCAA meet on a high note, winning the 200 free relay (1:16.58) behind the efforts of freshman Tyler Messerschmidt, sophomore Shayne Fleming, freshman Fabio Gimondi and freshman Seth Stubblefield.
Last season, Cal captured its first NCAA team title in 31 years under head coach David Durden. Now Durden and the Bears have won back-to-back national titles in swimming for the first time since the 1979 and 1980 seasons under former head coach Nort Thornton (now Head Coach Emeritus). Combined with Cal's women's swimming and diving program winning repeat titles in 2011 and 2012, Cal the only fourth school to ever win back-to-back NCAA crowns in both men's and women's swimming (joining Texas, Stanford and Auburn).
Other highlights for the Bears on Saturday included junior Trevor Hoyt finishing as the national runner-up in the 200 breast with a school record 1:51.90, while seniors Liivamagi and Koon earned valuable points by placing fifth (1:52.67) and sixth (1:54.75), respectively. Additionally, Cal's 400 free relay of Messerschmidt, Fleming, Gimondi and Shields finished second with a time of 2:50.34.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP QUOTES:
Swimming Coach of the Year, David Durden, California "Our lucky charm is our diving coach, Todd Mulzet. He's been our diving coach for two years, and for four NCAA Championships, with both women and men, and he comes away with four national titles. He thinks this is how it always is supposed to go. I just have to remind Todd, `It's not always like this.' But that's kind of our ace-in-the-hole right now."
"Everyone kind of looks at our youth or looks at what we lost, and we tend to focus on what we have. With 11 returning guys that swam in this meet last year, that brought enough experience to the group, that brought enough kind of learning how to navigate this meet, and learn how to be successful at this meet, both in the prelims and the finals. They just did a great job, particularly our seniors - Martin Liivamagi, Mathias Gydesen, Nolan Koon, and Robbie Sullivan - they just did a great job in guiding our guys over the last three weeks to help them be successful, and that was the difference."
"We just had great swimming in all six sessions. We had a couple of misses with some guys, but for the most part, we're just really happy with the consistency which we swam over the three days and really this last morning was great. Our four seniors, each of them came back and raced tonight. It started with Mathias finaling for the first time in the 200 backstroke in his career; Martin Liivamagi, finaling for the first time in his career in the 200 breaststroke; Nolan Koon, finaling in the 200 breaststroke; and Robbie Sullivan getting back for the 200 fly, and they pulled along some of the buddies. That's what made it really special for us."
Swimmer of the Meet, Tom Shields, California "I was really, really scared - okay, scared is not the right word. I was really concerned about what was going on with the team race. Being next to Neal, and after making the mistake last year of being out at 1:13.5, or 6 or 7, or whatever I was, I was like, `Okay, not going to be out too fast and lose this one. I just need to make sure I'm safe.' I knew Neal was going to be out, he was out in the morning, he's a super excited, emotional swimmer and that's cool. So I knew, `Ok, let him go, let him go, let him go.' And then I let him go a little bit too much. And then off the 150 turn, I was like, `Ok, I'm getting by him.' And then I see this yellow flicker past him, and I was like, `Oh. Dang it.' Like Will [Hamilton] is gone. I was just like, `Ok, I guess I'm going to try to catch him.' Like too little, too late. That dude just went. It was really cool to see him win. That's all I can say. I'm going to be honest, I wanted to win. But if I had to lose to one guy, that's the guy that I would obviously choose. He's just such a stallion behind the blocks. Emotionally, I've never seen someone less nervous. As a freshman, and as a freshman champion... Will's just there, like, scratching his back and just being super chill. Like, we call him `Chill Will.' That's just what he is. He kept his cool, and he was so patient and so smart through the whole race. Two weeks ago, I remember we were standing - we have these outdoor showers at Cal - and we were standing there - it was right after Pac-12s. And I was like, `Dude, like, how do you not even get kind of nervous?' He's always just so chill. He said one of the most profound things and it's just shaped my career. He said, `This year, no matter how Pac-12s went or how NC's go, it was a good season. We had a lot of fun, we trained well. It was a blast.' I think that perspective has just changed my career. That's why it was funny during warmup, he like thanked me for everything I had taught him or something like that. And I almost wanted to say, `Bro, I learned way more from you.' I'm just a nervous wreck all the time, especially about the two flies. It was just such an honor to have swum with him this year, and to get another opportunity to do it next year. I know I'm rambling on, but I can't describe to you how cool it is to have someone like Will in my training."
Winner, 200 Butterfly, Will Hamilton, California "It was my first NCAA meet. Your mind is kind of all over the place. It gave me some confidence. I knew I was going to be ready to go, and so I just had fun. All the hard work was over; this was the easy part."
On whether he is as cool, calm and collected as Tom Shields claims he is: "I try not to show them too much, but there are some butterflies. I got a nickname, Chill Will, this past year, so I try to live up to that."