March 4, 2008
BERKELEY, CALIF. -
Wed.-Sat., Mar. 5-8 at Pac-10 Championships, Belmont Plaza Pool, Long Beach, Calif. All Day
The No. 11-ranked California men's swimming and diving team (5-2, 3-2) competes at the 2008 Pac-10 Swimming Championships this week (Wed.-Sat.) at the Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach. Cal is the host institution for the conference meet and complete results will be available on www.calbears.com and pac-10.org (go to the Pac-10 Men's Swimming Championship button on either the calbears.com front page, or the Cal men's swimming page). The Golden Bears will be looking to snap Stanford's stranglehold on the Pac-10 meet as the Cardinal have won the team title 26 straight years. The last school to win the Pac-10 meet other than Stanford was Cal in 1980 and 1981. The Bears will also be looking to produce more 2008 NCAA automatic qualifying times. So far this season, Cal has three automatic qualifying times - junior David Russell in the 100 (46.56) and 200 back (1:42.58), and freshman Damir Dugonjic in the 100 breast (53.46) - and 14 other NCAA B qualifying marks, including all relays. The Bears have also been paced this season by junior diver Sam Helvie, the Pac-10 January Diver of the Month with victories in the one-meter competition against both Arizona and Arizona State and holder of seven individual titles. 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 senior Dominik Meichtry, the 2007 Pac-10 champion and NCAA runner-up in the 200 freestyle, and Russell, the 2007 Pac-10 champion in the 100 back. 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 Gears Up for the Pac-10 Championships
No. 11 Cal is the third-highest ranked school in the conference behind No. 2 Arizona and No. 3 Stanford. The Bears return defending Pac-10 champions Meichtry in the 200 free and Russell in the 100 back, plus senior Jernej Godec, who placed second in the 50 free (19.63). Cal was also second in the 200 free, 400 free and 200 medley relays at last year's conference meet, with a second-place team total of 657 behind Stanford's 990.5. The Bears' top candidates for conference crowns this season include Russell, who has the nation's second-best time in the 100 back and eighth-best mark in the 200 back. Freshman Dugonjic, from Ravne na Koroskern, Slovenia, is another favorite as he has the nation's seventh-best time in the 100 breast. Cal's relays are also among the nation's best as both the 400 free relay (2:55.49, senior Joe Whittington, senior William Copeland, Godec, freshman Graeme Moore) and 400 medley relay (3:11.75, Russell, Dugonjic, Godec, Whittington) are ranked seventh in the nation, and are the second-best in the Pac-10 behind Arizona's marks of 2:52.07 and 3:09.08.
Bears' 2008 NCAA Qualifiers
Besides automatic qualifliers Russell and Dugonjic, the Bears have several NCAA B standard times as well. Cal's top three sprint freestyles in the 50 and 100 free (Godec, Whittington, 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, Dugonjic, Godec, Copeland), 200 free (1:20.15 Copeland, Godec, Whittington, Moore), 400 free (2:55.49 Whittington, Copeland, Godec, Moore) and 800 free (6:37.39 Vayo, Copeland, sophomore Aaron Casey, freshman Martti Aljand).
Cal's All-American Line up
Cal's returning All-Americans from last season include Meichtry (free), Eckert (backstroke/IM), 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 a Head Coach Emeritus. 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'Neil 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 - Head Coach Emeritus
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 and relay titles. Thornton's 1979-80 and 1980-81 teams also captured Pac-10 team championships.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 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.