Jan. 14, 2013
BERKELEY -By Scott Ball (This feature ran in the 2012-13 Winter Issue of the Cal Sports Quarterly)
The precedent has been set. All the senior class of the 2012-13 Golden Bears men's swimming & diving team has to do is win another national championship.
If only winning a national championship was that easy.
Cal's 2012-13 seniors - Austin Brown, Dana Foster, Ben Hinshaw, Trevor Hoyt, Chris Packer, Nick Trowbridge and Tom Shields - have the daunting task keeping pace with the past two senior classes that have concluded their careers with NCAA crowns, matching the 1979 and '80 Golden Bear squads with back-to-back titles.
Now, Cal's seniors will be attempting to guide men's swimming & diving program to the school's unprecedented third straight national championship. But what makes this year's group unique from the Bears' other national champion seniors is that all of these seven student-athletes hail from the Golden State.
"As all of these guys are Californians, this group had raced against each other for so many years prior to their freshman year at Cal that when they stepped foot on campus in the fall of their freshman year, it was strange for them to realize that they were now teammates racing with, not against, each other," said head coach David Durden. "Four years later we have benefitted from their relationships with each other prior to being Golden Bears. They have a stronger bond because of that familiarity that transcends their time at Cal."
Each of the seven members of the 2012-13 Cal senior class offers a different element that has been instrumental in the team's success, and these components will again be counted upon as the Bears look to stand atop the NCAA platform once more. Not since 1981 has Cal men's swimming's senior class had to follow in the footsteps of back-to-back national champions.
Butteflyer Austin Brown, from Redlands, has steadily improved during his time in Berkeley, which is exactly what the Cal swimming & diving program is designed to do - cultivate an athlete's talent. Brown has been an NCAA qualifier the past two seasons after placing fifth both the 100 and 200 fly at the 2011 Pac-10 Championships, and third in the 200 fly at the 2012 Pac-12 meet. He has the school's seventh-best all-time mark in the 200 fly (1:43.70) and 10th-best time in the 100 fly (46.66).
Sprint freestyler Dana Foster, a native of Moraga, is actually the elder statesman of Cal's elder statesmen, as he redshirted during the 2009-10 campaign following shoulder surgery. Foster has been a contributor to the Bears' relays as a freestyler, while his mother, Cathy Morley Foster, has been a tireless contributor to both the Cal men's and women's programs. She has built three different Cal swimming Facebook pages (fans, parents, alumni), is a leading member of the parents' group and was instrumental in the highly successful Nov. 3 Cal Aquatics Gala fundraising effort.
If Saratoga's Ben Hinshaw seems like an older brother to the Bears' underclassmen, it's because that is exactly what he is. Ben's younger brother, Adam, is one of the team's bright young talents, but Ben is also a force in the pool as one of Durden's top IMers with the school's third-best all-time mark in the 400 IM (3:44.65) and seventh-best time in the 200 IM (1:44.57). Hinshaw is a member of Cal's school record-setting 800 free relay, which was the 2012 national runner-up, as well.
"Austin has quietly and effectively established himself as one of the premiere collegiate 200 butterfliers," said Durden. "Each year he has gotten a little bit better, and this year is no different. As our eldest senior, it is nice to see Dana take on a leadership role in the water. He has led more of our sprint practices this year than the previous four years combined. To me, that is a great indicator of his desire to become a better athlete within our team structure.
"Ben is one of the directors of our team dynamic this year. He works his tail off, and through his sheer grit, he has had tremendous success in our program. Every day Ben brings his best effort and best attitude to the pool, and that helps create an environment for success."
Another highly successful member of Durden's 2013 senior class is breaststroker Trevor Hoyt from Yucaipa (near San Bernardino), who is primed to make a run for the NCAA title in the 200 breast after establishing a Cal school record (1:51.90) and finishing as the national runner-up in 2012. Hoyt is also talented in the 100 breast were he placed sixth in the NCAA meet and has the school's seventh-best all-time mark (52.52).
"As a coaching staff, we are directing Trevor to very quietly place his focus on carrying forward our breaststroke banner," said Durden, whose 2012 breaststrokers earned 87 points at last year's NCAA meet. "No one questions Trevor's passion for life ... our goal is to help cultivate that passion for his senior season."
Freestylers Chris Packer, from Belvedere, and Nick Trowbridge, from Los Altos, are two Bears who contribute to the team's success in and out of the pool. Both are working to be NCAA qualifiers during their final season while also providing guidance to the team. In addition, Trowbridge is from Bear heritage as his father, Todd, was a Cal national champion as a member of coach Nort Thornton's 800 free relay that was the best in the land in 1981.
"I value Chris' relationship that he has with each and every one of our seniors," said Durden. "He is the one person who keeps this senior group directed and on task from a very level-headed perspective. Nick is also someone who guides the team, not only from the pool and the classroom, but his influence and guidance goes beyond those two venues and spans the entirety of the team."
Finally, there is little question of Tom Shields' contributions to Cal and to the collegiate swimming world in the pool. The Huntington Beach native has simply been spectacular for the Bears, earning the 2012 NCAA Swimmer of the Meet accolades after winning national titles in the 100 fly and the 100 back, and swimming the butterfly leg of Cal's title-winning 400 medley relay. In all, Shields has won four individual NCAA crowns and has been a member of five national championship relays in his Cal career, while also being named 2011 Pac-10 Swimmer and 2010 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year.
"Perhaps one of the most versatile college swimmers in the sport today, Tom is the absolute backbone of our program as we approach the NCAA meet," said Durden. "He has the ability to be on all five of our relays and contend for individual All-American honors in six individual events. His name will definitely be among the greatest swimmers who have ever competed for Cal.
"This is my first senior class that is all from the state of California," Durden continued. "This helps our athletes who are from outside of the state or country to know they have a Cal family nearby. There is an appreciation for our program and our school's academics that our younger athletes can learn from our seniors that is invaluable. What I appreciate about this year's senior class is their level of knowledge and respect for the history and legacy of our program. They have stood on the shoulders of those who have come before them, and they are now helping our current team see further ahead and accomplish more. It is really a special group."