In another wrinkle to an Olympic year, the University of California will send a select group of its top swimmers to the long course Arena Pro Swim Series at Orlando instead of the Pac-12 Championships this week.
Among the swimmers attending Orlando: reigning NCAA Swimmer of the Year Ryan Murphy, defending Pac-12 Champ Josh Prenot, All-American Jacob Pebley and Canadian Olympic hopeful Jeremie DeZwirek.
“It’s something that we talked about since last year,” said Cal coach Dave Durden. He went on to say the Orlando meet was “a nice opportunity for our guys to go toward their preparation for the Olympic Trials while still getting within in the collegiate system.”
Durden said the swimmers and staff discussed various ways of balancing Olympic Trial preparation with the college season, one of them taking Olympic redshirt seasons, and eventually settled on the current course.
“We came up with a couple solutions,” he said, “and we decided this was going to be the best one to help them moving forward to the U.S. Olympic Trials.”
DeZwirek, specifically, should benefit from the move, as the Canadian Olympic Trials are much closer to NCAAs than the United States meet.
“We feel good about [DeZwirek] in terms of his NCAA qualifying times from December, and his window is a little bit shorter in terms of preparation for the Canadian Olympic Trials,” said Durden. “So I fell like that really fits well for him and his schedule.”
All four Cal swimmers should already be safely qualified for the NCAA meet. Murphy, Prenot and Pebley have all hit A cuts already and are guaranteed spots in the meet. DeZwirek is currently ranked 16th in the nation in the 200 back, and with roughly the top 29 in line for invites, he should be fine without competing at Pac-12s as well.
Star freshman Andrew Seliskar was originally entered in the Orlando meet as well, but Durden confirmed that Seliskar would be competing at Pac-12s instead.
The Orlando meet offers the four Golden Bears a chance to compete in the long course, 50-meter format that will be used for this summer’s Olympic Trials and Olympic Games, while the NCAA season (and the Pac-12 Championships) are conducted in short course yards.
Balancing the college season with long course preparation for the summer has been a hot topic for top-tier NCAA swimmers with chances at Olympic berths this summer. Many high-level athletes have chosen to sit out the college season on a redshirt, while others have mixed long course competition with short course meets during the college year.
Florida Gator Caeleb Dressel is another swimmer attempting that balance – his conference championships were two weeks ago, and he will compete in Orlando as well, as he continues to prepare for the NCAA Championships.
The loss of Murphy, Prenot, Pebley and DeZwirek is a big blow to Cal’s Pac-12 title hopes, though Cal has traditionally placed a much bigger emphasis on the NCAA meet. What could have been a competitive Pac-12 Championships now looks like USC’s meet to lose, as the Trojans look to defend their 2015 title.
“It’s going to be a challenge to go into the Pac-12 Championships and compete for a Pac-12 Championship,” said Durden, “but that’s the responsibility of the 22 guys who we have going to Federal Way next week.”