Competitor Coach of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based coach who has risen above the competition. As with any item of recognition, Competitor Coach of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one coach whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a coach who was clearly in the limelight, or one whose work fell through the cracks a bit more among other stories. If your favorite coach wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
It’s safe to say it’s been a good 2023 for Dave Durden and the coaching staff at Cal.
After taking on the tall task of coaching the women’s team last fall in addition to his duties with the men’s program last fall, Durden has found nothing but success this year, and that was on full display at the 2023 World Championships.
After guiding the Golden Bears to a second consecutive men’s NCAA title in March, Durden put six swimmers on the U.S. World Championship team after Cal had an impressive performance at Nationals.
Ryan Murphy, Hunter Armstrong and Abbey Weitzeil qualified as expected, but Jack Alexy, Dare Rose and Destin Lasco had seismic long course breakouts to get on their first major international long course teams.
Armstrong notably came to Cal after his primary coach at Ohio State, Matt Bowe, was named the new associate head coach with the Bears last May. Bowe also deserves a ton of credit for the performance of Cal’s athletes this season.
Not only did Durden put six swimmers on the team, more than any other coach, but Murphy, Weitzeil, Alexy and Lasco all qualified in multiple events, and Rose essentially did as he got the nod to swim the 50 fly individually in Fukuoka.
Rose won the men’s 100 fly (50.74), Alexy won the men’s 100 free (47.93, 47.75 prelims), and Lasco was the runner-up to Murphy in the 200 back (1:55.63) and also earned a spot in the 400 free relay after placing fourth in the 100 free (48.00, 47.87 prelims).
Weitzeil also had a breakthrough of sorts, setting personal best times in both the 50 free (24.00) and 100 free (52.92).
The Cal swimmers continued their upward momentum at Worlds, as Armstrong won gold in the 50 back (24.05), Murphy won the 100 back (52.22) for the first time in his career, and Alexy secured two silvers individually in the 50 (21.57) and 100 free (47.31) while Rose picked up an individual bronze in the 100 fly (50.46).
Armstrong and Murphy, who were the only American men to win gold individually, also won medals in the 100 back (Armstrong bronze) and 200 back (Murphy silver). In fact, out of the 14 individual medals won by the U.S. men, seven came from the foursome of Armstrong, Murphy, Alexy and Rose.
Weitzeil, despite missing an individual podium, had strong swims including a fourth-place finish in the 50 free (24.32) and a sixth-place finish in the 100 free (53.34).
Cal also factored heavily on the U.S. relays, as the six swimmers had at least one member on the finals team of five of the eight medal-winning relays, highlighted by the men’s 400 medley relay that won gold where Murphy, Rose and Alexy made up three-quarters of the squad.
Durden and Bowe worked wonders with Cal’s squad this year, and though Bowe will be departing to take over as the head coach of Michigan next season, the Bears will reload with the addition of former Tennessee assistant (and associate for about a month until he was hired at Cal) Josh Huger.
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