Dolfin Swim of the Week: Cal Seeking 100 Free Redemption

Disclaimer: Dolfin Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The  Dolfin Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Last season, a valiant Cal charge for the national title was soured by one off event: the 100 free. But a solid Pac-12 performance out of the returning sprint group has Cal primed for 2019 redemption.

At the 2018 NCAA Championships, Cal entered the final day staring down a 33.5-point deficit to Indiana and a 14.5-point deficit to Texas. But Cal had a monster day, scoring a meet-high 146 swimming points and improving a whopping 46 points from seed. That was on day 4 alone. Meanwhile Indiana bled points, going -26 from their seeded points, and Texas went -6 for the day. (You can find full scoring numbers from last year here.)

It wasn’t quite enough, though, as Cal did pass Indiana by 15.5, but fell 11.5 points short of Texas. Agonizingly, the 100 free could have tipped that balance.

Cal was seeded to get 4 points from senior Justin Lynch and 2 from freshman Ryan HofferPlus, the Bears had two aces in the hole: 21-seed Michael Jensen and 34-seed Pawel Sendyk, both of whom were just outside of scoring as freshmen in 2017 and were optimistically scoring threats in 2018. Sendyk was coming off of a clutch drop in the 50 free that moved him from the 11th seed to the 4th-place finisher.

But despite an otherwise-great morning, all four of Cal’s scoring threats fell short. Lynch faded three tenths from seed (42.31) and finished 17th. Hoffer added a tenth from seed (42.34) but well off his career-best and was 18th. Jensen added two tenths (42.60) and wound up 21st, while Sendyk only dropped a tenth (42.74) and finished 26th.

All four came back later in the day and proved that each of their swims was an anomaly. Jensen split 41.5 on the 400 free relay later in the same prelims session. At night, Lynch led off the relay in 41.9, Hoffer split a blazing 41.1 and Jensen was again 41.5. But the damage was done from a points perspective. Everything is clearer in hindsight, but had Lynch gone his 41.9 in prelim’s he’d have been a B finalist. Had Hoffer gone even a full second slower than his relay split, he’d have been a B finalist as well. 3 B finalists would have likely won the meet for Cal.

But there’s no sense spending so much time dwelling on the past in our Swim of the Week post. This week, the Cal men showed the first signs of redemption from that off event. It was led by Sendyk, who broke 42 for the first time in what has been a career season for him. Sendyk was 42.74 coming into this season. The only one of the four who hit a lifetime-best in the individual 100 at NCAAs last year, Sendyk is now a lifetime-best 41.95, which would almost certainly score points could he replicate it at NCAAs. (He’s currently seeded 8th on the psych sheets).

Meanwhile Jensen is showing signs of a bounce-back from a down sophomore season. He was second at Pac-12s in 42.15 – that’s .05 off his lifetime-best, which he set at mid-season this year. Jensen has already swum an incredible 6 100 freestyles this season that beat his lifetime-best coming into the season: a 42.47 from mid-season last season.

Hoffer, always known as a massive taper swimmer, was 42.40. That’s a half-second faster than he was at Pac-12s last year and is his third-best swim as a college swimmer. (Hoffer still hasn’t approached his legendary high school best of 41.23, though he looks ready to break 42 again for the first time since 2016.)

If those three can find full redemption at NCAAs, it’ll go a long ways in what projects as a three-team dogfight for the men’s NCAA title.


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Coach M
2 years ago

I feel like Hoffer hasn’t dropped any time since high school and will have a breakout meet at NC’s

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Coach M
2 years ago

Let’s hope so, yup.

Reply to  Coach M
2 years ago

Eh, dropped in his 100 fly I believe, was about a 45.4 in high school. Dropped a 44.9 at NC’s last year, not a massive drop but at least something. At that speed any drop is moving in the right direction

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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