Dolfin Swim of the Week: The Anchor Swim That Won The Title For Cal

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.

With our very-extensive NCAA meet coverage, most of the banner individual swims get plenty of spotlight. So we like to use our Swim of the Week to pick the turning point swim – the one that finally turned the meet in favor of the eventual champions. There are two such swims that really stand out for Cal.

The first is Andrew Seliskar‘s 200 free title, notable for a whole host of reasons. It ended a three-year title run for the top swimmer (Townley Haas) from Cal’s top competitor as a team. It essentially gave Seliskar Swimmer of the Meet and a shot at a 3-for-3 weekend. The event was supposed to be Texas’s big point surge with 8 entrants, 4 scorers and the likely champ, but Seliskar’s upset mitigated Texas’s best shot at a game-changing points haul.

But we’ll go with a different swim, for two reasons: first, Texas was still very much in play for the team title, even after losing that race. The meet was still live through late Friday. And second, that swim got plenty of buzz in both the leadup to the meet and during Friday’s session itself. And there’s another Friday swim that contributed a massive points swing in Cal’s favor.

Cal entered Friday leading Texas by 24 points – still a very manageable margin. After the 400 IM, though, they’d expanded it to 71, and the 100 fly built the lead to a whopping 103.

But we all knew nothing was settled yet. Texas mostly punted those two events, loading up their entries in the 200 free and 100 back. And through those events, the lead was back down to 67. That was until 3-meter diving, when the vaunted Longhorn diving contingent cut the lead down to just 39.

That’s when our Swim of the Week happened: in the 200 medley relay.

A true toss-up of an event, the top eight teams came out of prelims separated by less than a second, and most of the top programs used alternate lineups, leaving a ton of mystery as to who would swim where at night and how much each team could improve.

At the 100-mark, Texas was running 2nd, Cal 5th. The two teams put up the two fastest fly legs in the field, and with 50 to go, Texas held a half-second lead over Cal, with the Golden Bears just 4th, behind Alabama and NC State.

If the race had ended there, Texas would have earned 40 points and Cal 30. The team points lead would have shrunk to just 29 points, with momentum clearly swinging toward the Longhorns after cutting a 100+ point lead to the equivalent of one high relay finish in just five events.

But that’s when Ryan Hoffer took over. The Cal sophomore showed up as the NCAA field’s worst nightmare on the anchor leg, crushing an 18.17 for the fastest 50 free split in the field. He went by NC State. He went by Texas. He very nearly went by Alabama. And what looked like a 40-30 Texas advantage turned into a 34-30 Cal advantage when Texas faded to 4th, growing the Cal team points lead to 43 and giving momentum firmly back to the Bears heading into the final day.

Cal outswam Texas at Saturday prelims and pretty well clinched the meet at that point, even though Texas roared back with a great final session Saturday night. But after night 3 – and Hoffer’s 18.1 relay run-down in particular – it became clear that Texas would need a massive comeback to win the NCAA title. Hoffer, the #1 recruit in his high school class, showed exactly why his sheer speed was considered so valuable in a massive 14-point swing that took all of 18.1 seconds.

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2 years ago


2 years ago

I thought this was going to refer to his 400 medley leg. While Cal didn’t win, out touching Texas for second felt like the small psychological blow that started introducing doubts that Texas would repeat.

Daniel Jablonski
2 years ago

I’m glad to see Hoffer finally coming back into his own, after a lackluster 1.5 years. The kid is a madlad and deserves all the hype he gets.

2 years ago

Wait are you kidding? What about the Alabama team that no one had faith in? Are we really about to turn a blind eye and celebrate a second place finish when everyone in the swimming community discounted them?

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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