In a match-up of two of the nation’s top teams this year, the Cal Bears won in a very back-and-forth battle with the NC State Wolfpack.
Cal started off with a medley relay win by well over two seconds, thanks to a big lead-off from Ryan Murphy (21.44) and an impressive 23.80 breast split from sophomore Connor Hoppe, who is having a great season thus far. Josh Prenot, 400 IM’er and 200 breaststroker, casually popped out a 20.87 and the Bears found themselves over three seconds ahead of the Wolfpack, a deficit not even Simonas Bilis could close. Bilis’ 19.54 anchor was nonetheless very solid for NC State.
NC State’s Anton Ipsen finished with a nation-leading time in the mile (15:06.56), winning by almost 15 seconds over Cal frosh Nick Norman, who’s now ranked 3rd in the country with his 15:21.15.**
**Note: Harvard freshman Logan Houck swam at the Doha stop of the FINA World Cup series this week, and his 1500 time from that meet was converted to a 14:56.16 which USA Swimming technically lists as the #1 time in the nation this year.
Cal was back on top, however, as Long Gutierrez swam the nation’s #2 time in the 200 free (1:35.49) which scorched a very strong field. NC State junior Soeren Dahl and Cal senior Trent Williams tied for 2nd at 1:37.27, followed closely by NC State frosh Justin Ress (1:37.78).
Murphy, who swam freestyle at Cal’s Triple Distance meet with Stanford Wednesday, got back into his regular backstroke racing today. After his quick medley lead off, he popped a 46.31 in the 100, which was just a tenth off his nation-leading time that he now shares with Florida’s Jack Blyzinskyj.
The aforementioned Hoppe came back to win the 100 breast by nearly a second, posting a 54.68. He’s shaping up to be Cal’s top sprint breaststroker this season, and he’s done admirably individually as well as in medley relays for the Bears, suggesting that guys like Prenot and Andrew Seliskar won’t be relied on for medley relay breaststroke duties nor the 100 breast all too much this year (at least during dual meet season).
Speaking of Seliskar, the freshman of many trades dropped a 1:44.19 in the 200 fly directly after Hoppe’s win, knocking off Dylan Bosch for the top time in the country this year. Mr. Prenot was 2nd in 1:45.49.
NC State would not be snuffed out, however. They roared back with a 1-2-3 finish in the 50 free, led by Simonas Bilis in 19.87. Bilis returned to own the 100 free in 43.40, rocketing him to the 2nd-fastest time in the nation behind only Caeleb Dressel.
Cal fought back again, first with Murphy taking the 200 back in an absolutely preposterous November time of 1:41.35, positioning him at the top of the country this year. Murphy’s splits:
23.99 – 49.51 (25.52) – 1:15.27 (25.76) – 1:41.35 (26.08)
Jacob Pebley snagged 2nd in that race with a 1:43.38. Prenot and Seliskar then owned the 200 breast, touching in at 1:56.12 and 1:58.34, respectfully. Prenot already leads the nation in this event.
Ipsen put forth yet another nation leading time, touching at 4:20.29 in the 500 free. He won by over seven seconds. Cal sophomore Justin Lynch held off a charging Dahl in the 100 fly (47.37 to 47.87), and then Prenot and Seliskar were at it again in the 200 IM.
Seliskar opened up a big lead at the 100 mark, but Prenot’s 29.55 breast split reeled the freshman all the way back in, and the senior finished on top, 1:45.49 to 1:46.32.
Despite the meet being well out of reach at this point for the Wolfpack, they sprinted their way to a 2.5 second win over Cal in the 400 free relay. Getting 44-lows from their first three legs, they certainly saved their best for last, as Bilis erupted for a 42.88 anchor leg to end the meet.
What. A. Meet.
Cal finished ahead, 170.5 to NC State’s 127.5.