No. 1 Cal Heads to Pac-10 Championships

March 1, 2005

BERKELEY, Calif. -

Top-ranked California (9-0, 4-0 Pac-10) heads to Long Beach, Calif., for the 2005 Pac-10 Championships to be held at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool this Wednesday, March 2, through Saturday, March 5. Preliminaries will begin at 11 a.m. each day and the finals will begin at 6 p.m. each day. The Golden Bears, who left for Southern California on Tuesday morning, will again face Stanford at the conference meet. Cal is coming off a 129-114 win over the Cardinal, which moved the Bears to the No. 1 ranking in the nation.

Duje Draganja leads a talent-laden squad to Long Beach. The senior is one of seven Bears who have already automatically qualified in individual events for the NCAA Championships. Draganja, who qualified in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, joins junior Milorad Cavic (50 free), sophomore Jonas Tilly (100 free), freshman Dominik Meichtry (200 free), sophomore Patrick O'Neil (200 butterfly), junior Miguel Molina (200 individual medley) and senior diver Louie Gagnet (1- and 3-meter springboards) as automatic qualifiers. Cal is also sending its 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays to the NCAA Championships.

The 2005 Pac-10 Championships are arguably the toughest conference championships in the country, featuring No. 1 Cal, No. 3 Stanford, No. 8 Arizona, No. 9 USC, unranked Arizona State, which received one vote in the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) poll, and unranked Washington.

Cal was unbeaten in Pac-10 dual meets this year and capped off the regular season with its win over the Cardinal on Feb. 19 at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley. The Bears also beat USC, 161-136, on Feb. 4 at Spieker. They defeated the Arizona schools on back-to-back days, winning 136-97 at Arizona on Jan. 21 and winning 149-125 at Arizona State on Jan. 22.

Last year at Pac-10s, Cal won three individual titles and four relays to earn 773 points en route to its second-place finish. Stanford won with 866.5 points, followed by Cal, Arizona (522.5), USC (505), ASU (407) and Washington (299).

Then-junior Duje Draganja won both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles in times of 19.17 and 41.96, respectively. Then-sophomore Milorad Cavic won the 100 butterfly (45.44) and joined Draganja on four relay wins - the 200 free relay (1:17.23), 400 free relay (2:52.75), 200 medley relay (1:25.16) and 400 medley relay (3:07.31). Other 2005 Bears on the 2004 Pac-10 winning-relays included Jonas Tilly, who swam on the 200 and 400 free relays, Rolandas Gimbutis, who swam on the 400 free relay, and Caleb Rowe, who swam on the 200 medley relay.

California did something it hadn't done in nearly 14 years - beat Stanford in men's swimming & diving. The fourth-ranked Golden Bears won seven of 13 events to upset No. 2 Stanford, 129-114, on a rain-filled afternoon on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Spieker Aquatics Complex. This is the first time in Cal head coach Nort Thornton's 31 years in Berkeley that the Bears have ended the dual-meet season undefeated (9-0, 4-0 Pac-10), including Cal's 1979 and 1980 NCAA Championship seasons. Stanford fell to 5-1 (3-1).

The previous time Cal beat Stanford in a dual meet was on Feb. 23, 1991, when the Bears won, 167-134, at Stanford. The Cardinal leads the series 93-14.

Leading by six points entering the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, Cal clinched victory in the meet by taking first and third places. The Cal A team (Rolandas Gimbutis, Milorad Cavic, Jonas Tilly and Evan Lane) won the race in a time of 2:52.87 and the Cal B team (Jernej Godec, William Copeland, Matt Lyon and Joe Whittington) took third in 2:58.44. The A team's time is Cal's best this season and is a new Spieker Aquatics Complex record in the 400 free relay. Both the A and B teams swam automatic NCAA qualifying times.

Seniors Duje Draganja (50 and 100 frees) and Louie Gagnet (1- and 3- meter diving) won two individual events each to pace the Bears. Draganja's time of 19.45 in the 50 and Cavic's 19.47 in the 50, which earned him second place, are automatic NCAA qualifying times and are Cal's best times in the 50 free this season. Cal's top three times in the 100 free - Draganja (1st, 42.12), Gimbutis (3rd, 43.19) and Tilly (4th, 43.43) - are likewise automatic NCAA qualifying times and Cal's top times in the 100 free in 2004-05. Additionally, Draganja's times in the 50 and 100 frees are new Spieker records.

Gagnet won by big margins on both springboards. He scored 330.97 to beat Stanford's Nathan Kim by 74.03 on the 1-meter and scored 368.62 to beat senior teammate Nathaniel Dean by 97.35 on the 3-meter. Gagnet's marks are automatic NCAA qualifying scores for their respective events.

Cal set the tone early, after an emotional send-off to departing seniors Draganja, Gagnet, Dean, John Dorr and Caleb Rowe and Gimbutis, a sophomore who will complete his eligibility this season. The day began with the 400 medley relay, and, despite the fact that Stanford had swum a better 400 medley relay than Cal entering the day, Cal took first and third in the event. The Cal A team of Cavic, Rowe, Draganja and Gimbutis swam an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 3:08.23 to win the relay in a new Spieker record, while Cal B (Godec, Henrique Barbosa, Patrick O'Neil and Tilly) also swam an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 3:12.07 in third.

O'Neil took 1.6 seconds off his lifetime best swim to win the 200 butterfly in 1:44.22, automatically qualify for the NCAA championships and set a new Spieker record. The Bears swam two more automatic NCAA qualifying times - freshman Dominik Meichtry's third-place finish (1:35.88) in the 200 free and junior Miguel Molina's second-place finish (1:46.49) in the 200 IM.

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