Cal Opens against Texas and Florida

Oct. 18, 2005

The 2005-06 edition of the California men's swimming & diving team begins intercollegiate competition this Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-22, in Austin, Texas, where the Golden Bears will take on Florida and host Texas.

Cal is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2005 NCAA Championships and an impressive 9-0 (4-0 Pac-10) dual-meet season. The 2004-05 season marked the first time Cal compiled a perfect dual-meet record under 32nd-year head coach Nort Thornton. The Bears also earned the top dual-meet ranking in the CSCAA (College Swimming Coaches Association of America) national poll after beating Stanford, 129-114, on Feb. 19 for the first time since 1991.

A combination of foreign-born Olympians and home-grown athletes will again power Cal in 2005-06. The top returners are seniors Milorad Cavic, Henrique Barbosa, Miguel Molina and Evan Lane, juniors Jonas Tilly and Patrick O'Neil, and sophomores Dominik Meichtry, Jernej Godec and Mark Eckert. All-Americans Cavic, Tilly, Lane and Godec will keep Cal among the top teams in the nation in the sprints and relays. Cavic, who represented Serbia and Montenegro at the 2004 Olympics, is again a threat to challenge for the 100-yard butterfly title at the NCAA Championships. The Tustin, Calif., product took second in the event at the 2004 NCAAs and placed ninth in 2005. However, Cavic will not compete against Florida and Texas due to back spasms.

Barbosa, a 2004 Brazilian Olympian, is Cal's top breaststroker and the lone returner who earned All-American honors in individual events (the 100 and 200 breaststrokes) at the 2005 NCAA Championships. Molina, a 2004 Filipino Olympian, is Cal's top swimmer in the individual medleys who will also help in the breaststroke. Meichtry, a 2004 Swiss Olympian, swam Cal's top 200 and 1650 freestyles last season. O'Neil, from Roseburg, Ore., is Cal's top returning swimmer in the 200 fly.

Freshmen David Russell, Matt Scanlan and Sam Helvie are Cal's biggest additions this year. High school All-Americans Russell and Scanlan will join Eckert and Godec in manning the backstroke events. Both newcomers reached the final of the 200-meter backstroke at the 2004 U.S. Summer National Championships, with Russell placing second, current Cal sophomore Louis Vayo third and Scanlan fourth. Scanlan also took fifth in the 100 fly at 2004 Nationals. Helvie, a Bakersfield product who was one spot away from qualifying for the U.S. Senior Diving National Championships on the one-meter springboard last summer, should help alleviate the loss of All-American Louie Gagnet.

Florida finished one spot behind Cal in fifth place and Texas was seventh at the NCAA Championships last season. Both teams have already begun competition this season.

Florida (2-0) won dual meets last Friday at Virginia, 137-101, and last Saturday at South Carolina, 165-120. All-American senior and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Ryan Lochte, who won the 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley titles at NCAAs, led off the winning (3:19.37) 400-yard medley relay and won (1:42.90) the 200 backstroke against the Cavaliers but did not compete against the Gamecocks. Gators sophomore All-American and South African Olympic gold medalist Darian Townsend won a relay and two individual events in both meets. Against Virginia, Townsend anchored the winning (3:19.37) 400 medley relay and won the 100 (45.01) and 200 (1:38.76) freestyles. Against South Carolina, he won the 50 freestyle (20.88) and 100 back (50.41) and led off the winning (1:33.84) 200 medley relay. Florida freshman Bradley Ally, a 2004 Barbados Olympian, won (1:50.35) the 200 IM in his debut against Virginia and later won the 100 breaststroke (57.08) and 200 backstroke (1:50.33) against South Carolina.

Texas, competing against Missouri and Texas A&M, won 13 of 16 swimming events and tallied 116 points to win the Big 12 Relays last Friday in Columbia, Mo. All-American junior Garrett Weber-Gale, who took eighth in the 50 free at last season's NCAAs, led off the winning (3:01.97) 400 free relay at the conference event, while sophomore Daniel Rohleder, who earned All-American honors by taking seventh in the 100 fly at NCAAs, swam the third leg of the triumphant (3:23.14) 400 free relay. The Longhorns also won the 800 free relay, which was anchored by All-American sophomore Matthew McGinnis, who was seventh in the 500 free at NCAAs.

California finished fourth with 381 points at the NCAA Championships on March 26 at the University of Minnesota's Aquatic Center. Auburn defended its 2004 national title with 491 points, while Stanford was second (414) and Arizona was third (388).

Cal senior Duje Draganja won the 100-yard freestyle in an NCAA-record time of 41.49, breaking former Bear Anthony Ervin's previous NCAA record of 41.62. Draganja's swim also was a U.S. Open and pool record and gave him his second individual title of the championships. He won the 100-yard fly in a Cal-record 45.39.

Cal capped the championships by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay in 2:47.70, which established new NCAA, U.S. Open and pool records. Draganja led off the relay, followed by Milorad Cavic, Jonas Tilly and Rolandas Gimbutis. The Bears set the previous NCAA record of 2:48.99 in 2003. Cal also claimed the 200 free relay with a new NCAA record (1:15.78) and won the 200 medley relay (1:25.30). Draganja was part of all five of Cal's 2005 NCAA titles.


HEAD COACH Nort Thornton
Nort Thornton, who was inducted into the ASCA (American Swimming Coaches Association) Hall of Fame in September of 2002, enters his 32nd season as the director of the California men's swimming team. Thornton, with co-head coach Mike Bottom and diving coach Ron Kontura, led the 2004-05 Golden Bears to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. A true indication of Thornton's success is the fact that Cal has finished in the Top 10 nationally in 26 of the 31 years he has been at the helm of the Golden Bears program. Thornton, the dean of all Pac-10 swimming coaches, has led the Bears to two national championships - back-to-back titles in 1979 and 1980 - and produced a stellar cast of All-Americans. The veteran coach has an impressive 220-81 career dual-meet record, has been National Coach of the Year twice and has been the Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, most recently in 1999.

California co-head swim coach Mike Bottom, now in his ninth season in Berkeley, has established himself as one of the world's top sprint coaches. Under his tutelage, former Bear Duje Draganja became one of the top sprinters in the world. The Croatian took silver in the 50 freestyle at the 2004 Athens Olympics and won five titles at the 2005 NCAA Championships. Bottom has also worked with senior All-American Milorad Cavic, who swam on three 2005 championship relays (200 free, 400 free and 200 medley). Cavic also finished second, and Draganja was third, in the 100 fly at the 2004 NCAA Championships. Former Cal sprinter Rolandas Gimbutis was also a part of the winning 2005 relays and, individually, placed fifth in both the 50 and 100 frees at last season's NCAA Championships.

Regarded as one of the finest young diving coaches in the nation, Ron Kontura enters his second year as the men's and women's diving coach at California and his eighth year of collegiate coaching. Cal divers broke several records in Kontura's first year in Berkeley. Senior Louie Gagnet broke every school record on his way to becoming the most accomplished male diver in Cal history and freshman Javier Rivas received the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year award. Prior to his arrival at Cal, Kontura achieved success at Illinois State, Michigan, Allegheny College and the Mission Viejo Nadadores Diving Club.

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