No. 3 Cal Heads to Pac-10 Championships

Feb. 28, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif. -

Third-ranked California (6-1, 3-1 Pac-10) heads to the Pac-10 Men's Swimming Championships Wednesday through Saturday at the Weyerhauser King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way, Wash. Preliminaries begin at 11:00 a.m. and finals begin at 6 p.m. each evening.

Cal has captured the Pac-10 team title twice - in 1980 and 1981. The Bears also won their second straight NCAA team title in 1980.

The Golden Bears boast some of the top times in the country in various events. All of the following rankings are based on times before this past weekend's conference championships: Cal's David Russell is living up to his billing as one of the nation's top freshman, holding the second-fastest time (1:41.88) in the 200-yard backstroke and the third-fastest time (46.70) in the 100 backstroke. Both times are automatic NCAA qualifying times.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, Bears senior Henrique Barbosa has the third-fastest time (1:56.40, NCAA A) in the 200 breaststroke and the 11th-fastest time (54.24, NCAA provisional qualifying time) in the 100 breaststroke. Senior teammate Milorad Cavic's time (19.62, NCAA A) in the 50 freestyle is the nation's fifth-best mark and fellow Bears senior Miguel Molina has the ninth-fastest 200 individual medley time (1:46.11, NCAA A). Junior teammate Patrick O'Neil sports the ninth-best time (1:45.40, NCAA B) in the 200 butterfly

As usual, Cal has produced some of the best relay times in the nation. The Bears have the second-fastest 400-free relay (2:53.68, NCAA A), the third-fastest 400-medley relay (3:09.89, NCAA A) and the fifth-fastest 200-medley relay (1:26.76, NCAA B).

Following the conference championships, the Bears compete in the NCAA Zone E Diving Regional (March 9-12) in Oklahoma City, Okla., and the NCAA Championships (March 23-25) in Atlanta, Ga.

At the Pac-10 Men's Diving Championships last week in Federal Way, Wash., freshman Sam Helvie had Cal's best finish, taking fourth on the platform with a score of 271.35. Bears sophomore Javier Rivas was seventh (239.05) on the platform. On the one-meter springboard, Rivas had Cal's best finish, taking eighth (271.85). On the three-meter board, Helvie led the way for Cal, with a ninth-place finish (283.15).

Cal's loss at Stanford on Feb. 18 dropped the Bears from the top spot to third in the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) national top 25 rankings. Stanford replaced Cal at No. 1. Defending NCAA champion Auburn is ranked No. 2, USC is No. 4 and Florida is No. 5.

The field at the Pac-10 Championships includes six teams, five of which are ranked in the CSCAA rankings. Besides third-ranked Cal and top-ranked Stanford, the field includes fourth-ranked USC, sixth-ranked Arizona and 25th-ranked Arizona State. Washington, the host of the Pac-10 Championships, rounds out the six.

Stanford has won 24 straight Pac-10 Championship team titles. Cal, in 1981, was the last team besides the Cardinal to win the conference crown. The Cardinal has two swimmers - Danny Beal (5th, 1:34.75) and Andy Grant (6th, 1:34.79) - with top 10 times in the 200 free. Grant also has the country's eighth-fastest time (4:18.43) in the 500 free. Stanford sophomore Hongzhe Sun stands fifth (1:42.82) and sixth (47.25) in the 200 and 100 backstrokes, respectively. Sun also ranks seventh (1:46.08), and teammate Tobias Oriwol is eighth (1:46.09), in the 200 IM.

USC was the only team to beat the Cardinal head-to-head this year and also gave the Bears a scare in a 134-109 loss to Cal on Feb. 3 in Los Angeles. The Trojans feature two of the best distance swimmers around in senior Ous Mellouli (top time in 500 free, 4:12.18, 4th-best time in 1650 free, 14:50.07) and junior Larsen Jensen (5th-best time in 1650 free, 14:50.39, 6th-best time in 500 free, 4:17.09)

Arizona, which features the 2005 NCAA 200 freestyle champion in senior Simon Burnett, is another threat for the conference title. Burnett holds the nation's fastest times in the 200 free (1:33.57) and 50 free (19.28), the second-fastest time (46.44) in the 100 backstroke and the third-fastest time (42.90) in the 100 free. The Wildcats, who lost to Cal, 202-98, in a Jan. 21 dual meet in Berkeley, took third place at last year's NCAA Championships, edging fourth-place Cal despite also losing to Cal in last year's dual meet.

Arizona State features sophomore C.J. Nuess, the Pac-10 Men's Swimmer of the Month for January. Nuess finished in second at Cal in the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard IM. Against Stanford, Nuess recorded a lifetime best of 15:48.68 in the 1,650-yard freestyle to capture first place. He also placed third in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Fox Sports Net Bay Area will broadcast a one-hour condensed version of the Pac-10 Men's Swimming Championships on a tape-delay basis at 12 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. The University of Washington hosts the 2006 conference championships, which take place March 1-4 in Federal Way, Wash.

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