Cal takes early lead in NCAA championships

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Even with an overhauled lineup due to graduation, California isn't showing any signs of giving up its grip on the NCAA men's swimming and diving title.

The defending champion Golden Bears used a title from Marcin Tarczynski in the 200-yard individual medley and relay victories in the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relay to take the lead after the first night of the championships on Thursday.

Cal snapped a 31-year title drought when it claimed the 2011 championship behind a veteran squad led by Nathan Adrian. Even with a huge overhaul of youth for this season, the three victories on the opening night, including a pair of stunning wins, showed that even Cal's underclassmen know the rare chance at consecutive titles.

The Golden Bears have 157.5 points and are 17.5 points ahead of Pac-12 rival Stanford going to the second day of competition on Friday. Tarczynski's victory was the most surprising as he overtook Stanford rival and top qualifier David Nolan over the final 50 yards to win in 1:41.97 and give the Bears their first individual title of the meet.

Texas took home two titles and sits in third place with 128.5 points, while Arizona is fourth with 118.

"Cal swam great. The rest of us kind of muddled around," Texas coach Eddie Reese said. "These are really good events for them. I hope it's their best day"

Tarczynski entered as the No. 15 seed in the 200 IM and having a season-best time of 1:43.15 set in the preliminaries Thursday morning. Tarczynski made up a deficit on the breaststroke leg then held off Nolan on the freestyle. Nolan was under championship record pace following the first two legs of the race, only to fade. Tarczynski was nearly 2 seconds faster than Nolan on the breaststroke leg, then held of Marcin Cieslak of Florida on the final leg. It was a huge event in the team race for California as teammate Martin Liivamagi finished fourth.

That wasn't the only surprise win for the Bears. Cal's win in the 200 free relay, the opening event of the championships, came from lane 8 and with a lineup that featured three freshmen and a sophomore. Cal coach Dave Durden didn't think this would be the group to erase the surprise of last year's relay team that was filled with upperclassmen and lost to Stanford in the finals.

Freshman Seth Stubblefield swam 19.00 on the anchor leg to bring home the title overtaking Arizona on the final stretch. But the victory was made possible by Shayne Fleming, who kept Cal in the race by swimming an 18.94 on the second leg. Stubblefield later came back to take fifth in the 50.

"That relay is three freshmen and a sophomore and we kind of rolled the balls out there and told them to go at it," Durden said. "I didn't think they had 1:16.5 in them. Just to have the poise they had through that relay was really good."

Texas' James Feigen erased three years of disappointment by winning the 50 freestyle in 19.01. Feigen took third in 2011, fourth in 2010 and second in 2009 in the event.

"It's been great. My four years here have been great," Feigen said. "The NCAA's have been good to me. Finally a senior, things are starting to pick up, it's my time, spotlight is kind of getting thrust in my direction and I'm ready to accept that."

Texas also picked up a victory in 1-meter diving when Drew Livingston won his second title. Livingston dominated the competition winning by more than 38 points over second place Kristian Ipsen of Stanford. His first title in the 1-meter came as a freshman in 2009, then took third in both 2010 and `11

"It means a lot more to me now being a senior, being a captain to do pretty much the same thing. I'm going to enjoy it for about 15 minutes," Livingston said.

The other champion on Thursday night came in the 500 free where Georgia's Martin Grodzki held off USC freshman Cristian Quintero to win in 4:12.95. It was the only victory of the night from a school other than Texas or California.