Chancellor praises Golden Bears during National Championship Week reception

Recognizing the exceptional accomplishments of Cal student-athletes in 2010-11, during an especially difficult year, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau praised the Golden Bears for their resiliency and focus during a reception at University House Friday that paid tribute last year’s national champions. It was the best year in history for intercollegiate athletics at Berkeley.

Cal’s annual National Championship Week recognizes the achievements of the Golden Bears from the previous year’s campaigns. Among those honored by the chancellor were student-athletes and coaches from three Cal teams — women’s swimming and diving, men’s swimming and diving and rugby — that won national team titles in 2011. Recognition also went to seven student-athletes who were crowned individual national champions, and to the men’s (freshman eight) and women’s (varsity four) crew teams, which produced championship boats. Additionally, Cal’s men’s and women’s swim teams won three NCAA relays apiece.

Mike Morrison, the 2011 NCAA decathlon champion, poses with (from left) associate track & field coach Ed Miller, Chancellor Birgeneau and director of track & field Tony Sandoval.

Mike Morrison, the 2011 NCAA decathlon champion, poses with (from left) associate track and field coach Ed Miller, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and director of track and field Tony Sandoval.

“With the events last year, for Cal it was an incredibly challenging time period,” Birgeneau said. “But at the same time, we had just some incredible accomplishments by the university. We’re a very resilient university, and we actually seem to do a little bit better when we’re under duress. Amidst all the challenges, the faculty is doing incredible things and winning Nobel prizes. Also, the athletic department, under Sandy Barbour’s leadership and with the incredible coaches and athletes, was able to earn a No. 3 ranking in the Directors’ Cup (for combined athletic department success). I just want to thank everyone for your extraordinary achievements.

“Our athletes have done extraordinarily well academically,” he added. “It’s pretty astonishing how well they manage because they are involved in sports that might take up the entire day. Nevertheless, they still manage to achieve at an astoundingly high level.”

The student-athletes and coaches had an opportunity to enjoy the ambience of the University House and hors d’oeuvres before the chancellor and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour acknowledged the teams, student-athletes and coaches. Additionally, members of the rugby, men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams and men’s and women’s crews presented the chancellor with gifts commemorating their recent success.

“This is a great moment to celebrate,” said Barbour. “We would like to thank Bob and Mary Catherine for inviting us into their home. This is always the highlight of National Championship Week. For us, it’s a special celebration because it represents the pinnacle, the best year in our history. There are a lot of our student-athletes who had phenomenal years who are not here because they didn’t quite reach the level of our national champions. Today is a time for a very special celebration.

“The only thing we’re missing here is our community, because there are literally thousands of people and families and organizations who have made this moment possible,” Barbour continued. “And certainly there is no greater example of that than last year when our community stepped up when Cal Athletics and the University of California, Berkeley, needed them the most.”

Of Cal’s seven individual NCAA champions in 2011, five titles were produced in the water, as women swimmers Amanda Sims (100-yard butterfly) and Cindy Tran (100-yard backstroke) helped Teri McKeever’s squad win their second national crown in the last three years. At the men’s swimming and diving championships, Nathan Adrian won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, Damir Dugonjic placed first in the 100-yard breaststroke and Tom Shields topped the field in the 100-yard backstroke to give coach David Durden and the Bears their first NCAA title since 1980.

On the tennis court, Jana Juricova won the 2011 NCAA singles title to go along with her doubles title, captured in 2010. Meanwhile, Mike Morrison displayed his supreme versatility in track and field by winning the 2011 national title in the decathlon.

This past spring, Jack Clark’s rugby program won its 26th national championship to continue one of the sports’ most enduring dynasties, winning 26 of 32 national title games since the modern national collegiate championship was established by USA Rugby in 1980.

The women’s varsity four crew of coxswain Lynn Anderson, Charlotte Palmer, Becca Lindquist, Kyndal Mancho and Catherine Shannon gave coach Dave O’Neill another championship boat to go along with his two earlier NCAA team titles.

In men’s crew, Mike Teti’s freshman eight-boat of coxswain Colby Rapson, Luka Dordevic, Igor Lucic, Pat McGlone, James Scott, Spencer Hall, Christian Reynolds, George Gebhard and Cole Reiser won the program’s ninth IRA freshman eight title.

Since its first national championship in 1920, when the football team was considered the best in the land, Cal has had at least one national champion in 76 of the past 91 years, including every season since the 1973 Bears won the NCAA men’s water polo title, making it 38 straight years of athletic excellence in Berkeley.

In its history, Cal has claimed 82 national team titles in 14 different sports, and has produced numerous national champions in crew, swimming relays, tennis doubles and track relays. In all, Golden Bears have won 147 individual national titles, beginning in 1922 when John Merchant won the hammer and shot put, and Allen Norris captured the pole vault, at the national track and field championships.

The school’s first national championship week was in 2006, and since that time Cal has had 36 individual national champions, 11 national team titles, 15 national champion swim relays, seven national champion crew boats and one tennis doubles national title – averaging about 11 national titles per year.