While most of the campus hibernates in preparation for the notorious UC Berkeley final schedule, the Cal women’s swim team departed Thursday to compete in the also notorious final fall meet of the season, the U.S. Winter Nationals. The Bears had great races in a majority of the events, with swimmers asserting a presence in nearly every final. This meet, which is typically featured in a short-course yard format, transitioned to a long-course meter style in preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The meet displayed swimmers of all ages, including current Cal swimmers and postgrads alike. The competition was composed of an array of 50-meter to 800-meter events, from the four standard strokes to a medley series. The long-course style of the meet is thought to be a way to bolster the performance of all the qualified swimmers at the upcoming summer Olympics.
“Usually we do a lot more short course in the fall,” said senior Elizabeth Pelton. “The long course has been a true test of who has been on their training and sleeping and eating well so it’s been a way bigger challenge, but I think for the next few months heading into the summer, it’s going to be really beneficial for me and the rest of the team.”
The Bears left a lasting paw print after the Winter Nationals, as they generated successful results in nearly all 13 events. Senior Rachel Bootsma placed third in the A-Final of the 100-meter backstroke in a quick 1:00.25, a race which also featured former Cal swimmers Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin. Pelton placed fourth in the 200-meter backstroke, reeling in a solid 2:10.54.
“Any time we had a Bear swimming (in the finals), we would all stand up on the bleachers and do a “one, two, three…Go Bears,” Pelton said. “I love it when I’m standing there cheering for my teammates, but I also love it behind the box because you can hear it even in a crowd of a couple thousand people. That’s true pride right before you are about to perform.”
The meet showcased successful A-heat swims on all three days. Junior Marina Garcia swam a speedy 1:08.98 to take eighth place in the 100-meter breaststroke. She paralleled this success with a sixth place run in the 200-meter breaststroke, claiming a time of 2:30.26.
Freshman Kathleen Baker left her mark in the A final of the 200-meter individual medley, reeling in a zippy 2:12.13. Sophomore Noemie Thomas, senior Kelly Naze and junior Farida Osman placed fourth, fifth and sixth in the 100-meter butterfly, respectively.
“Right now, we are basically recovering from this weekend and sleeping and being on top of school,” Pelton said. “Making sure finals are really good but also not letting anything in the pool sacrifice. Once Christmas is over, it’s really time to buckle down for spring dual meets, then the Pac-12s, then NCAAs, and then we are a few months out of trial. It’s only going to get harder out of here. “
Isabella Busacca covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]