Although still very early in the season, the dual meet between Cal and Texas on Friday had the look and feel of a playoff atmosphere. Numerous Cal and Texas fans came out to support their respective teams on Veteran’s Day, providing a loud and boisterous environment.
Two of the best collegiate women’s swim and dive teams in the country brought out the best in each other, with both teams posting some of the nation’s fastest times. But Cal could not pull out the home victory in the end, barely losing to Texas on Friday, 152-148.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be a dogfight, to say the least,” assistant coach Ian Walsh said. “The women swam their hearts out and we saw some great things happen. As we say day in and day out, it’s about progressing, and championships aren’t on the line in November, so I think we’re taking a step in the right direction.”
The Bears had a chance to tie Texas heading into the final event, the 400-yard free relay, but only if their relay teams took the first two spots. Cal’s team of Amy Bilquist, Maddie Murphy, Abbey Weitzeil and Farida Osman placed first with a time of 3:15.82, which set a pool record and Cal dual meet record and was the nation’s fastest time of the year thus far. Texas, however, was able to place second to secure the dual meet win over Cal.
Texas senior Madisyn Cox was the star of the day, placing first in the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.10), 200-yard breaststroke (2:11.36) and 200-yard IM (1:56.14). Cox’s win in the 200-yard freestyle was particularly impressive, outracing Olympians Kathleen Baker and Abbey Weitzeil by more than two seconds. Cox also helped her 200-yard medley relay team place first.
The Bears had some bright spots as well. Noemie Thomas won the 100-yard butterfly in 51.89 seconds — fastest in the nation thus far in the season. Weitzeil set a pool and Cal dual meet record with a time of 22.09 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle, which was also good for fastest in the NCAA. Bilquist also had a nice day, winning the 100-yard backstroke in 51.93 — second-fastest nationally — and also the 200-yard backstroke in 1:53.24, the fastest nationally. And in diving, Phoebe Lamay won on the 1-meter board with a score of 314.18, breaking her own school record by one point.
“I tried to just go out there and race today and not worry about the times,” Bilquist said. “The times were like a cherry on top. It’s a bummer we didn’t win collectively, but I think everyone went out there and fought as hard as they could.”
While the Bears lost the meet, the fast times they posted this early into the season are definitely confidence boosters moving forward.
“It was just an absolutely electric atmosphere, and we knew coming in it was going to be an exciting meet,” Walsh said. “It definitely helps with our fans behind us, and we have a nice little rivalry with Texas. It was a fun meet.”
Jeffrey Liu covers women’s swimming. Contact him at [email protected]