Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s moto states that “a Mustang is never conquered,” but in Friday’s Queen of the Pool meet, Cal women’s swim not only conquered the Mustangs but gave them a mauling. Star junior Kathleen Baker claimed the crown and won the meet for the second year in a row, and a myriad of her teammates followed as the Bears penciled in all but two of the top-21 finishing slots.
In a nontraditional meet, the swimmers raced in five 100-yard events — fly, backstroke, breaststroke, free, and individual medley — with each race contributing to a cumulative meet time.
For champion Baker, the magic number was 4:39.54, an aggregate time that was more than five seconds ahead of her closest competitor. Baker blew her competition out of the water and gave herself a comfortable cushion for time with uncontested wins in the backstroke and individual medley events.
Baker also shed over four seconds from last year’s meet-winning time of 4:43.28. From really fast to really faster, she improved upon her times in all but two events (fly and individual medley) and set the tone for what is likely to be another star-studded year.
“You always want progress, so looking at that progress we’re really excited and think she’s excited, and continue to build off that for the remainder,” said assistant coach Sarah Dunleavy.
Cal has known for quite some time now that it has a superstar in Baker, but the hidden gem of the meet was runner-up freshman Sarah Darcel. Darcel’s potential dazzled brightly in her first collegiate meet, which was highlighted by a second-place finish in the individual medley and dual third-place finishes in the backstroke and breaststroke.
Freshman Ali Harrison was another young Bear who showed that she could be a secret weapon this season. Harrison finished eighth overall but stood out in the breaststroke event, where she took first with a time of 1:04.03, managing to hit the wall before both Baker and Darcel.
“She’s come in and done a really nice job.” Dunleavy said. “Breaststroke is one of the events we’re kind of working to improve upon, and she started off great.”
Aside from the rookies, some of Cal’s more experienced players also showcased their readiness for the new season. With the exception of Darcel, the top five consisted of the same members as last year’s event.
Sophomore Abbey Weitzeil, who took fourth in last year’s meet, took third with a time of 4:47.34, and although her placement bumped up a bit, her overall time was two seconds slower. However, Weitzel managed to pull out a first-place finish in the freestyle event,
Juniors Amy Bilquist and Katie McLaughlin took fourth and fifth, respectively. McLaughlin has claimed fifth place for two years in a row, but she improved upon her previous meet’s time by just over half a second and finished the day at 4:51.62.
“I think you take the first meet and look at what’s good right now, what we need to do better at, continue to take that into training and build off that and build upon it moving forward,” Dunleavy said.
Leo Xie covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].