No. 3 Cal women’s swim has taken its mark, gotten set and gone four times now on its home turf. The Bears have been perfect in 2017, marking their fifth consecutive win Wednesday against San Jose State. The victory over the Spartans was simply one of the many steps the team has taken to show that it is ready to show off its moves at the big dance — but looking forward, there lies one hurdle ahead of it that may be too tall to tackle.
The San Jose meet was a bit unorthodox — races were untraditional lengths, swimmers competed in off events — but a little fun may have been just what the Bears needed after a trying three months of swimming.
A lot of things are fun, but few topple the sweet taste of victory, and it is safe to say that the Spartans may have experienced more sour than sweet. Cal handed San Jose its first one-on-one loss of the season, 132-78; the Spartans are now 0-3 when facing the Bears.
Cal took first in every event except for the 150-yard backstroke, but that race did not feature any of the Bears’ heavy hitters, and even at that, senior Colleen Humel of San Jose only hit the wall four hundredths of a second faster than sophomore Aislinn Light of Cal.
Sophomore Abbey Weitzeil came away with a combination of two relay wins and one individual win at the meet. She blew away her competition in the 150 free, in which she hit the wall more than five seconds before the second-place finisher, with a time of 1:18.74.
Juniors Katie McLaughlin and Amy Bilquist also took home three total first-place finishes of their own, and they pulled out a win together in the 250 free relay along with junior Jenna Campbell and Light.
The singular spotlight for Bilquist came in the 50 freestyle, in which she etched in a time of 23.28; McLaughlin had her time to shine in the 300 free, in which she smoked the competition by seven seconds.
There was not one lone star of the meet for the Bears; rather, all the team’s swimmers did what they were supposed to do. This fact does not come as a surprise, however, as Cal has largely stressed that their swimmers be well-rounded and thick-skinned throughout the entire season.
But one star was missing. For the second meet in a row, junior Kathleen Baker did not suit up for Cal because of the less rigorous nature of the meet. Her absence may have been in favor of extra rest before conference play starts up again in January.
As the Bears look ahead to the remainder of their season, they have two more opponents to defeat in order to extend their home record to a final 6-0. They have five more battles to win to reach a perfect 10-0 on the year. And then they go to war at nationals.
Cal is capable of going undefeated at home and is capable of having a stellar performance at nationals, but its kryptonite is the team in cardinal red that will await them in its last meet of the regular season.
After the Bears return from break, they will head into their remaining Pac-12 meets, and they will face Stanford on Feb. 10. Last year, the Cardinal beat Cal at home and defeated them again at nationals. At the time, Stanford was No. 1 and Cal was No. 2.
To look ahead so far in the season may be a little foolish — sports are a game-by-game business. But even though Stanford recently dropped to No. 2 in the rankings, it is the school to beat. If Cal is at its best, with a healthy Baker back, and can conquer the Cardinal, it has a chance at being No. 1. The road to No. 1 kicks off in January, when the Bears host the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].