No. 2 Cal women’s swim showed up and showed out this week at the 2018 Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Washington, firing on all cylinders as it finished second in its final meet before the NCAA Championships.
The Bears finished the four-day event having posted multiple school records and a handful of personal records, but even with all the highs, Cal couldn’t own the highest rank, as it finished just a notch below No. 1 Stanford.
The Cardinal are now back-to-back Pac-12 champions and, after another second-to-none performance, have secured their 21st overall conference title.
In the relay events, the Bears shined brightly, taking home four wins. In particular, Cal’s reliable and ever-consistent “splash juniors” — Kathleen Baker, Amy Bilquist and Katie McLaughlin — were the driving force behind the team’s success.
The Bears posted nation-best times in the 200-yard medley relay and the 800 freestyle relay. The first squad included Baker, Bilquist, sophomore Abbey Weitzeil and senior Noemie Thomas, who all pieced together a speedy time of 1:34.13.
The 800 relay record-holders include Bilquist, Baker, McLaughlin and freshman Robin Neumann; their time to the wall was 6:52.62.
Bilquist played a part in every single winning relay, including the 200 medley, 800 free, 200 free and 400 free. Baker, McLaughlin and Weitzeil all had a leg in three of the four relays, exemplifying the team’s firepower at the top of its lineup.
Baker continued her stellar performances outside of the relays, clinching two individual event wins in the 200 individual medley and 200 backstroke. She also finished second in the 100 backstroke, recording a season-best time of 50.13.
Despite Cal’s solid performances in the relays and a few standout showings in the individual events, the team couldn’t keep up with the Cardinal’s monstrous 1776.5 points.
The Bears put together an impressive 1487 points but could not withstand the sheer force of Stanford. Following the 1000-point club of the standout Northern California duo, Arizona State finished third with 996 points and USC fourth, at 948.5.
To contextualize Cal’s second-place finish, No. 3 Texas A&M racked up a Southeastern Conference-leading 1319 points at the SEC Championships, which also happened last week. Cal undoubtedly has the talent to hold its own against and outperform any team in the nation — any team that isn’t Stanford, that is.
In the coming weeks, the Bears will prepare for their biggest task of the year and will be on the hunt for the coveted title of national champion. But the only way to own the title of best is by toppling Stanford.
Cal has faced Stanford twice this season already, falling short on both occasions. It is said that the third time’s the charm, and the Bears are going to need to hone in any and all of their lucky charms heading into championship season, as sheer talent alone may not be enough.
Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].