Cal women’s swimming came away on its road trip to Utah with both its first dual meet win against BYU on Friday and its first Pac-12 win against Utah on Saturday.
“I think the hardest thing about the meet was coming off a flight and competing at a high altitude right away, so it was definitely a challenge,” associate head coach Kristen Cunnane said.
No.1 Cal made its mark against BYU, winning 14 of 16 events. The underclassmen showed why they were the top recruiting class in the nation as Camille Cheng, Yvette Kong, Elizabeth Pelton and Kelly Naze each won two individual events for the Bears.
“Yvette Kong stood out personally to me. She had a very strong performance individually,” Cunnane said.
Kong’s two individual wins in the 100 and 200 free against BYU added to the team’s already dominating performance.
The momentum continued for the Bears in Salt Lake City. Veteran Caitlin Leverenz and freshman Pelton combined to win six events, helping their team win 11 of the 16 events against the Utes. This win opened up Cal’s dual-meet record to 2-0 and represented Cal’s first win in the Pac-12.
“I think the freshmen have done a great job adapting to the dual-meet environment,” Kong said. “Usually a dual-meet is very fast paced and the freshmen did a great job in these meets.”
The Bears cruised over the Cougars, 158-118 and easily repeated their success against the Utes, 185-114.
Against BYU, the team showed its well-roundedness as Pelton won the 1000 free by four seconds and the 200 back by an unbelievable 11 seconds. The sophomores joined in to show off Cal’s young talent as Kong edged out the Cougars in the 100 and 200 breast, winning in less than a second in each event.
“We have a fairly young team, but everyone on the team knows their roles,” Kong said. “Everyone on the team created a very good team dynamic.”
The freshmen have put in a tremendous amount of work already and it has shown. After the Bears’ loss in the 200 medley against Utah, the freshmen showed up big, helping win four of the next six events.
Cal’s superstars Leverenz and Pelton were the team leaders on Saturday against Utah, by winning three individual events each. Leverenz swam the 100 breast, 200 breast and 400 IM in spectacular fashion, walking away with three individual wins. Pelton followed suit in her own way, winning the 100 fly, the 200 free and the 200 free relay.
The Utes put up a respectable battle though, as they beat Cal in the first event of the day, the 200 medley relay. Utah junior Nicole Ligeza was on Leverenz’s tail the entire day, finishing just behind Leverenz in the 400 individual medley and the 200 breaststroke.
While Cal is still undefeated on the season, the players still need to improve on the details, such as starts and turns, in order to stay competitive with the top schools.
“We definitely have a long way to go before another championship,” said Cunnane. “We have to put in the work and there are very tough teams that we need to beat.”