With the sun shining down on the Spieker Aquatics Center, the Cal women’s swim team made its first win of the season look almost too easy. In their first dual meet at home this season, the Bears beat Pac-12 rival Oregon State convincingly, 156-97.
Ten different Cal swimmers won individual event titles out of the 12 individual races the team competed in Thursday. Oregon State’s Sammy Harrison won the other two events for the Beavers, the 1,000-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle. Having different swimmers win all of the events for the Bears is very rare and shows the depth of the team this season.
“I’ve never had that happen at a meet as a coach in the past nine or 10 years so for me. It’s really exciting because it shows not only versatility but really healthy competitiveness within our team,” said Cal associate head coach Kristen Cunnane.
Three of these victories came from freshmen making their first appearance at Spieker. Jasmine Mau was one of these swimmers, and her opening performance was one to remember, winning the 100-yard backstroke, 55.67, defeating sophomore teammate Missy Franklin, 55.78, in the process.
“I actually had no idea where I was,” Mau said of her finish. “I was just swimming and, like, ‘Oh my God, it’s my first individual event, and I touched the wall.’ I was just really excited and pumped.”
Franklin did manage to come away with a victory in the 200-yard freestyle, 1:48.24, beating senior teammate Caroline Piehl by almost two seconds.
Another impressive freshman performance came from Noemie Thomas, who won the 100-yard butterfly in 54.09, defeating junior teammate and Olympian Rachel Bootsma, who swam the event as an exhibition in 55.21, in the process.
“I was really proud of the freshmen, that they took it seriously,” Cunnane said. “I think a big adjustment in college is to have to swim fast all the time, and I was really proud of them. Usually that takes a couple months to learn, and it’s exciting to have freshmen come up and win events right away.”
The Bears had an impressive team victory, but the real standout from the season thus far has been sophomore Celina Li. Li won the 400-yard individual medley in 4:19.67 and continued to show her dominance in all four strokes. Having won Cal Poly’s Queen of the Pool competition for the second year in a row to start off the season, Li has shown her ability to perform well in multiple events. Li also won the 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley at the All Florida Invitational a couple of weeks ago — her start to the season should not be ignored.
The team also won the two relays of the day, the 200-yard freestyle relay, 1:34.78, and the 200-yard medley relay, 1:41.92. Swimmers on the winning medley team included Mau, sophomores Marina Garcia and Farida Osman and senior Camille Cheng, who beat another Cal relay team by less than two seconds. The Bears will continue to look for progress in their two consecutive home matches in the next two weeks.
“We are going to continue to work hard and push each other in and out of the pool, and we are just going to race,” Mau said. “We are just racing and having fun together.”
Alaina Getzenberg covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]