Just as emotions ran high for the nostalgic Cal women’s swimmers, so did the energy that pulsed through the crowd’s veins at the swim meet between the No. 3 Bears and No. 2 Stanford. The final dual meet of the season attracted a crowd so large that fans wrapped themselves around the entirety of the Bear’s home pool, the Spieker Aquatics Complex, unsure if there was even a seat to snag.
The teams engaged in an intense head-to-head battle, with the Bears finishing, 158-142, on top of the Cardinal. The overwhelming support from the immense turnout symbolized a farewell to the eight parting seniors and one parting sophomore — Missy Franklin, who plans to turn professional at the end of the year — all of whom swam for the last time in a collegiate, dual meet Saturday.
The Cal women’s swim program has built an empire, with Olympians and national champions — yet to senior Catherine Breed, it has been the small moments that truly individualized her experience as a member of the team.
She described in detail one of her favorite moments with her teammates-turned-sisters over her four-year journey, where the women spent practically every minute of the day together both in and out of the pool.
“To me, the ocean is really special,” Breed said. “I love looking out at the ocean. My favorite memory is we were all sitting out on the beach, and there were whales and dolphins and seals. We were all trying to talk to the whales, and somebody was like ‘Bye, Buddy,’ from ‘Elf,’ and at that moment, I knew this was going to be a great year.
“I think as a senior, you learn it’s not about the time — it’s about the experiences” Breed said. “I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the pain of a race. I think this is a success no matter what the time says.”
The depth was obvious in all lanes for both teams. Stanford freshman Simone Manuel put up strong performances against the Bears, seizing victories in the 200-yard freestyle, 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle, while also capturing a win as a member of the 400-yard freestyle relay. While both teams won eight events each, the Bears were able to claim victory with greater overall depth.
With the close of the meet, Franklin painted an image of the importance of the team competing as a whole.
“It doesn’t matter how many superstars you have,” Franklin said. “You can win every race, but if the other team is getting two, three, four in everything, you’re not going to win. So to have those girls that can come in third, fourth, but to also have those girls that can come in first and second, that’s just so important.”
The swim meet remained tight throughout its entirety, with the tally constantly flipping between the two teams, until the Bears clinched the meet in the second-to-last event. It was here where the powerhouse swimmers of Elizabeth Pelton, Franklin and Celina Li captured first, second and third, respectively, in the 200-yard individual medley.
There were many high-scoring Cal swimmers, ranging many age groups. Freshman Cierra Runge won both the 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle events. Sophomore Franklin won the 200-yard backstroke, while junior Pelton seized the victory in the 100-yard backstroke. Senior Catherine Breed placed second in both the 500-yard freestyle and 1,000-yard freestyle.
Head coach Teri McKeever said she is proud of what her team symbolizes and the compassion they show both in and out of the pool.
“I think the thing I’m most proud of is just the fight in the group,” McKeever said.
Isabella Busacca covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected].