The first splash of the season was one mechanized and fueled by preparation, as the Cal women’s swim team demonstrated its flexibility at Cal Poly Queen of the Pool against the Mustangs at the Anderson Aquatics Center. With highly successful results, the team truly proved that it is, in fact, “Queen” of the pool.
This unique swim meet features an array of 100-yard swims, including the 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard individual medley. The overall winner is determined by a combination of all five times in the array of 100-yard swims.
Cal left a mark in its wake, with Bears claiming all top-five places. Junior Celina Li raked up a total time of 4:47.80 to seize her third consecutive title, followed by senior Kelly Naze with a stellar time of 4:48.14, senior Elizabeth Pelton, freshman Amy Bilquist and, finally, senior Rachel Bootsma, consecutively.
Because the meet was only Friday as opposed to the two-day format, assistant head coach Kathie Wickstrand was able to use the ocean as an oyster to train the team in a “large swimming pool” before and after the meet.
The Bears proved monstrous, as they clutched not only the top-five places but the top 12, which included two freshmen: Bilquist and Katie McLaughlin.
Five Bears were also able to seize individual titles. McLaughlin seemed to fly effortlessly in the 100-yard butterfly, finishing in a remarkable time of 54.81, while fellow outstanding freshman Bilquist placed first in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 51.26. Bootsma won the 100-yard backstroke, outswimming Pelton, who is the current American record holder in the 200-yard backstroke, with a time of 56 seconds flat. Junior Maria Garcia, who placed seventh overall, proved victorious in the 100-yard breaststroke, clinching a time of 1:04.11.
“Everyone swims the 100-yard in every stroke, and we try to see how many athletes we can get under the five-minute mark,” Wickstrand said. “We try to come up with different ways to get them motivated and to have spirited, healthy, inter-team competition.”
One way the team uses healthy competition is through the coaches acknowledging not only the overall victor but also the top swimmers in each class. Even though Li was queened, the swimmers with the top times in the other three years were given “courtship.” Doing so commemorated the team’s overall success. Bilquist, sophomore Catherine Ladd and Naze were acknowledged, and at the end of the meet, Li took a picture with all the swimmers who were on her court.
As it is still so early in the season, fans should notice that times are not up to par with how they tend to look in the spring. The fall season is used as a springboard to help swimmers sharpen their strokes and regain confidence in time for the more important meets, which come later in the school year.
A boiling excitement continues to bubble, however, as this week marks National Championships Week, and in the coming days, the female swimmers will receive their National Championship ring — a physical representation of all their past accomplishments and a symbol of possibilities from here on out.
Isabella Busacca covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected].