Eat. Sleep. Swim.
A banner that reads these three simple words hangs above the Spieker Aquatics Complex and serves as a reminder of the Cal women’s swim team’s mentality. With a NCAA 2015 Championships title behind them and a bright future ahead, these swimmers devote themselves to success. As such, Cal dismantled Utah, 174-120, winning 13 of the 16 events at the meet Thursday.
The energy on both teams was unparalleled, as the swimmers competed under the dark night sky in the first nighttime meet the Bears have ever partaken in. Another abnormality this meet brought was the fact that both men and women competed at the same time, alternating events, creating an even larger team culture, as swimmers of both squads were able to cheer on their team.
Cal women’s swim assistant head coach Kathie Wickstrand helped develop the swimmers’ skills by allowing them to pick a single race they don’t normally swim in to develop their skills in more unfamiliar events and choose a partner to watch and critique this race. This eased tensions for the swimmers, as they were able to gain confidence in the strokes that reflected their weaknesses.
“It’s always nice to have a meet with the guys because they get a little more time between before their next event,” Wickstrand said. “Tonight, we could really see who needs to work on turns or who needs to work on breakouts.”
A few key wins on behalf of the Bears during the meet included victories in both relay events: the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay. Furthermore, senior Elizabeth Pelton took the 100-yard backstroke in 55.50 and senior Rachel Bootsma captured the 200-yard butterfly in 2:01.09.
This meet was also the first home meet for the Bears, an especially momentous feat for the new members, who got to experience the strength of their home territory with each stroke they took.
Freshmen Katie McLaughlin and Amy Bilquist performed exceptionally, both capturing two individual races. McLaughlin took the 200-yard freestyle with a speedy time of 1:46.65 and the 500-yard freestyle in 4:50.40. Bilquist conquered the 50-yard freestyle in 23.05 and the 200-yard backstroke in a fast time of 1:57.03.
The two freshmen are still adjusting to thinking of Cal as their home, but with the support of their team, UC Berkeley is not only bearable but also an exciting new atmosphere for all six freshmen and sophomore transfer Valerie Hull.
“The transition was definitely a little hard at first, but with our team supporting us, it made it that much easier, and it made us realize why we’re here and why we want to be here,” Bilquist said.
Cal head coach Teri McKeever and Wickstrand are granting the team a break from intense trainings by giving them the past weekend off their duties as swimmers.
McLaughlin took advantage of her free weekend by visiting her family home in Southern California, while Bilquist was thrilled to go house hunting with her parents, who are making the move from Indiana to Northern California.
Eat. Sleep. Swim.
Isabella Busacca covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected].