With the NCAA Championships wrapped up, the Cal women’s swimming and diving team, which finished in third place, has officially completed its season. While the team was unable to duplicate its championship success from a season ago, the third place mark at the NCAAs continues the legacy of consistency that the program has established under head coach Teri McKeever.
The team’s spring campaign began with the team starting 3-0 following its early fall blowouts of Washington State, 299.5-131.5, Utah, 174-120, and San Jose State, 185-97. To start off its spring dual season, the Bears hosted Arizona and Arizona State, which they defeated 185-114 and 181-98, respectively.
Cal encountered its first bit of adversity this season as the team fell to USC, 153-147, in a competitive road dual meet that came down to the final event, the 200-yard freestyle relay. While the Trojans continued to be one of two big obstacles the team faced throughout the duration of the season, the Bears responded to the loss with a lopsided victory over UCLA with a 185-114 tally. In the team’s final meet of the season against Stanford, the Bears were defeated 172-128 with the Cardinal completely exposing the team’s breaststroke vulnerabilities.
At the Pac-12 Championships, the Bears came in third, yet again falling behind the pace of first-place USC and second-place Stanford. The team then fell to third in the NCAA Championships, this time overcoming its USC hurdle but still falling behind first-place Georgia and second-place Stanford.
The team received unexpected contributions this season from two talented freshmen, Amy Bilquist and Kathleen Baker, both of whom played huge roles in helping the Bears stay competitive against juggernauts that challenged them, such as USC and Stanford.
Both swimmers were able to show off their versatility, as Bilquist specialized in many short-distance events and Baker tackled a wide range of long- and mid-distance events for the team. Bilquist finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke at the NCAAs with an impressive 51.01 time and Baker took second in the 200-yard backstroke at the Pac-12 Championships with a mark of 1:50.74. This duo looks to feature even more prominently for the team next season.
Senior Rachel Bootsma competed in her final meet as a Bear at the NCAAs and ended her collegiate career on a positive note with a first-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke event, 50.28. The title was the third individual NCAA victory of her career. The meet was the culmination of a strong season individually for Bootsma, who put forth fantastic swims.
The divers showed some promise this season, as freshman Phoebe LaMay turned out to be somewhat of a gem for the team. She notched a seventh place finish in the 1-meter event with a score of 576.10 at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships, qualifying her for the NCAA Championships. Seniors Anna Kastler and Sara Lina-Boushakra competed in the final meets of their collegiate careers.
The Bears’ complexion changed drastically this year with the departure of high-profile swimmers such as Missy Franklin, but the new entries to the team proved to be more than capable of steadying the ship under the guidance of McKeever. If the team patches its holes in the breaststroke events, the Bears could find themselves positioned among the elite swimming and diving schools for yet another year.
Shiktij Dave covers women’s swimming. Contact him at [email protected].