Fresh off a gold and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, Cal sophomore swimmer Kathleen Baker was crowned Queen of the Pool in the Bears’ first swim meet of the season.
The quirky Queen of the Pool event between Cal and Cal Poly has signaled the beginning of the Bears’ season for the past seven years. The annual swim meet measures the time of each swimmer’s performance in five 100-yard races — freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and individual medley — with the competitor with the fastest combined time declared the winner.
For the past three years, Cal senior Celina Li has successfully defended her claim to the throne. And going into the last event — the individual medley — Li was in a reasonable position to win for a fourth straight year, with a small 0.31 second lead over Baker.
But the two-time Olympic medalist would swim the fastest time in the individual medley for a total overall time of 4:43.28 compared to Li’s 4:44.91 to add yet another title to her list of accomplishments.
All across the board, the Bears dominated the swim meet. 13 Cal swimmers had a faster time than the fastest Mustang. Notable performances include Cal freshman Abbey Weitzeil, who swam the 100-yard freestyle in 49.81 and the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.56. Like Baker, Weitzeil collected two medals during the Rio Olympics. Sophomore Amy Bilquist swam the fastest 100-yard backstroke with a time of 53.25. Bilquist would finish third overall with Weitzeil coming in fourth. Sophomore Katie McLaughlin finished fifth with a time of 4:52.10.
It should be noted that swim meets early in the season are used more for refining technique and getting the swimmers back into shape rather than going all out. It isn’t until later in the school year, when swimmers will be in peak condition, where they post their best times. Still, it is encouraging to see the depth and versatility of the women’s swim team on display. With seven of the top 10 times being posted by freshmen and sophomores, Cal appears set to continue its dominance for the foreseeable future.
Expectations are high yet again for the Bears this season. For the past eight years, Cal has finished in the top three of the NCAA Championships and will look to surpass last year’s third-place finish. The Bears’ next meet will be against Oregon State on Oct. 7.
Jeffrey Liu covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]