The Cal women’s swim and dive team will make the long trek northward to Oregon this Friday, where it will face Oregon State University for the Pac-12 opener. This meet is the first traditional swim meet of the season for the Bears and just their second meet overall.
Last week, Cal decimated Cal Poly in their annual Queen of the Pool meet. In that meet, two-time Olympic medalist Kathleen Baker posted the fastest combined time over five events, overtaking teammate and three-time reigning champ Celina Li for the title of Queen.
“It was a lot of fun to see our newcomers race,”said assistant coach Ian Walsh. “We had a great team dynamic and we really had a lot of fun getting out there to race at Cal Poly.”
As is usually the case early in the season, the Bears are focusing on fine-tuning fundamentals rather than posting the fastest times possible. For Olympians like Baker and Abbey Weitzeil, not swimming full throttle is still good enough to beat the competition as they demonstrated last weekend. Weitzeil will be competing in what will be her first of many dual meets for the Bears.
It seems as though these Bears, whose talent and depth consistently makes them one of the best swim teams in the nation, are only racing against themselves. Fundamentals are worked on in practice and applied in competitive environments. But a competitive environment isn’t very competitive if one is miles — or in swimming terms, seconds — ahead of the competition.
“We’re just working on the details, getting our freshmen acclimated with the team,” Walsh said. “Just getting the team together and ready for a great upcoming season, and we’re really excited to visit Oregon State.
The Beavers will surely try their best to push the Bears. But they’ll have to put up a better showing than they did last weekend, as OSU lost to both Utah and BYU in a tri-meet by scores of 157-96 and 178-83, respectively.
The Beavers have a new head coach at the helm this season, hiring Jennifer Buffin to replace previous head coach Larry Liebowitz. Buffin had previously been the associate head coach of Hawaii’s men’s and women’s swim and dive teams since 2006, teams that captured two conference titles during her tenure. She’ll hope to carry over that success to OSU.
Buffin does have some promising pieces to work with. Felicia Anderson looks to build off of her promising start after winning the first event of her collegiate career last week in the 100-yard backstroke. Czsarina Isleta swam the 200-yard breastroke in 2:26.03, good for third place last week.
Still, Cal’s swim team is on another level. The Bears return key swimmers such as Amy Bilquist, Katie McLaughlin and Li, all of who contributed greatly to Cal’s NCAA third place finish last season. Throw in a couple of Olympians in Baker and Weitzeil, and the Bears will prove very difficult to defeat.
Jeffrey Liu covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]