After three days of competition at the Georgia Fall Invitational, and missing its strongest swimmer in junior Kathleen Baker, No. 6 Cal women’s swim pulled out a third-place finish against some of the top teams in the nation. Falling to first-place No. 4 Michigan, and second-place No. 5 Georgia the Bears stumbled a bit in the last day of the invitational, but the weekend was an overall success and featured several events wins.
Cal had sizeable wins over No. 16 Virginia, No. 25 UCLA and No. 13 Auburn, who each took fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively. While the team did what it was supposed to do on paper, but Cal did not manage to topple its forerunners.
One day into the meet, Cal had the Wolverines on the ropes — the Bears were within 25 points of first place and making their dominant presence known. As day two came to an end, however, Michigan was pulling away and widened the gap between one and two to 69 points. Cal also managed to sustain a 49.5-point lead over the Bulldogs after day two.
But day three delivered the knockout punch to the Bears. The Wolverines had accumulated 161.5 points over Cal (991.5), and the Bulldogs (833.5), by the skin of their teeth, edged the Bears (830) out of second.
With one Olympian down from Cal’s roster for the weekend, another stepped in her place, and sophomore Abbey Weitzeil had the strongest outing of any Bear. Weitzeil came away with two individual event wins (50 and 100-yard freestyle) and was a part of four winning relay squads (200 medley, 400 medley, 200 free and 400 free).
Not only did Weitzeil put up crucial points for her team, she also managed to lower her national leading time in the 50 free to a season-best 21.44.
Weitzeil and the Bears also had some help from another Olympian in senior Noemie Thomas.
Thomas was a part of the winning 400-medley relay squad alongside, Weitzeil, junior Amy Bilquist and freshman Ali Harrison. With a time of 3:30.45, Cal reached the NCAA “A” qualifying standard.
Thomas’ second relay win of the meet came in the 200-medley relay where she, along with Weitzeil, Bilquist and junior Katie McLaughlin beat out the Bulldogs.
On top of her group success, Thomas finished with an individual win in the 100 fly and tied for first in the 200 fly event. In the 100 fly, Thomas posted a time of 50.77 which also qualifies as an NCAA “A” mark.
The invitational was largely a midseason checkpoint for the Bears, and things are looking pretty solid. Moving forward, however, Cal has an unstoppable force in No. 1 Stanford to overcome once again, and a competitive No. 7 USC looking to overtake it.
This is not the last time these teams will meet, and the stakes will only grow from here, so the Bears must keep the taste of defeat in its mouth as they continue their season.