No. 1 Stanford hands No. 4 Cal women’s swim first loss of season

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Few things epitomize heartbreak in sports more than the “and-one” — the notorious mark of an undefeated season being shafted by one overhanging loss.

The “what-could-have-beens” of perfection in past years include: the 2007 New England Patriots finishing 18-1, 2016 Alabama football going 14-1 and, most recently, Cal women’s swim, which finished 9-1 in its regular season meets.

The No. 4 Bears headed to Palo Alto well-aware of the seemingly unstoppable dominance of their opponent — undefeated No. 1 Stanford — and ultimately became just another crew to be conquered in a definitive 186-110 loss.

But unlike those of the Patriots or the Crimson Tide, the Bears’ “and-one” loss did not come in the final contest of the season in the form of a championship game. The regular season is now over, but Cal’s “and-one” is nothing more than a learning opportunity and a feat that needs to fuel the fire inside the Bears as they prepare for the postseason.

To no surprise, Stanford sophomore Katie Ledecky was a freestyling showstopper in all three of her individual events, claiming the 200-, 500- and 1000-yard free. Ledecky is an artist when it comes to separating herself from the pack; in the 500 and 1000, she finished more than 16 and 33 seconds faster than second place, respectively.

Alongside the sophomore standout, the rest of the Cardinal got it done in the water as they posted top scores in 14 of 16 events.

Cal sophomore Abbey Weitzeil had the most successful day for the Bears, and she had a leg in each of Cal’s event wins. Weitzeil took home an individual victory in the 50 free with a time of 22.04 and helped secure a squad win in the 200 free relay.

The Bears’ lone winning relay — the 200 free — also featured sophomore Maddie Murphy and juniors Katie McLaughlin and Amy Bilquist, who along with Weitzeil pieced together a time of 1.28.36. These four swimmers posted an NCAA A time, coming in just under the qualifying mark of 1.28.71.

As of Jan. 29, Cal had already racked up 12 NCAA A times, which attests to both the talent and depth the Bears possess in addition to their ability to hold their own on the national scale. By comparison, Stanford stands with 18 A times, which is, once again, a testament to its No. 1 ranking.

Cal still has two opportunities to redeem its regular-season loss — first at the Pac-12 Championships and then at the big dance: NCAA Championships. Stanford currently stands as the reigning victor in both meets and, as things stand right now, is the favorite to win.

Meanwhile, the Bears are hoping for perhaps the only sports feat more emotional than the “and-one” — the revenge victory — and has the opportunity to knock Stanford off the top spot on the podium. While retribution won’t come easily, there are still several races left, at which anything can happen.

Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].