No. 2 ranked women’s swim began the season with a commanding performance in San Luis Obispo, as Cal junior Abbey Weitzeil emerged as the new Queen of the Pool last Friday. The extent of Bear dominance was shown on the scoreboard as Cal swimmers occupied every spot in the top 15. The entire Bears team finished within the top 23 out of 42 total swimmers, continuing a several-year trend of success in the meet.
In what has long been regarded as a friendly meet between Cal and Cal Poly, each swimmer raced in five different 100-yard events— freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medley. The swimmer with the fastest combined time would be crowned Queen of the Pool.
This time it was Weitzeil, who cut three important seconds off of her 4:47.34 third-place time last year by posting meet-best times in the free, back, breast and IM events. She delivered a 4:44.22 combined time with a convincing five-second margin between her and second place.
Junior Keaton Blovad claimed second with a time of 4:49.43, while sophomore Sarah Darcel delivered a meet-best fly time en route to a 4:53.88 and a third-place finish. Fellow sophomore Robin Neumann placed fourth, clocking in at 4:56.65.
Among the names rested for Cal were senior captains Amy Bilquist and Katie McLaughlin, who finished fourth and fifth in last year’s meet. Head coach Teri McKeever cited early season precautionary measures, as it is highly likely that Bilquist and McLaughlin will be two of the key point contributors for the Bears this season.
Even without some veteran members of the team in the water, past Queen of the Pool competitions have offered new swimmers an opportunity to experience their first college meet. Last year, then-freshman Sarah Darcel surprised many when she finished in second place to Olympian junior Kathleen Baker in her college swimming debut. Cal’s new talent followed suit with yet another strong display this year. Freshmen Alicia Wilson, Elise Garcia and Ema Rajic all finished with top-10 times, placing fifth, sixth and ninth respectively. Garcia proved her strength in the 100 fly, in which she missed out on a meet-best time to Darcel by a mere 24 milliseconds.
The Bears will travel to Fresno from Oct. 5-6 to compete in the Chick-fil-A Invite against Washington State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Air Force and the host school Fresno State. Cal won 16 of 20 events at last year’s meet and came away with first place, even while rotating its strongest swimmers to compete in less familiar races.
Looking further ahead, Cal will swim a home dual meet against Utah on Oct. 10 and an away meet with Washington State on Nov. 3.
The competition will only become more challenging from next week onward, so it is important for the Bears to both replicate and improve on Friday’s performance throughout the year. With the potential shown by the underclassmen, there leaves little doubt that Cal possesses the roster foundation necessary to contend for the title this season.