No. 1 Longhorns outpace Cal women’s swim and dive in Berkeley

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Humans need three basic resources: food, water and air.

And for humans at peak physical condition, breathing is kind of important.

With athletic events all around the Bay Area rescheduled or canceled because of diminished air quality, the No. 5 Cal women’s swim team braved the smoke Saturday as it faced the No. 1 Texas Longhorns at home.

In a dual meet that many thought would be the victim of air-related cancellation, the Longhorns prevailed in a 163-137 win. Cal brought its best times of the season out Saturday, setting season bests in every event.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns’ Evie Pfeifer and Joanna Evans set the third-fastest NCAA time of the year in the 200 medley and the sixth-fastest time in the 200 freestyle, respectively. Though the teams finished tied with seven swimming event wins apiece, Texas was buoyed by a 30-point performance from its divers to secure the meet victory.

The win extends the Longhorns’ unbeaten streak in dual meets to 17; their last loss came at the hands of Stanford on Nov. 12, 2016.

Household names Abbey Weitzeil and Katie McLaughlin nabbed two event wins each Saturday, with Weitzeil tying her own Cal dual-meet record of 22.04 in the 50 freestyle and winning the 100 free with a time of 48.70. McLaughlin pulled off a stellar comeback victory in the 200 butterfly and secured the 100 fly event in a close contest with Texas senior Remedy Rule.

Coming off two event wins against Washington State, freshman Ema Rajic lost a close race in the 100 breaststroke to Longhorns senior Olivia Anderson by four-tenths of a second. She got a much-deserved win in the 200 breaststroke with a 2:14.13 time over Anderson’s 2:14.93.

Cal has not yet lost a relay event this year, adding two wins in the 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay. The Bears were led by strong anchoring from Weitzeil, who also delivered a 21.52 split in the medley relay.

There isn’t any denying that Cal has only grown stronger since the beginning of the season. The Bears’ season-best performance against Texas highlighted their progression, and if the Longhorns had faced Stanford the day before as previously scheduled, Saturday’s result may have been different.

Friday’s meet in Palo Alto was canceled because of air quality, and currently, there is no timetable for it to be rescheduled.

The Bears will head to Georgia to compete in the Georgia Fall Invitational from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1. Cal will need to build on its benchmark of a performance Saturday for its midseason competition in the Southeast.

The loss to Texas shows that Cal will be pushed to the limit this year by teams other than Stanford — the Bears will need to batten down the hatches in the coming months to keep their title hopes alive.

Breathe deep, Bears, and keep rolling on.

Chanun Ong covers women’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].