Tension is the norm in the sporting world. Think about the dying seconds of a one-possession football game, a desperate final attack as a soccer team searches for an equalizing goal.
“Dead week” at UC Berkeley provides the exact same feeling — except that it’s you who needs to kick the game-winning field goal or score the decider from the penalty spot. With the dread of finals just around the corner, it seems like students gain an extra forehead wrinkle each day.
As we approach our own semester finals, Cal women’s swim faces its yearly midterm in the Georgia Fall Invitational. The last time the Bears made the trip to Georgia was for last year’s fall invitational, where they took home third place behind Michigan and host Georgia. The meet featured an array of teams from around the nation, with Virginia, UCLA, Harvard and Auburn also coming out to race.
The midseason competition is a huge chance for the Bears to set NCAA championship qualifying times. At last year’s meet, three Cal swimmers — Abbey Weitzeil, Amy Bilquist, and Noemie Thomas — qualified automatically by clocking “A” standard times, while all five relay teams also qualified for the March championships. The Bears won’t need to finish first to qualify — swimmers are secure once they meet the “A” times — but Cal will expect strong competition yet again this year from No. 3 Michigan and No. 11 Georgia.
Questions remain after the Bears came up short against Texas at home Nov. 10, but the trend in times is positive heading into winter break. The Bears swam their fastest times of the year against the current No. 1 Longhorns, with Weitzeil and Katie McLaughlin among the swimmers delivering NCAA “B” standard times earlier this month. Even after the loss, Cal aims to further improve upon the marks set against Texas in hopes of earning NCAA qualification.
Looking even further ahead, the Bears’ announcement of the year’s recruiting class came with three of the nation’s top-20 high school swimmers. Cal secured a total of nine new recruits, including No. 1-ranked Isabel Ivey out of Gainesville, Florida, No. 12 Chloe Clark out of Granite Bay, California and No. 20 Ayla Spitz out of Newport Beach, California.
The class is completed with Sarah DiMeco (Sammamish, Washington), Rachel Klinker (Lexington, Kentucky), Danielle Carter (Los Altos, California), Emma Davidson (Yorba Linda, California), Ashlyn Fiorilli (McKinney, Texas) and Anna Kalandadze (Ardmore, Pennsylvania).
Fans can expect to see the new names making an impact at Cal very soon, and the Bears hope to see Ivey live up to her billing as the nation’s best. Ivey had a stellar 2017 season and continued to beat her personal bests well into 2018, and she will be joining the team Jan. 3, 2019, after graduating early from Buchholz High School in Florida.
Cal will bring out its top talent in Georgia with the goal of qualifying as many swimmers as possible for the NCAA championships, so Thursday’s three-day event should see the Bears put up their best times thus far. When the meet ends Dec. 1, Cal will return home to face San Jose State University in a dual meet Dec. 19.
A less-than-stellar grade on a midterm can usually be solved with a solid score on the final. For Cal’s swimmers, however, Thursday’s midterm could affect their chances of taking the final at all. It’s never a good idea to leave studying to the last minute — words I’m sure we’ve all heard before — and the Bears will travel to Georgia knowing that it’s better to qualify sooner rather than later.
Chanun Ong covers women’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].