Cal women’s swim ends 2018 with dominant win over San Jose State

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The holiday season is in full swing and Berkeley is almost unrecognizable. With many students back home for winter break, the city seems to have lost half of its population overnight.

One group of happy Bears heading into holiday hibernation is the Cal women’s swim team, who finished 2018 on a high note with a win over San Jose State. The final meet of the year proved to be of no major difficulty to Cal, as the Bears easily handled their cross-Bay rivals by a score of 163-63.

The events on Wednesday’s dual meet schedule were unorthodox, to say the least, including a 300-yard backstroke relay, a 300-yard medley swam in reverse order from free to fly and a Cal diver swimming on a relay team.

The Bears completed a clean sweep of events, winning every one of the 12 contested.

Out of the 12, only the 50 free was considered a typical meet event and Cal senior Amy Bilquist’s time of 23.17 was good enough to secure the win. Notables from the remaining 11 included junior Keaton Blovad and sophomore Sarah Darcel battling it out in the 300-yard medley, with Blovad’s margin of victory over Darcel being less than four-tenths of a second.

Alongside Bilquist and Blovad, six other Bears placed first in individual events: Jenna Campbell in the 150 fly, Katie McLaughlin in the 300 free, Ali Harrison in the 150 breast and reigning Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month Abbey Weitzeil in the 150 back. Cal divers Jackie Im and Briana Thai won the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events respectively.

Senior diver Phoebe LaMay wasn’t featured in Wednesday’s diving events but was a surprise addition to one of Cal’s teams in the 250 free relay.

To add a twist to the event, swimmers were tasked with a 250 free relay that consisted of legs of 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards that could be swum in any order. For the unique event, the Bears decided to arrange their teams by class, and seniors McLaughlin, Campbell, Bilquist and LaMay finished in second place — two seconds behind juniors Aislinn Light, Maddie Murphy, Blovad and Weitzeil.

The Bears will have a month off before their divers return to action for the Bruin Diving Invitational on January 18-20. The team will then head to the desert for back-to-back dual meets against Arizona and Arizona State on January 25 and 26.

The win over the Spartans caps off a year of relative success for the Bears, though their loss to Texas and third place finish at the Georgia Fall Invitational indicate that improvements should be in store for spring.

The Bears may be relaxing for the holidays, but expect Cal to come flying out of the gate come January as the most important meets of the season draw even closer.

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