Stars shine as Cal women’s swim picks up 2 wins on road trip

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The number three holds undeniable significance in the sporting world. It could refer to a basket sunk from way downtown, a game-ending strikeout call or a field goal as the clock hits zero. Looking at more than just scoring conventions, however, a trio of world-class players can make a team truly special — the past partnerships of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar or LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are just two examples.

The Bears’ “big three” of this weekend consisted of Katie McLaughlin, Amy Bilquist and Abbey Weitzeil. The three swimmers shared a total of 13 event wins across Cal’s two dual meets against Arizona and Arizona State.

Friday’s meet against Arizona State saw Cal extend a dual meet winning streak of more than 15 years against the Sun Devils with a 190-110 victory. Bilquist won the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes as well as the 50 free for three of the Bears’ 12 event wins, while McLaughlin and Weitzeil secured two wins apiece.

A new face on the Cal roster is midyear enrollee Isabel Ivey, who made her debut against Arizona State. The No. 1 recruit in the nation in 2018 according to SwimSwam.com, the freshman out of Florida made a strong case for herself as she took home the 100 fly and contributed to wins in the 200 medley and free relays. Ivey turned in another solid performance the next day against Arizona, notching three second-place finishes behind her teammates Bilquist and McLaughlin. Fans can expect that Ivey, after successfully breaking into the team, will see more action in important meets as the season winds down.

The Bears were tasked with swimming their first back-to-back dual meets of the season last weekend, but their performance seemed unaffected by the workload.

Saturday’s meet against Arizona yielded a similar result to Friday’s, with Cal prevailing, 179-118. This time, McLaughlin won the 100- and 200-yard free as well as the 100 fly, while Bilquist prevailed in the 100 and 200 back. Weitzeil, the owner of the country’s fastest recorded 50 free time in history, won her signature event with a time of 22.68. Sophomore Sarah Darcel touched first in the 200 breaststroke and 400 individual medley, taking a pair wins of her own.

The trip to the desert marks Cal’s final dual meet away from home, as the Bears will return to Spieker Aquatics Complex to wrap up the regular season by hosting three strong squads in USC, UCLA and two-time reigning champion Stanford. For its most important duals of the year, Cal will need to replicate its performance from last weekend and then some — the Bears will have their work cut out for them when they host the undefeated Trojans and Bruins on Feb. 1 and 2.

Cal will need its big three to continue its success all the way until the year ends if the team wants to have a realistic chance to dethrone the Cardinal this year. The Bears’ roster depth allows new faces to step up at any time, and that will need to happen in order to get the best out of the talent that Cal has.

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