Anyone with a brother or sister remembers when your parents forced you to play a game with your little sibling. The caveat, though, was that you had to go easy on them so that they didn’t get destroyed. Maybe you let them win a few rounds or even let them win the whole game.
Cal women’s swim did not have that idea in mind when it rolled out to a dominant, albeit an expected, 172-84 win. Not only did the Bears win every event, they even secured all top three spots for six of the 14 events.
The highlight of the meet was during the second event, the 1000-yard freestyle. Junior Robin Neumann and freshman Ashlyn Fiorilli took an early lead over the rest of the pack for the majority of the race. That is until the last 100 yards when Washington State senior Ryan Falk overtook Fiorilli and nearly caught Neumann, falling just half a second short of what could have been the first (and only) victory for the Cougars. Falk got a time of 10:11.69, setting a new personal best in that event.
Falk also would claim second place in the 500-yard freestyle. In that event, Abbey Weitzeil led the entire way in what appeared to be another effortless victory for her, finishing with a time of 4:47.49. Weitzeil even managed to lap fifth-place finisher Keiana Fountaine, as Fountaine touched the wall at 4:48.17 with 50 yards to go.
“It was so exciting — the atmosphere was great. There’s super high energy unlike any other meet I’ve done, so it was a ton of fun,” said freshman Ayla Spitz.
This was the first home meet ever for the Cal freshmen and they put on a show for the Bears fans in attendance as they combined for three first-place finishes. One of these victories came from Spitz, who won the 200-yard freestyle. The other two both came from Rachel Klinker in the 200-yard and 100-yard butterfly.
“I would say my biggest takeaway would be that cheering each other on really has a huge impact on how fast we swim, and this environment is so incredible. I’ve never been a part of anything as special as this, so I would say it really goes a long way in producing fast swimming,” Spitz said.
There was cheering from everyone. From fans in the bleachers to teammates on the sidelines, this meet was high energy, to say the least.
The intensity reached its peak during the 200-yard breaststroke when sophomore Ema Rajić took an early lead but was almost caught by Washington State’s Lauren Burckel. Rajić finished with a time of 2:13.80.
One important factor in the Bears’ win was the weather.
“It was windy this morning and is still a little windy, but it was nice that the sun decided to show up for the meet and it definitely made it easy to just stand around and not be worried about keeping warm the whole time. So I think it definitely helped,” Spitz said.
Cal, being a California team, is more used to warm, sunny weather than a team like Washington State. This factor could have been the boost the Bears needed for some of the tight races.
Cal’s next meet comes in two weeks at the Trojan Diving Invitational directly followed by a Nov. 11 match against UC San Diego.
Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at