Cal women’s swim and dive emerges victorious in first test of season

Karen Chow/File

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Good teams, when in the midst of a win streak, become complacent after destroying easier competition night after night. This complacency usually results in an untimely loss at the first sighting of another good team.

Great teams, however, maintain composure throughout the season and rise up against serious competition.

After the way the Bears ravaged their opponents in Minnesota, it is safe to say that Cal is not just a good swim team — but a great one.

The Bears won the Minnesota Invitational with 1,158.5 points. Michigan placed second with 813.5 points, while Texas rounded out the top three with 586.

The highlight of the invitational came Thursday when Cal senior and Olympic gold medalist Abbey Weitzeil broke her own 50-yard freestyle record just two days after her 23rd birthday. Weitzeil became the first woman to break the 21-second barrier as she touched the wall at 20.90.

“That was honestly kind of a shock to me. I didn’t expect to do that here. It was my NC (National Championships) goal. So to do that here (in Minnesota) was pretty awesome,” Weitzel said in an interview with SwimSwam.

In addition to this record breaking performance, Weitzeil also won the 100-yard freestyle event with a time of 46.52. This was just .17 seconds shy of the Cal record. Despite winning every event she took part in, Weitzeil keeps her performance standards high.

“I wanted to be a little faster in my other events,” Weitzel said in the interview with SwimSwam.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of this triumph for the Bears was winning all five relays. Securing every group event against some of the best swim teams in the country says a lot about the Bears’ depth and team chemistry.

Another strong performance came from junior diver Briana Thai, who bounced back from the Trojan Diving Invitational by placing third in platforms with 227.60 points.

Friday was a big day for sophomore Isabel Ivey. She began by placing second in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.46, which ranks seventh in national standings this season. Ivey proceeded to win her last two races of the day. In the 100-yard backstroke, Ivey touched the wall at 51.08 — the fourth best time in the country. She capped the night with a strong performance in the 200 free relay. The foursome of Ivey and Weitzeil, along with freshman Eloise Riley and senior Maddie Murphy, managed to take that relay with a national best time of 1:27.14.

On Sunday, there were nonscoring long course time trials for swimmers to attempt qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials. The Bears had three swimmers land qualifying times.

Sophomore Ema Rajic achieved a time of 1:08.93 in the 100-meter breaststroke, setting a Croatian record. In the 100-meter backstroke, freshman Ayla Spitz and senior Aislinn Light both managed to qualify for trials as well. Weitzeil and Ivey also managed to swim qualifying times, but had already qualified at an earlier date.

Cal not only dominated strong competition, but will also now send five swimmers to the U.S. Olympic Trials.

The Bear’s next meet will return home to Spieker Aquatics Complex against San Jose State on Dec. 21.

Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at [email protected].