As the holiday season approaches, the city of Berkeley becomes barren with droves of students traveling home each day. Some leave to visit family, others depart just to escape the increasingly cold and deserted wasteland that Berkeley becomes.
The Cal women’s swim and dive team will remain in the Bay Area, however, as it is still one more meet — or should I say feast — away from holiday hibernation. Cal will face the San Jose State Spartans in its fourth consecutive end-of-year matchup, after the Bears won each of the past three matchups by an average of 73 points.
Considering Cal’s historical dominance in this pairing combined with its No. 1 ranking according to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America’s top 25 list as of Dec. 11, the Bears should be heavily favored in a theoretical fourth consecutive victory for Cal.
Despite ranking No. 1 in the nation, the Bears are not going to simply rest on their laurels. “It’s a great testament to the work the teams put in so far this year but we’re definitely not going to sit back on it,” said Cal assistant coach Dani Korman. “I think the team has really earned it, but also it doesn’t define the end of the year — and we still have to perform in February and March, so we’re excited by it but hopefully it’s just a big motivator for us to keep that position throughout the rest of the year.”
Knowing that the most important parts of the season are yet to come is a good mindset for Cal. Any championship team considers that although it needs to perform at an elite level throughout the season, its work is all meaningless if it cannot parlay that success into the playoffs, or in this case, the NCAA Championship.
Since the beginning of the decade, expectations for the Bears remain sky-high. “There’s a lot that can be achieved for the rest of the year but the work is definitely not done — and after they (San Jose State) go home for about a week … we head to Hawaii to put in some good training there and grow as a team. Who knows what lies ahead, but I think they set themselves up really well to have a great second half of the year,” Korman said.
The annual meet between Cal and San Jose State is a unique one. “Most of the events are not typical distances. It’s just an experience for them to get to race,” Korman said. “Some of them might swim a different stroke but also the distances of the events are going to be different then what we swim in most meets or at Pac-12s or at NCAAs.”
After an intense meet like the Minnesota Invitational, the dual meet will be a nice change of pace for the Bears to end the year on a more relaxed note.
“It’s definitely less serious,” Korman said. “But I think they still take it very seriously. It’s a great opportunity to race and take advantage of the things we have been working on in practice. But it is definitely not a typical sort of meet.”
Atypical is exactly the description of this event, which will feature races such as the 300-yard backstroke relay, a 300-yard individual medley in reverse order, and a 150-yard breaststroke.
Since this meet is mostly irregular events, we won’t see any more NCAA qualifying times or any more Olympic Trial qualifications.
The Bears’ first meet of the new decade is Jan. 17-19 in Los Angeles at the UCLA Diving Invitational.
Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at