When the lights are brightest, only the very best manage to pull through and show they are the real deal. Many times, athletes who appear to be great flounder in the biggest moments, like 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo when he threw two interceptions and blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Although a swim meet in Los Angeles is nowhere near the level of pressure of the Super Bowl, the Bears still prevailed in what could be considered a high-pressure moment.
Cal showed that the Hollywood spotlight isn’t too bright as it defeated the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bears began their weekend with a seemingly convincing 161.5-136.5 victory over USC despite what some might consider a sluggish performance.
“I think we had a rough meet on Friday to be honest” said Cal assistant coach Dani Korman. “Just kind of low energy, and I think they were tired from a lot of hard training and getting back into the swing of school and all that sort of stuff. I think we just weren’t in a great place at the start of the meet.”
Although a poor performance typically shouldn’t be praised, even in a win, this is a testament to the Bears’ potential. When an ordinary team, or even a good team, underperforms, it usually ends in a loss. But Cal isn’t just good, it is elite. Elite enough to win 9 of the 16 events on an off day.
The Bears managed to take the top three places in three different relays — the 200 back, free and 500 free. They also had strong performances from sophomore Alicia Wilson and senior Abbey Weitzeil, who won two events each. Wilson took first in the 200 individual medley and backstroke events, while Weitzeil won both the 50 and 100-yard freestyle events. Weitzeil’s time of 21.9 in the 50 free was (at the time) the second-fastest time in that event by a Cal swimmer behind only her own performance just one week earlier against Arizona State.
Weitzeil would later top her time of 21.9 against USC the very next day against UCLA with a time of 21.82 to now hold the top three Cal dual meet times in that event.
“It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” Korman said. This sentiment held very true this weekend as after a close victory over USC, the Bears went on to route UCLA the very next day by winning 186-114.
“We had a team meeting after our meet on Friday, and they did a nice job of identifying areas we can improve upon, and I think we came out Saturday against UCLA and I think our energy was better, and they really did a nice job of supporting each other in that environment,” Korman said. “We came together as a team much better on Saturday, which sets us up really well for the rest of the year.”
Wilson continued her dominance as she won two individual events, giving her eight total victories through four dual meets in 2020. Fellow sophomore Isabel Ivey won two events of her own, touching first in both the 100 backstroke and butterfly. Freshman Ayla Spitz showed off her distance freestyle ability as she followed up her victory in the 500-yard free against USC with another first place finish in the same event against UCLA. Spitz also won the 1000-yard freestyle event.
Cal’s next meet comes Feb. 15 in Palo Alto against rival and reigning champion Stanford.
Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at