Looking back on Cal Athletics’ 2020 highlights

This year was a rough one for college sports, to say the very least. The idea that some senior athletes devoted their entire college careers to a sport that was canceled only partway through the season is devastating, and the on-again, off-again startup of fall sports took fans on an emotional roller coaster they did not deserve.

In the chaos that was the constantly changing Pac-12 guidelines for when to resume play, there were a few glimmers of hope — including one especially bright glimmer, but I’ll get to that later. Here’s a recap of what Cal sports in 2020 looked like, starting with an era that feels so very far away but wasn’t actually that long ago.

Pre-pandemic sports, aka the part of 2020 that felt normal

Remember when 2019 had just ended and the new year felt like it was filled with fresh hope and possibilities? Yeah, me neither. But I know that there definitely had to be a time before all this, a time when college sports and large crowds thrived. Days before the Pac-12 announced the suspension of all live sporting events, Cal baseball squared off against San Jose State in an attempt to redeem itself from its unfortunate nonconference record. By a stroke of good fortune, the Bears beat the Spartans, and all seemed calm and well.

Around the same time that baseball ended on a high note, two throwers from Cal’s track and field team qualified for the NCAA indoor championships. This victory left the team optimistic for the outdoor season and gave it motivation to train even harder in hopes of some athletes qualifying for the outdoor championships.

Women’s beach volleyball celebrated its highest placement in program history with a No. 9 ranking after nine consecutive victories. The shortened ending to this record-breaking season means that the next time the team resumes play, it will be a season to look forward to.

Cal men’s swim was also in the midst of an excellent season in early 2020 and had just won its third consecutive Pac-12 title when the pandemic brought it all to a crashing halt. Senior Ryan Hoffer was named the Pac-12 swimmer of the meet after a superb performance in several events and a comeback from a disqualified relay, and head coach David Durden celebrated his fifth Pac-12 victory as coach for the blue and gold.

For the first time in three years, Cal men’s basketball notched a win at the Pac-12 tournament, upsetting rival Stanford. This success came shortly before the tournament was canceled, and hopeful fans were left guessing at what could have been.

Cancellation of fall sports in March

All momentum built in the spring for Cal Athletics came to a crashing halt when the Pac-12 announced the suspension of all sports through the end of the academic year. Everyone was disappointed, athletes especially, but understood that this decision was made for the greater good of the country’s public health.

Awards

Cal alumna Abbey Weitzeil celebrated the abbreviated season with the 2020 Honda Sport Award for swimming. This award acknowledges the best female athlete in each of the 12 major collegiate sports, and Weitzeil’s win marks the eighth time a Cal swimmer has been the recipient of this award.

Hoffer was named Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year after an impressive season and strong performance at the Pac-12 Championships, where he won a total of five events and paved the way for Cal’s victory.

Five blue and gold gymnasts on the women’s team earned a total of eight All-Pac-12 honors, setting a school record. The Bears who helped to bring home these awards include seniors Kyana George and Emi Watterson, juniors Maya Bordas and Milan Clausi and sophomore Nevaeh DeSouza, who was also named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

The #WeAreUnited movement

As talks about resuming college athletics in the fall emerged, so did a group of athletes committed to ensuring the health and safety of student-athletes, holding the Pac-12 accountable to combat racial justice and achieving greater financial benefits for student-athletes.

Not only did this movement make important progress and gain national attention, but it was started in part by Cal football’s very own Joshua Drayden, Kuony Deng, Jake Curhan and Valentino Daltoso.

Football season! With some setbacks

This year’s football season was a bumpy ride, and it started off with the first two games against the University of Washington and Arizona State being canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. The Bears finally got their chance to play against UCLA, but due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, they suffered a 10-34 loss. Then, two more losses followed: one against Oregon State and the other against a school with the worst mascot in the history of all mascots (Stanford, if you couldn’t guess).

And finally, the grand finale

Cal football desperately needed a victory after two narrow, back-to-back losses. The game against the University of Oregon on Dec. 5 gave the team just that. This win was the perfect upswing to a year that felt like a constant downhill of bad news, and hopefully, the Bears can secure another victory against Washington State on Dec. 12 to ring in the new year on a high note.

Contact Mia Horne at [email protected].