Giving the Cardinal its due: Cal wins Pac-12 championship

Photo of Cal Women's Swim and Dive
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Champions once again.

Last week, Cal women’s swim and dive achieved an enormous win at the Pac-12 Championship meet, pulling ahead of Stanford and UCLA, which came in second and third place, respectively. This is Cal’s first conference championship since 2015.

Winning this championship in dominant fashion was definitely well-deserved. But breaking Stanford’s four-year championship run is perhaps the most gratifying aspect of this conference title for Cal fans. The Bears found their way to the podium at seemingly every turn, and left with a win in 12 events, tying the 2015 championship team for most wins in team history.

The podium placements started Wednesday in the diving department, with senior Briana Thai taking third place on her 1-meter dive, scoring 312.05 points — Cal’s highest-scoring dive since 2014. In the swimming portion of the meet, the Bears took first place in both the 800 free relay as well as the 400 medley relay.

Thursday kicked off with Cal achieving a top-three finish in every swimming event. In the 200 IM, Cal took both first and second place, with junior Alicia Wilson coming in first with an impressive lead time of 1:53.65. Freshman Isabelle Stadden dug in and battled it out with junior Isabelle Odgers of USC to take second place behind Wilson, dropping two seconds from her preliminary time and beating Odgers by less than a third of a second.

“I really like to race, that’s where I thrive,” Stadden said. “I saw (Odgers), and then, pushing off the last wall, we were like dead even, so, just put my head down.”

Where the team really came together Thursday was in the 200 free relay, as Cal took the win in this event for the fourth year in a row, this time beating Stanford with a time of 1:26.84.

The relay dominance did not stop there, however, as Cal would go on to win both the 200 medley relay Friday as well as the 400 free relay Saturday, sweeping the competition and going four for four on relays at this meet. Cal junior Isabel Ivey, who has already been named Pac-12 Swimmer of the Week twice this season, earned another award as Pac-12 swimmer of the meet. Ivey dominated her events, claiming two first-place finishes in both the 100 fly and 100 back Friday, and a first-place finish in the 100 free Saturday.

Ivey is the first Cal swimmer to claim three individual conference titles since 2019. She may have some competition in the future, however, as Stadden was hot in pursuit in the 100 back, finishing behind Ivey for second place by just .04 seconds. In other words, the future looks bright for the Bears.

Looking ahead in the diving department, the NCAA Zone E diving championships are coming up in Arizona from March 8 to 10. “Zones” are vitally important as they will determine divers’ entries at the NCAA championships, which a dozen Cal swimmers have already qualified for.

Thai is excited for her opportunity to earn her spot at Zones for the NCAA championship.

“Even though Pac-12 is a huge championship meet, it means a little bit more to me to place higher at Zones so I can have the opportunity to represent Cal at (the NCAA Championships),” Thai said.

While winning the Pac-12 title was a massive win for the Bears, the competitions are far from over. Cal fans can look forward to the competitive performances at the NCAA Championship meet in Greensboro, North Carolina, on March 17 to 20.

Elliott Carr covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at [email protected].