It was an impressive end to an impressive season. Cal women’s swim and dive placed fourth in Greensboro, North Carolina at the NCAA Championship meet this past weekend, marking the 15th consecutive time that Cal has placed within the top five at the same meet. While hopes were high for a first-place finish heading into the national meet, competition was fierce, with schools leaving everything in the water to take the crown. Virginia came out of the water as the champion, cruising to first place on the first day of the meet and never letting up. Not only did Virginia win, but it dominated, putting up 137 more points than second-place finisher Texas. This marks Virginia’s first NCAA championship in school history and the first time a school from the entire Atlantic Coast Conference brought home the title. It looks like Cal’s competition pool just got a little bit wider.
Despite not being able to land first place, the Bears continued their end of season form, putting up impressive times across the board. On the final day of the meet, freshman Isabelle Stadden and junior Isabel Ivey earned lifetime best times in the 200 back and the 100 free, respectively. Stadden’s 200 back turned out to be a bit of a nail-biter as a pack of three or four swimmers stayed right on top of each other throughout the duration of the race, never more than half an arm’s length apart from one another. Coming into the last 50 of the race, Stadden was holding fourth place, but due to a monstrous underwater performance coming off of the second to last flip turn, she was able to take third place and ride it to the finish line.
Cal not only impressed in its individual races but in its relays as well. A major highlight of the meet came when the Bears placed first in the 200 free relay Thursday, marking the sixth consecutive time Cal has won this event at NCAAs. This event was nothing short of exhilarating, with Virginia immediately taking a comfortable half-body length lead on the first 50 and holding on to it throughout the second 50. Junior Elise Garcia’s explosiveness off the block and her impressive underwaters made the difference. On the third 50, the Bears gained some ground. On the turn, Garcia extended even further, getting Cal virtually neck and neck with Virginia. Once the anchor swimmer, Ivey, hit the water, the Bears took the lead and held on for the win. This comeback win was met with loud cheers from the team, finalizing a truly great event and solidifying Cal’s current dominance in the event.
The Bears will always be an elite program, at least as long as they’re headed by one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport. Head coach Teri McKeever makes Cal capable of putting up elite races day in and day out despite the unusual circumstances of the season. Heading into next year the Bears will hope to regain a little bit more normalcy. In spite of the COVID-19 related adversity, a win at the Pac-12 championship and fourth at the NCAA championship were not too much to ask of Cal.