Bears chow down at Chick-fil-A Invitational with landslide victories

photo of a Cal women's swimmer
Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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No longer do the Bears have to prove their swimming prowess –– their record speaks for itself. At the Chick-fil-A Invitational in Fresno, Cal swam its way into many first place finishes while making history and breaking pool records.

The talent and skill that the Bears presented toppled nearly any lineup Cal has presented in women’s swimming history. The evidence is clear: The Bears posted five new pool records, claimed 10 out of 11 races in their first two sessions of the meet and finished off the weekend with 1481.5 points, nearly 802 points ahead of second-place San Diego State.

Simply put, the Bears dove into the water hungry for their prey.

The weekend in Fresno started off with the 200-yard medley race, presenting Cal’s unbeatable relay squad: sophomore Isabelle Stadden, senior Ema Rajic, senior Isabel Ivey and senior Elise Garcia. The first place team finished in 1:39.69, more than one second faster than Cal’s 2019 medley relay squad. The pool record then sparked a domino effect of success for the rest of the team’s lineup.

Not only did the Bears win relays, but they secured three individual races as well. In the 500 free, Cal outshined its competition after claiming the top eight spots with junior Ayla Spitz leading the charge. Similarly, in her first time representing the blue and gold, freshman Lea Polonsky tapped the wall in the 200 individual medley in 2:02.77, claiming her first collegiate meet win. Garcia also struck gold in the 50 free, sprinting the race in 22.72.

Friday morning closed out with yet another pool record in the 200 free relay, as freshman Ella Mazurek, sophomore Emily Gantriis, Ivey and Garcia tapped the wall in just 1:30.85.

In the afternoon, the Bears showed no mercy to the other six teams competing in the meet. The freshmen were the ones to take charge, dominating in their first collegiate meets. Polonsky cleared the competition in the 400 IM, winning in 4:17.04. She was joined by her classmate, freshman Mia Kragh, who placed first in the 100 butterfly.

Cal coaches were also pleased to see the Bears competing against each other in the 200 free, with five of them, led by Garcia, tapping the wall less than a quarter of a second behind each other. The last individual race of the night was stolen by Stadden, finishing the 100 back in 54.20.

The Bears slept well Friday, especially after the day concluded with another pool record in the 800 free relay. Senior Robin Neumann, Stadden, Spitz and Ivey dove into the water and, after finishing with a time of 7:18.37, emerged victorious.

Saturday’s winning streak appeared no different than Friday’s, as the Bears led two teams in beating the pool record in the 400-medley race. Cal’s A relay, consisting of Stadden, Rajic, Kragh and Ivey earned first place in the time of 3:39.17. Meanwhile, Cal’s B team comprising freshman Alicia Henry, freshman Lizzy Cook, Garcia and Spitz tapped the wall in 3:42.19.

Other notable races include junior Sarah DiMeco’s 1650 free race, in which she was a second away from posting a new pool record, Stadden’s 200-back race that she finished in 1:57.59 and Ivey’s win in the 100 free.

In the last meet of the Chick-fil-A Invitational, Grantriis, Mazurek, Garcia and Ivey conquered the 400 free relay in 3:19.64, nearly two seconds faster than the 2019 pool record.

Cal’s momentum will propel the team into its next meet against Virginia on Oct. 15 at the Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley.

Alisa Steel covers women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].