For the first time since October 2017, the Bears will return to Ute territory to compete in their second dual meet of the season and their first meet out of state. The blue and gold will dive into the water at 11 a.m. Friday, breaking their three-week break from competition.
Cal swim and dive has maintained a successful trajectory this season thus far. In Cal Poly’s Queen of the Pool race, senior Isabel Ivey dominated three of the five races, earning the queen’s throne. After this race, the Bears earned first place at the Chick-Fil-A Invitational, which preceded the Oct. 15 Virginia dual meet. Though the Bears finished behind No. 1 Virginia, the score showed promise for Cal’s success this season.
“Everyone understands what Cal women’s swimming means. The Virginia meet really highlighted that. We were only 20 points behind the NCAA champions,” said senior Robin Neumann.
Because the Virginia meet happened so early in the season, the Bears could estimate how their abilities would hold up against the No. 1 team in the nation and prepare for the challenge.
“With the Virginia meet, there were a lot more high stakes,” Neumann said.
From the Virginia competition, the blue and gold have learned a lot about their team that they will take with them to Utah.
Traveling states away to compete in an environment much different from that of Berkeley’s will be a challenge, but not one the Bears can’t overcome. Their endurance training and preparation will help them put their best foot forward.
“It could be helpful to take away from the Virginia meet that we work really well as a team, and our depth brought us through,” said sophomore Isabelle Stadden. “If we focus on that and have trust and belief in each other’s goals, that will carry us through.”
This upcoming race presents a significant test for Cal: altitude. Salt Lake City, which rests more than 4,000 feet above Berkeley, presents physical challenges that Cal has not yet experienced this season. The effects of altitude on the athletes will be profound.
“(Altitude) is a different factor that affects your body,” Neumann said. “Altitude leads to more pain in the body, so at this meet, we’ll see how we can deal with that, and that’s a big mental game of knowing it will come but figuring out how we will deal with it.”
Despite the altitude, the Bears look forward to racing this meet as if it were any other, with their competitive edge at the forefront of their mind.
For Stadden, this meet is another chance to race for Cal and gain competitive experience.
“I would like to just go for it and see where I am at, especially with the effect of altitude,” Stadden said. “This will be good growth of seeing where I can improve in and practice.”
This race is especially important, as it’s the preceding race to the Minnesota Invitational, the biggest meet of the first half of the season.
“I want to utilize the race and take what I need to work on and apply it to racing and bring those lessons to Minnesota,” Neumann said.
Because of the specific challenges the Utah environment sets out for the Bears, the competition will be both challenging and exciting for Cal fans to observe.
In the penultimate meet of 2021, the Bears are ready to travel across state lines and make their fans proud. After four long years of training and the ups and downs that collegiate swimming brings, Cal will make its return to Utah. Only time will tell if the blue and gold are up to the challenge and how they fare across state lines.
Alisa Steel covers women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].