The icy waters of Minnesota may melt away as the hot-streaking Bears prepare to travel north for the Minneapolis Invitational, their largest meet of the season yet. The meet will begin Wednesday, Dec. 1 and conclude Saturday, Dec. 4. With Cal’s forward-looking mindset, it took every chance in its season to prepare for this meet — and it is nearing time for the Bears to reap the fruits of their labor.
Following Cal’s win in Salt Lake City against Utah in early November, the Bears have laid low and trained for the Minnesota Invitational. Against the Utes, Cal exceeded its expectations and raced flawlessly despite the challenge that Salt Lake City’s altitude presented. This race maximized the Bears’ confidence levels and brought the team closer to resemble a family.
“The team is gaining confidence,” said assistant head coach Dani Korman. The (Utah) race was more about race strategy, so this was a good opportunity to focus less on time and more on supporting each other.”
Not only did the Bears focus on their strokes and supportive environment while competing in Utah, but they also looked ahead to the Minnesota Invitational. The race was meant to prepare Cal for its largest meet of the season and gauge its competitive advantages and areas for improvement.
“Minnesota is a bigger meet, so we talked about the process there,” Korman said.
Seven teams, including Cal, will compete at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center. The Bears will make their first splashes against the other six teams — Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Harvard, Arizona and Wisconsin — for the first time this season, presenting them with new competition and more opportunities to race against the nation’s best swimmers.
In past races, the Bears have often finished off their races like a school of fish, coming in one after the other to touch the wall. However, because of the number of teams in Minnesota, this trend will be challenging to continue.
Known as “the fastest Division I invite in the country,” the Bears have something special to look forward to in their races.
Texas presents the greatest challenge for Cal. The Longhorns beat the Bears out for third place at the 2020 NCAA championships by 54.5 points, a safe margin. Michigan, another competitor at the upcoming Minnesota Invitational, finished with 65.5 points fewer points than Cal and earned sixth place.
Wednesday through Saturday, Cal will have its longest stretch of competition and races yet this season. Additionally, excluding the 2020 Pac-12 and NCAA championships, the Invitational will be the largest event the Bears have competed in since the beginning of the pandemic. In this landmark meet, they will have the chance to prove their talent on a national level for the first time, a great opportunity for these passionate athletes.
While the Bears transition into the heat of their season’s schedule, it is expected that they will continue to make Cal fans proud and cheering across the nation.
Alisa Steel covers women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].