Cal jumps back into second stretch of competition against Arizona, ASU

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Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Few Cal sports teams have achieved the success that the women’s swim and dive team sees yearly. With four NCAA championships and a track record of countless Pac-12 accolades, the Bears have a powerful reputation for catching their prey. 

The fresh start of the new year and the heat of the midseason then begs one question: Will this be the year Cal women’s swim and dive takes home its fifth national championship?

Looking back at the season, the Bears have proven that they are worthy of earning that No. 1 title. As a team, they are riding a winning streak and challenged No. 1 Virginia in a close duel that kept the Cavaliers on their toes, unsure of the victor until nearly the last race. 

Cal’s competitive edge only escalated as they conquered the Utes in Salt Lake City and UC San Diego, its latest triumph. In between these two wins, the Bears took the Minnesota Invitational by storm, leaving with four NCAA A-qualifying times and two first-place finishes. 

The success that the Bears are seeing is no anomaly. In fact, the annual pattern stays true each year: Cal executes flawlessly in its introductory meets, such as the Queen of the Pool meet and the Chick-fil-A Invitational, then dominates against unranked schools and maintains close battles with top-ranking swim programs. Following winter break, Cal jumps back on its winning streak and rides the wave to the Pac-12 championships, where it blows away the competition and earns a top-three placement. 

This pattern extends back at least 10 years, acting as a testament to the continued prowess of Cal’s swimming program. These women are unstoppable, and this weekend will be another source of proof of their talent and skill.

In the Spieker Aquatic Center, the pools are heating up for this weekend. The Bears will be diving into the pool for the first time in 2022, racing against the up-and-coming Wildcats and Sun Devils. 

In a back-to-back schedule, No. 6 Cal is lined up to race against No. 24 Arizona on Friday at 2 p.m. and ASU at 12 p.m. Saturday. In this annual double-dual meet with the men’s team, the Bears will get back into the rhythm of competition and weekly races.

In years past the Bears have conquered these teams, averaging a 80-point margin against both since 2016. Most notably, Cal beat ASU with a score of 181-98 in 2016, and the Bears dominated against Arizona in 2018, earning a 99-point lead with their 195-96 score. If Cal upholds its aforementioned yearly pattern, there is no reason Bears fans should not be excited for another season of success.

However, Arizona has been creeping up the ranks this season, so Cal will have to put its best foot forward and dive in with no hesitation.

The Bears will have to conserve their energy this weekend. Though Cal has had ample practice in long-term meets, such as the Minnesota Invite, it has had a four-week break from competition, which could pose an obstacle for the swimmers. 

Despite the potential hardships the Bears might face, their skills and proficiency will create momentum for the weekend. Once the meet against Arizona is concluded, Cal will have the ability to push through its next races against ASU.

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