It has been 21 weeks since the Bears dove into competition at the Queen of the Pool meet in San Luis Obispo. From its first win, Cal has utilized this season to make school history in one of its most competitive, dominating years thus far.
However, beginning Wednesday, this season’s prior meets will have no stake in where the Bears will go and how or if they will move forward. A Pac-12 championships win is the only thing that will guarantee entry into the NCAA championships, and the Bears are ready to take on this challenge.
The Pac-12 championships begin Wednesday, Feb. 23 and stretch until Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington. Currently, the Bears are a top contender for another Pac-12 win, but Stanford has the potential of becoming an untamable force in Washington. As defending champions, the Bears have great pressure and pride waning on their success at the Pac-12s.
Prior to last year’s domination by the Bears, Stanford left with the winning trophy four years in a row. The question now is whether the Cardinal will be able to redeem their legacy as Pac-12 royalty, or if the Bears will continue their winning streak, officially moving Stanford to the No. 2 spot.
Based on their performances in previous meets this season, the Bears are in good shape to compete and conquer most Pac-12 teams. Considering its wins against Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, USC and UCLA, Cal’s intimidations and prior wins already grant it a step forward in the competition. However, its loss to Stanford on Feb. 12 pulled it a step back.
In the 2020-2021 season, the Bears decisively beat Stanford in both the general meets and the Pac-12 championships. Hence, Cal’s loss to Stanford revoked its No. 1 ranking and faith in winning the 2022 Pac-12 Championship. Despite this, Cal’s swimmers have proven themselves worthy opponents, instilling wavering confidence in the higher ranking Pac-12 teams.
Such “worthy opponents” include a majority of the team, but the highlights of Cal’s women’s swim and dive are senior Isabel Ivey, junior Ayla Spitz, sophomore Isabelle Stadden and freshman Leah Polonsky. The four different years of the spotlight swimmers of the season proves the depth of the swimming squad. This indication of the large age range of Cal’s powerful swimmers only gives the team greater experience and potential for long-term success in the future.
In this decisive weekend, Ivey will be carrying the team on her back. As the core of the Bears, Ivey has won at least one race at every meet, earned the Pac-12 swimmer of the month in December 2021 and was named the Pac-12 swimmer of the year in 2021. Her achievements precede herself, and they will shine a spotlight on her success throughout the Pac-12 championships.
This weekend offers a time for Cal to make a new tradition: earning the Pac-12 championship title. After last year’s flawless competition, there is no reason the Bears should not keep the gold coming. As race day approaches, only confidence and skill will determine whether Cal will be flying down to Atlanta for the NCAA championship.
Alisa Steel covers women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].