Cal Women's Swimming and Diving are Pac-12 Champions, earn first team title since 2015!
The Golden Bears win 12 Pac-12 individual and relay titles this weekend
For all 4 days of this 2021 Pac-12 Swimming Championships in Houston (the divers were in Tucson, Arizona), it has been a Cal vs. Stanford shootout. The top-ranked Cal Bears, seeking their first Pac-12 team title since 2015, faced only a small 26.5 point deficit (essentially a 3rd place finish in an event) heading into Saturday. While Stanford had an extra top-8 finisher than Cal in the 1650-yard freestyle (no prelims for this event), a strong Saturday morning preliminary session by the Golden Bears placed 10 A-Finalists compared to Stanford’s 8 A-Finalists.
The team championship race was basically even between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal going into the final evening session. Stanford got the win in the 1650-yard freestyle, but Cal answered with a 1-2-4 finish in the 200-yard backstroke (the stroke that has been Cal’s specialty for the pasts two decades) to take the team lead. That lead was solidified by a 1-2-4-5 finish in the 100-yard freestyle. The Golden Bears then added another individual win, Rachel Klinker for the 200-yard butterfly and another relay win, 400-yard freestyle relay, to close out this meet on some high notes.
This is your final team standings:
Washington State 533
The Golden Bears won their 5th ever Pac-12 Women’s Swimming and Diving team championship. Better yet, the Bears snap the 4-year winning streak by Stanford. Under head coach Teri McKeever, the Bears have also won the Pac-12 team title in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015. In three of those four years (2009, 2012, 2015), the Cal Bears claimed the NCAA team championship as well.
For the 2021 Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships, the Cal Bears were victorious in 12 out of the 18 swimming events of this meet, including all 5 relays (double the points). Every Cal Bear contributed valuable points across multiple events, particularly with many teams bringing fewer swimmers to this meet.
Junior Isabel Ivey won all three individual events that she entered: 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard backstroke, and 100-yard freestyle. Swimmers are only allowed to race in 3 individual events, otherwise, Ivey could have possibly also won the 50-yard freestyle on Thursday. Additionally, Ivey swam in 4 of Cal’s 5 Pac-12 winning relays - the butterfly leg of the two medley relay and the anchor leg of the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays. Understandably, Ivey was named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet.
The strong Cal Bears squad also got individual victories from Alicia Wilson (200-yard individual medley), Robin Neumann (200-yard freestyle), Isabelle Stadden (200-yard backstroke), and Rachel Klinker (200-yard butterfly). It was the first Pac-12 individual title for all of these student-athletes.
The strength of this Cal team was definitely their ability to score points in multiple events, both in their allotted 3 individual events and the relays. Alicia Wilson, a good bet to represent the United Kingdom at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, got two second-place finishes in 400y IM and 200y backstroke in addition to her 200y IM victory. Robin Neumann, a Dutch “Calympian”, contributed a 2nd-place in 100y freestyle and 5th-place in 500y freestyle in addition on top of her 200y freestyle victory. Isabelle Stadden, in her very first Pac-12 championships, added a pair of 2nd-places in 200y IM and 100y backstroke to go with the 200y backstroke triumph. Sophomore Rachel Klinker contributed a 3rd in 100y butterfly and 7th in 500y freestyle as well as that 200y butterfly title.
Ema Rajic earned two second-place finishes in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke. She added a 10th place finish in 200-yard IM. Rajic swam the breaststroke legs of both of the medley relays.
Ayla Spitz (3rd in 500y Free, 2nd in 200y Free, 4th in 200y Back), Sarah Dimeco (2nd in 1650y Free, 6th in 400y IM, 6th in 500y Free), Eloise Riley (3rd in 50y Free, 5th in 100y Free, 6th in 200y Free), Elise Garcia (4th in 100y Free, 7th in 50y Free, 9th in 100y Fly), Ali Harrison (6th in both 100y and 200y Breast) all made multiple A-Finals to score valuable points. Emily Gantriis (7th in 200y Free) and Tea Laughlin (4th in 100y Back, 9th in 200y Back) also made one A-Final apiece. All of them are threats to score NCAA points in multiple events in 3 weeks.
Given the close nature of this meet against Stanford, other Cal swimmers such as Natalie Tuck, Mara Allen, Alexa Skorus-Neely, Emma Davidson, Isabella Riley, and Elizabeth Bailey were pivotal with both their consolation and bonus final points as well as the loud vocal support to their teammates in a meet without any fans.
Senior diver Briana Thai earned some much-needed diving points by making the A-Final of all 3 diving events, including a podium (3rd place) in the 1-meter springboard. Freshman Kayla Haigh and sophomore Cassie Graham are fellow divers that gained valuable experiences and few diving points.
The Cal Bears really took advantage of having a full squad for this season. Stanford is missing both Regan Smith, who is deferring before starting her collegiate career to prepare for the Olympics, and Taylor Ruck, a Canadian Olympian who was fantastic two years ago but have sat out the last two seasons. It could be even more exciting to see how the two squads stack up next year at full strength IF all the key swimmers come back to college swimming. Recent changes in NCAA rules have made it slightly easier for Olympians to earn some money for breaking records without losing their amateur eligibility.
Up next for the Cal Bears will be the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships from Greensboro, NC (the site of Cal’s last NCAA team championship) from March 17th-20th. It will likely be a two-team race for the team title between the Cal Bears and Virginia Cavaliers. Both teams surely will drop time between the conference championships and the national championships. The money question is by how much. Teri McKeever’s Golden Bears are seeking the 5th NCAA team championship in program history.
We will have coverage of the Cal Men at the Pac-12 Swimming Championships over the next few days (February 28th - March 3rd). Tyler Wesson, a sophomore transfer from Cal Poly, was the lone Cal diver that competed in the already completed diving portion of the Pac-12 championships.
A sleuth of Golden Bears, both women and men, will likely be racing at the next TYR Pro Swim Series meet between the Pac-12 and the NCAA championships. San Antonio, TX will host the long course meter event from March 3rd to 7th. These long course meter races are in the same format as the upcoming Olympic Trials in June and the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer. It is not a mere coincidence that the Pac-12 championships this year at Houston are so geographically close to that San Antonio meet.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
You can find a more detailed recap of the 21 events of the 2021 Pac-12 championships below.
Cal sophomore Sarah Dimeco shaved 7.5 seconds from her seed time to finish as the runner-up with a time of 16:06.45 in the swimming equivalent of the mile. Dimeco was sandwiched by two Stanford Cardinal: Morgan Tankersley who took the win and Isabel Gormley who finished 3rd.
Cal freshman Isabelle Stadden’s high school time last year would have won this race. She picked up her first Pac-12 title by beating teammate junior Alicia Wilson. Cal also got a 4th place finish from sophomore Ayla Spitz.
Another dominant event for the Cal Bears solidified the team lead. Isabel Ivey won her 3rd event of this meet by finishing ahead of teammate Robin Neumann, the Dutch Olympian. Elise Garcia earned 4th and Eloise Riley took 5th.
Ema Rajic had the lead for the first three-quarters of this race, but had to settle for 2nd behind USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler. Rajic does set yet another personal record as well as staying in front of a pair of Stanford Cardinal. The Bears also got valuable points from Ali Harrison who finished 6th.
With the 3rd-best time in the country this year, sophomore Rachel Klinker earns her first Pac-12 title by dominating the field. She becomes the 5th different Cal Bear to win an individual event at this meet.
Cal Bears have a very healthy 62.5 point lead going to the final relay.
400-yard freestyle relay
Make that 5-for-5 for the Golden Bears in relays! Cal cap this meet with yet another victory. Eloise Riley, Robin Neumann, Elise Garcia, and Isabel Ivey (of course!) easily won this final race over Stanford.
Congratulations to senior Brianna Thai on her 5th-place finish on the platform diving event!
400-yard individual medley
Stanford piled on the points here with 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th place finishes, which gave Stanford a 119.5-point edge over the Bears. Junior Alicia Wilson finished in 2nd, just .12 seconds off her career-best. Sophomore Sarah Dimeco added in a 6th-place finish in an attempt to mitigate the points onslaught.
Just an event later, Cal hit back hard. Junior Isabel Ivey led the way with a time of 50.87 seconds, just 0.05 seconds off her personal-best. Sophomore Rachel Klinker set a new personal-best by .16 seconds with her time of 51.79 seconds, after improving on her previous best by .72 seconds in prelims this morning. Junior Elise Garcia, senior Ali Harrison, and senior Elizabeth Bailey finished in 9th, 14th, and 22nd place, respectively. Congratulations to all on their incredible performance!
Cal outscored Stanford by 30 points in their effort to bridge the 908-856.5 point advantage Stanford has. Senior Robin Neumann won her first career individual conference title after many 3rd-place finishes throughout her time as a Bear. Sophomore Ayla Spitz, who hit a new personal-best, sophomore Eloise Riley, and freshman Emily Gantriis helped to round out the A-final. Freshman Mara Allen added 13 points in her B-final finish. Congratulations to Neumann on her first individual title!
Junior Ema Rajic knocked down the school record twice today en route to her second-place finish with a time of 58.45 seconds. Senior Ali Harrison finished in sixth. A handful of C-final swims helped to mitigate Stanford’s 3 A-finalists. Congratulations to Rajic on her awesome achievement!
Cal continued to prove its legendary backstroke tradition. Junior Isabel Ivey and freshman Isabelle Stadden were stroke-for-stroke in an incredible race that came down to a difference of .04 seconds, with Ivey just barely out-touching Stadden. This was Ivey’s second win of the evening. Notably, freshman Tea Laughlin edged out her personal-best by 0.07 seconds to earn 4th-place. This brought Cal within 19.5 points of first-place Stanford. Congratulations to Ivey on the incredible double victory tonight!
200-yard medley relay
The quartet of Isabelle Stadden, Ema Rajic, Isabel Ivey, and Emily Gantriis won the final event of the evening with a time of 1:35.18, which gives Cal 4 relay wins in 4 relay events. With Ivey and Stadden swimming in the previous event, it’s uncertain exactly how fresh their legs were (note: this event is usually raced on the first night of the competition). Nevertheless, Cal will have to drop a considerable amount of time to chase down UVA, who set the NCAA record at 1:32.93 just last weekend, and NC State at the NCAA Championship in a couple weeks. This brings the score to 1091 for Stanford and 1074.5 for Cal.
200-yard freestyle relay
Golden Bears won their 3rd relay of the meet to close Day 2. Eloise Riley, Emily Gantriis, Elise Garcia, and Isabel Ivey got the job done with a time of 1:26.84 ahead of Stanford and USC.
The 50-yard freestyle is always a crazy short race. This one was no different. Cal sophomore Eloise Riley finished in a 3-way tie for 2nd place with a time of 22.24 behind a surprising winner in Washington State’s Chloe Larson. Elise Garcia took 8th. Cal freshman Emily Gantriis who had a poor morning rebounded to win the C-Final with a time of 22.23; yes, that time would have placed her 2nd if she had made the A-Final.
Unfortunately, between Ivey not swimming this event, Gantriis having a bad prelim swim, and Garcia not having the best final swim, the Golden Bears fell about 55+ points short of the psych sheet scoring. For Gantriis and Garcia, this valuable learning experience may hopefully help them at the NCAA championships.
200-yard individual medley
Golden Bears went 1-2 as Junior Alicia Wilson won her first Pac-12 title with freshman Isabelle Stadden 2nd. The UK Olympic hopeful Wilson had the 4th best time in the country with her time of 1:53.65. Ema Rajic finished 2nd in the B-Final. The C-Final also saw two Bears finished 1-2 with Tea Laughlin and Natalie Tuck touching the wall ahead of the field.
This was Cal’s 3rd win at this meet.
Cal sophomore Ayla Spitz kept pace with the favorite Brooke Forde for the first 2 third of the race before falling behind the Stanford duo of Forde and Tankersley. Spitz did shave nearly 2.5 seconds off her prelim time to finish 3rd. Robin Neumann, Sarah Dimeco, and Rachel Klinker finished 4th, 6th, and 7th, respectively. Freshman Mara Allen won the C-Final.
Brianna Thai made another Pac-12 diving A-Final in the morning and took 4th place in the afternoon. The two younger Cal divers do score points for their 18th and 20th place finish, but there were also just 20 divers competing.
800-yard freestyle relay
Cal kicked off the first night of competition with the 800-yard freestyle relay victory, beating Stanford by nearly 3 seconds. Their time of 6:55.99 should slot in behind Virginia as the 2nd-best time in the country. They’ll need to make up 1.68 seconds at the NCAA Championship in a few weeks, ideally without substituting star junior Isabel Ivey so that she can stay on the other 4 relays where her sprint prowess will be more impactful. Congratulations on the victory to the quartet of senior Robin Neumann, sophomore Ayla Spitz, sophomore Rachel Klinker, and junior Alicia Wilson!
400-yard medley relay
With the second relay event of the night, the Cal squad of freshman Isabelle Stadden, junior Ema Rajic, junior Isabel Ivey, and freshman Emily Gantriis earned the second title for the Bears of the evening with their time of 3:26.70. Stadden kicked things off on the backstroke leg with a new personal best by 0.37 seconds. Rajic, Ivey, and Gantriis each followed Stadden with the field’s best split for their respective strokes. Their time is good for 2nd in the country behind Virginia’s 3:26.25 last weekend. Congratulations to the quartet on their victory!
Shoutout to senior Brianna Thai for taking 3rd-place and freshman Kayla Haigh on 14th-place, earning Cal a very valuable 40 points in the conference championship. Keep up the great work!