Isabel Ivey stars for Cal through first two days of NCAA Women's Swimming Championships
Ivey will race in her best event, 200y Free, tonight; Stadden also made 100y Back A-Final
By their lofty standard over the past 1.5 decades, Cal Women’s Swimming is weirdly non-competitive at the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship so far this week at the 1/3 way mark.
Cal was not believed to be a team championship contender like defending NCAA champs Virginia nor Stanford, both squads full of 2021 Tokyo Olympic medalists. Still, one would normally expect to see more Cal Bears make the top-16 of their events to earn team points.
While it is surprising to see so many Bears unable to crack the top-16, this is when I remind everyone how just making the NCAA championship is a big achievement in itself. For the 16 Cal Bears at this meet, this week is not only memories for a lifetime but also experiences for future NCAA national championships in their Cal career for the non-seniors.
Seven of 21 events have been completed in the first two days of the championships. The championships for the next 7 events have been set for tonight.
Cal opened the meet with a 7th in 200y Medley Relay. Stanford and USA star Regan Smith had a missed kick off the wall in her leadoff backstroke leg that Stanford shockingly only finished 10th here.
Then, thanks to a great first leg by senior Isabel Ivey (a split of 1:41.35), Cal took 3rd in the 800y Free Relay.
Special shoutout to Cal freshman Leah Polonsky for pulling the double duty on Wednesday night.
After 5 Bears missed out on the top-16 for 500y Free, Ivey and Polonsky scored more points for Cal in 200y IM. Polonsky finished 12th.
While she was not expected to challenge Virginia’s Alex Walsh (who set a new record) nor Stanford’s Torri Huske for this title, Izzy Ivey kept up with those two for longer than expected and hold on to beat the rest of the field with a new personal record!
With no participants in 50y Free (a surprise) nor 1m springboard diving (not a surprise), Cal closed Thursday with the 11th best time in 200y Free Relay.
A year after COVID changed all the relays to time trials (because the NCAA wanted to limit the number of people on deck so they only used every other lane last year), the NCAA has kept the same format. There was no longer a prelim relay in the morning session to decide who makes the A- or B- Finals. Cal touched the wall 2nd in the 2nd heat behind Missouri in 200y Free Relay but ultimately that was only good for 11th overall behind some times from the first (slowest according to the seed times) heat.
This is the team standings through 7 events (for the top-10 teams):
NC State 99
Ohio State 83
On Friday morning, Cal qualified two A-Finalist and two B-Finalists for tonight.
Isabel Ivey earned the 3rd seed in 200y Free, her best event this year. She will have to battle Stanford’s Canadian Olympic medalist Taylor Ruck and Penn’s Lia Thomas, who made history as the first transgender to win an NCAA title for her 500y Free win on Thursday, for this crown. Teammate Ayla Spitz made the B-Final.
Leah Polonsky just made another B-Final with the 16th best time in 400y IM, just beating her teammate and Great Britain “Calympian” Alicia Wilson who finished 18th. Fellow freshman Mia Kragh just missed out on scoring points in 100y Fly with the 18th best prelim time.
Also in a position to score points for Cal is Isabelle Stadden in 100y Back. She just snatched the last A-Final spot this morning. Stadden should be even stronger in 200y Back on Saturday, where she has the 2nd best seed time.
Saturday could be the best day for Cal. In addition to Stadden in 200y Back, Ivey in 100y Free and Rachel Klinker in 200y Fly could all be A-Finalists.
Cal relays are seeded 11th for both the 400y Medley tonight and 400y Free on Saturday night.
Best of luck to all the Cal Bears! I plan to write a recap on Sunday for this entire meet.