Cal Women's Swimming's Isabel Ivey and Isabelle Stadden win Pac-12 individual titles
Cal Bears finished 2nd as a team at the 2022 Pac-12 Championships
The Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships returned to its typical location of Federal Way, Washington this year after being in Texas last year. With all the Olympic redshirt swimmers back or starting their collegiate career, this year’s championship was a lot more star-studded. Unfortunately, all those stars swim for Stanford.
Unsurprisingly, Stanford cruised to the 2022 title behind Olympic medalists Brooke Forde, Regan Smith, Torri Huske, and Taylor Ruck. Cal battled USC hard for second place, prevailing only at the conclusion of the final event. Below is the final standings for the 2022 Pac-12 Championships for the eight schools that have a program.
1. Stanford 1671.5
2. Cal 1400.5
3. USC 1373.5
4. UCLA 898
5. Arizona 750.5
6. Arizona State University 669
7. Utah 608
8. Washington State University 372
Along the way, Cal picked up two individual Pac-12 titles. Showing that Cal is still “Backstroke U”, sophomore Isabelle Stadden repeated as the 200y Backstroke champion, just edging Stanford’s Canadian Olympian Taylor Ruck.
Stadden needed a late push in the final 25y to overtake Taylor Ruck for the win. You can check out the finish in the embedded Tweet below.
Earlier in the Pac-12 Championships, Cal’s senior Isabel Ivey won the Pac-12 title in the 200y Freestyle. Ivey dominated the Pac-12 Championship in 2021, winning three individual titles and swam in all four relays that also all won. Ivey actually did not race in the 200y Free last year (that win ended up going to teammate and Dutch Calympian Robin Neumann), but has a change in her swim schedule to maximize her shot at a Pac-12 title against a tougher pool of competitors.
Ivey edged USC’s Transom after the two swimmers were even at the final turn. You can see the last 50y of that swim in the embedded Tweet below.
With this strong swim, Isabel Ivey has the second-best seed time going into the NCAA in the 200y Free race. Ahead of Ivey is Penn’s Lia Thomas, who despite undergoing treatment for an extra year than what the NCAA had originally stated necessary, is the transgender athlete whose participation in collegiate women’s swimming this year has caused a lot of controversies, including ugly comparisons of her performances to the past East German swimmers who were systematically doping. After a lot of debates, Lia Thomas IS cleared to race at the NCAA, and she will race in 200y Free in addition to 100y Free and 500y Free. By the way, one of Lia Thomas’ teammates at Penn, who will also be at the NCAA as a distance swimmer, is one-time Cal Bear Anna Kalandadze. From the Philadelphia suburb originally, Kalandadze transferred much closer to home after a season in Berkeley where she hit the transfer portal prior to the Pac-12 and the NCAA championships in 2019.
Since one of the main goals of the NCAA, particularly for the non-revenue sports, is to provide opportunities for everyone to compete regardless of their background, one should see it as a positive thing that the often ostracized trans community does have a prominent representative in Lia Thomas. Yet some people have this ludicrous notion that she would change her sex just to transform from a mediocre male college swimmer to a top female swimmer. With that said, the guidelines as to when and how a trans athlete can fairly compete are certainly still being formed on the fly and debatable. Sadly but understandably, a lot of these debates in the swimming world have been rather ugly. Maybe it will be a non-issue one day soon, but her presence at the NCAA this year will bring in extra scrutiny to her events, particularly the 200y Free where she could win.
Back to this meet, several other Cal Bears also made a strong push to win Pac-12 titles but fell a bit short. Rachel Klinker finished 2nd in 200y Butterfly behind Stanford’s Regan Smith. Smith actually edged Isabelle Stadden for the Olympic berth in 200m Backstroke last summer, but she opted to race in 200y Fly instead at the Pac-12. Smith was able to best Stadden for the Pac-12 100y Back title.
Ayla Spitz took 3rd in 500y Free, just ahead of teammates Mia Motekaitis and Fanni Fabian. Isabel Ivey touched the wall second behind Stanford’s Torri Huske in 200y IM and behind Huske and Transom for 3rd in 100y Free.
Cal freshman Leah Polonsky took 2nd in 400y IM behind Stanford’s Brooke Forde. Great Britain Calympian Alicia Wilson took 4th in that event. Fellow 2021 Tokyo Calympian Ema Rajic, who represented Croatia, finished 8th in 100y Breast. Polonsky was Cal’s top finisher at 7th in the 200y Breast.
In the relays (double the points both here at the Pac-12 and at the NCAA), Cal finished 3rd in 200y Medley, 2nd in 800y Free, 2nd in 200y Free, 3rd in 400y Medley, and 3rd in 400y Free.
Also earning a major honor is 5th year senior Robin Neumann, who was named the Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The global studies major has a near-perfect 3.95 GPA.
Cal senior and global studies major Robin Neumann has been named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's swimming & diving, the conference announced Friday night. She becomes the third Golden Bear to receive the honor, following Rachael Acker in 2016 and Caitlin Leverenz in 2013.
Neumann, who owns a 3.95 GPA, adds to her long list of academic honors attained at Cal. She is a four-time CSCAA Scholar All-American, a three-time Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll selection and a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, as well as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
Hailing from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Neumann competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She won the Pac-12 200y Free title last year and should again be a multiple event scorer for the Cal Bears at the NCAA. Congratulations to Robin!
Up next for the Golden Bears will be the NCAA Championships, which will be held March 16-19 in Atlanta. Cal is projected to have 13 swimmers eligible for that meet. While Stanford will be the top challenger to the reigning defending champion Virginia there, Cal should again be a top-5 team. The Bears should challenge for a number of individual and relay titles, and IF all goes right, the team title.
This week, starting this evening, is the Cal Men’s turn to defend their Pac-12 team title. The three diving events already took place last week. After the surprising resignation of their newly hired diving coach last fall, Cal has no divers this year and will again be starting the swimming portion of the championship behind their main challenger in Stanford.
Current Team Standings (After the 3 diving events)
Arizona State 31
Check back this weekend (or early next week) to see how many Pac-12 titles the Golden Bears will have claimed and if that includes a 5th consecutive team title.