By James Hemker
Tomorrow, the women’s swimming and diving team (6-0, 6-0 Pac-12) will compete in their final dual meet of the season across the Bay against arch-rival Cal (7-1, 6-0). The Cardinal are ranked third in the country, while the Golden Bears sit at fourth, marking the fifth consecutive year both teams enter the meet in the top five.
Stanford has had Cal’s number for the past three years, including a huge 186-110 victory last year during Senior Day. Still, this is not a meet the Cardinal will take lightly; California is by far the best team Stanford has faced all year. Their only loss came against top-ranked Texas early in the season, and the Golden Bears’ margins of victory have been comparable to Stanford’s. Despite the challenge, the team is enthusiastic for the meet.
“We definitely get the most excited for Cal every year, since it’s our rival and since we know this is the team that can push us the most,” senior Kim Williams said. “We talk a lot about building on every dual meet and how each one is a little more intense. This is our last one, and we want to come out with some fast swims and a win, too.”
Cal matches up against Stanford better than any other team in the Pac-12. On the back of junior Abbey Weitzeil, a two-time Olympic medalist, Berkeley’s sprinting core is as good as any in the country. The Golden Bears also have very strong relays, proven by the fact that all five of their relay teams have made the NCAA A-cut (Stanford has made three).
This meet is a perennial representation of the pinnacle of women’s collegiate swimming. Both teams are the only remaining schools that are undefeated in Pac-12 competition this season, and either the Cardinal or the Golden Bears have won the Pac-12 for the last nine years. The two programs also combine for six of the last 10 NCAA championships.
The two schools enter this meet after they each collected wins over UCLA and USC two weeks ago. Senior Ella Eastin had her best dual meet showing of the year against USC, breaking three individual pool records in Avery. Junior Katie Drabot and freshman Taylor Ruck each had big weekends as well, winning three events a piece.
Tomorrow will also mark the end of the dual meet careers for seniors on both sides of the pool, meaning that the Golden Bears will be celebrating. Williams said, “It’s their senior day. We got hyped up for ours, and we know that it brings a new level of energy to the table. We are going to try to feed off their energy and pretend the band is playing for us.”
As for whether the Cardinal seniors are getting misty-eyed about their final meet, senior Leah Stevens laughed, “This is our last dual meet, and I just realized it right now. I think we are more focused on putting up a good fight and swimming for each other. It’s less about ourselves and our journey and more about the team’s journey.”
This Bay Area brawl will start in Spieker Aquatics Center at noon, and it will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.