Disclaimer: Due to real world work, I have been in Europe for the past 4 weeks and the next 0.5 weeks. I’m taking advantage by doing some traveling and sightseeing at the end of the trip, which coincides with this year’s NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. This post never got finished as I originally had planned. Unfortunately, the updates will be sparse, partly due to the time difference and partly due to me traveling between Venice, Florence, and Paris (yeah, life is hard for me). Nonetheless, it should be an interesting battle between Cal and Stanford that may not be decided until Saturday night. Hopefully, people will use the comment section below to discuss the results in my absence.
Had Cal backstroke superstar Kathleen Baker decides to stay for her senior season, we are probably talking about how much the California Golden Bears are the favorite for their 5th NCAA team title in history. Alas, Baker has turned pro and has been succeeding in the pro circuit while preparing for her shot to be a repeat Olympian in 2020.
On the college scene for 2019, California Golden Bears are still the top threat to dethrone the Stanford Cardinal team that has lost both Katie Ledecky (turned pro) and Simone Manuel (graduated) after two straight NCAA team titles. Sadly, the smart money would still be betting on the Cardinal for a three-peat (a term copyrighted by Pat Riley).
Stanford’s margin is extremely slim, however. A major mistake (relay DQ for Stanford) may drop them behind the Bears.
Stanford has 18 qualified swimmers and 3 divers heading to Austin this week. Cal has just 12 swimmers and 1 diver. Scoring the psych sheet (which is not very accurate given how the top athletes will all drop time and peak at the National Championships) has Stanford with a minuscule 374.5 to 371 lead from swimming. Of course, Stanford will add some diving points (hopefully something manageable like 30-50) too. By the psych sheet, Bears are already picked to win 4 of the 5 relays (double points).
For the Bears to outscore the projection, they will need some great individual efforts. Junior Abbey Weitzeil is already the top pick for 100 Free and 2nd for 50 Free. Bears may need her to win both 50 Free and 100 Free, then also surprises everyone and win 200 Free as well (she did do this at the Pac-12 two weeks ago). Cal sophomore Sarah Darcel may need to surprise and get a top 3 400 IM finish. Swimming both the 200 Free and 100 Fly on the same day, senior Katie McLaughlin needs to make the A-Final in both. Senior Amy Bilquist may need to beat Stanford’s Taylor Ruck in 100 Back yet again, like at the Pac-12. Other past Cal scorers who are legit threats to make A-Finals include sophomoreDutch Olympian Robin Neumann and junior Maddie Murphy. Bears may also need a big lift from early enrollee Isabel Ivey in making 2-3 A-Finals in her first NCAA. While we’re talking optimal situation, maybe senior diver Phoebe LaMay can finally score some diving points by making a couple of B-Finals.
It’s not going to be easy, but still very plausible for the majority of these things to happen this weekend.
Let’s breakdown the events for each day - focusing on Cal vs. Stanford (with apologies to Michigan and Tennessee unless they are the favorites).
Wednesday - Day 1
800 Free Relay:
Top Seed: Cal
Golden Bears set a new school record but it was not enough to chase down a Katie Ledecky-less Stanford squad. Stanford freshman (and Canadian Olympian) Taylor Ruck had a great swim to put the Cardinal on top at the meet opening event.
Nonetheless, it’s a new school record for Cal’s Dutch sophomore Robin Neumann, freshman Isabel Ivey, senior Katie McLaughlin, and senior Amy Bilquist. Interestingly, head coach Teri McKeever opted to not use sprinter but also great 200 free swimmer Abbey Weitzeil in this relay. Weitzeil for Ivey would have made things closer but I don’t think the Bears would have caught Stanford given how great they swam.
Thursday - Day 2
200 Free Relay:
Top Seed: Cal
✅ NCAA record— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 22, 2019
✅ America record@CalWSwim's @maddsmurphh, @KatieMcLaugh1in, @amybilquist, and @AbbeyWeitzeil crushed the 200 free relay with a time of 1:24.55 to take home the title. pic.twitter.com/r5NBEhBQi0
In record time, Cal’s quartet of Maddy Murphy, Katie McLaughlin, Amy Bilquist, and Abbey Weitzeil got the job done with a time of 1:24.55.
Winner: Brooke Forde, Stanford - the daughter of sportswriter Pat Forde won this event in a mild surprise. Former Cal Bear Cierra Runge, now with ASU after a stop in Wisconsin, was a popular pick but placed 4th.
No Cal Bears were in either the A nor B Finals of this event.
Top Seed: Ella Eastin, Stanford
Winner: Beata Nelson, Wisconsin
With Kathleen Baker not able to defend her title, Wisconsin’s Nelson was a mild upset winner over Stanford’s Eastin.
Cal had two swimmers in the B-Final with Personal Records for B-Final winner Izzy Ivey and 11th place (3rd place in B-Final) finisher Keaton Blovad. Ivey and Blovad are underclassmen so the future is bright for the Bears in this event.
Winner: Abbey Weitzeil, Cal
RECAP: What a night at NCAAs! The Bears crush two American records and break a school record on their way to three wins Thursday. Much more racing ahead, starting at 7 am PT Friday. #GoBears https://t.co/9vDhclw3Kc— Cal W Swim & Dive (@CalWSwim) March 22, 2019
Cal junior Olympian set a new American record in winning this event. She bested Tennessee’s Erika Brown, who previously held the NCAA record. Teammate Amy Bilquist took 6th in this event with a personal best.
Cal junior Maddie Murphy won the B-Final of this race.
Congrats to Cal senior diver Phoebe LaMay on being the first Golden Bears to score point in this event in 25 years.
LaMay finished 15th overall.
Even though Stanford will likely win this team title due to their diving, Cal diving is improving.
400 Medley Relay:
Bears make it 3 NCAA titles out of first 7 events by taking the 400 Medley Relay.
Amy Bilquist (Back), Ema Rajic (Breast), Katie McLaughlin (Fly), and Abbey Weitzeil (Free) got the job done in a time of 3:25.24.
Make it a triple! The Bears win their third NCAA title of the night and set a school record in the 400 medley relay, finishing in 3:25.24!! @amybilquist @emarajic @KatieMcLaugh1in @AbbeyWeitzeil #GoBears #EarnIt— Cal W Swim & Dive (@CalWSwim) March 22, 2019
Team Standings after two days (1/3 of the events):
1. Stanford 173.5
2. California 173
3. Michigan 129
4. Louisville 100
5. Texas 87
Day 2 was considered Cal’s best projected day. Stanford’s diving and projected day 4 have them projected to a comfortable 3rd straight team win, but there are plenty more races to be swam.
Nonetheless, Thursday was a tremendous day for Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil and Amy Bilquist to combine to win two relays and also do damage in the 50 Free.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
Day 3 Events:
#8 Women 400 IM Finals
#9 Women 100 Fly Finals
#10 Women 200 Free Finals
#11 Women 100 Breast Finals
#12 Women 100 Back Finals
#13 Women 3 mtr Diving Finals
#14 Women 200 Medley Relay Finals
Day 4 Events:
#15 Women 1650 Free
#16 Women 200 Back Finals
#17 Women 100 Free Finals
#18 Women 200 Breast Finals
#19 Women 200 Fly Finals
#20 Women Platform Diving Finals
#21 Women 400 Free Relay Finals
The national meet runs Wednesday through Saturday, with prelims starting at 7 a.m. PT and finals at 3 p.m. PT.
Finals sessions on Wednesday and Thursday will be streamed on ESPN3.com, while Friday and Saturday finals will air live on ESPNU. All sessions not part of ESPN’s broadcasts will be streamed live on the NCAA Championships microsite at texassports.com.