Cal Set to Host Virginia in Battle of National Swimming Powers

cal-ivey-January 29, 2021; , Berkeley, California, USA; WS: California Golden Bears vs USC Trojans ; ; Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne - KLC Fotos Isabel Ivey,Free/Fly/Back
Isabel Ivey. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne - KLC Fotos

Cal opens its dual-meet season with a home matchup of top-4 finishers from last year’s NCAA Championships, hosting Virginia at 5 p.m. PT Friday at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The meet will feature men’s and women’s teams from both schools, and admission is free.

Last March, Cal placed fourth at the national championships for its 15th consecutive top-5 finish – the longest current streak in the country – while Virginia captured its first NCAA title. During the Bears’ run, the Bears have won four national championships to go with four runner-up finishes and four third-place showings.

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The matchup marks the first-ever dual meet between the Golden Bears and Cavaliers. The meet is also Cal’s first home event with fans since the Bears defeated Arizona State on Jan. 25, 2020 – a span of 629 days.

LAST TIME OUT – BEARS DOMINATE AT CHICK-FIL-A INVITATIONAL: Cal won 16 of 18 swimming events and set pool records in all five relays at the Chick-Fil-A Invitational at Fresno State last weekend. Three Golden Bears captured two events each – freshman Lea Polonsky (200 IM, 400 IM), sophomore Isabelle Stadden (100 back, 200 back) and senior Elise Garcia (50 free, 200 free). For the relays, each record Cal broke lowered a mark set by the Bears in either 2018 or 2019. In the team competition, Cal placed first ahead of six teams, with San Diego State second and UCLA third.

HOW MANY RECORDS THIS YEAR?: During last year’s pandemic-impacted season, the Bears approached each meet as if it could be their last and swam every dual meet in racing suits. As a result, they forced severe editing to the record book with 14 dual-meet and 12 pool records set during the year. Isabel Ivey led the way with new marks in the 100 free, 100 back and 100 fly, while Ema Rajic (100 breast, 200 breast), Ayla Spitz (500 free, 1650 free) and Alicia Wilson (200 IM, 400 IM) also set records in two events.

TERI McKEEVER RECEIVES PARAGON AWARD: Cal head coach Teri McKeever received the Paragon Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame for her outstanding service and contributions towards advancing competitive swimming last weekend. Now in her 30th season leading the Golden Bears, McKeever is one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport, having guided Cal to four NCAA and five Pac-12 team titles, including 15 consecutive top-5 finishes at the national championships. She also served as head women’s U.S. Olympic coach in 2012 and has been on the Olympic staff multiple times, including this past summer in Tokyo. The Paragon Awards have been given annually since 1996 to individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to aquatics in six categories – competitive swimming, water polo, competitive diving, aquatic safety, synchronized swimming and recreational swimming.

NATALIE COUGHLIN EARNS BASHOF HONOR: Natalie Coughlin, one of the most proficient swimmers in history, was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 3. A 12-time Olympic medalist, 20-time World Championships medalist and former world-record holder, Coughlin was a three-time collegiate swimmer of the year for the Bears from 2001-03, She was named the 2003 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year, the 2002 USA Swimming Athlete of the Year and the 2002 Swimming World female World Swimmer of the Year. Coughlin is the third Cal women’s swimmer to join the BASHOF, with the others being Ann Curtis Cuneo (1983) and Mary T. Meagher (2002).

AN OLYMPIC SUMMER IN TOKYO: With eight Golden Bear swimmers plus head coach Teri McKeever earning places at the Olympics, Cal had quite the summer at the Tokyo Games. Alums Abbey Weitzeil (silver, 400m medley relay; bronze, 400m free relay) and Katie McLaughlin (silver, 800 free relay) both brought home medals for Team USA. Weitzeil also reached the finals of the 50m and 100m freestyle events. Current team members Alicia Wilson (Great Britain) and Ema Rajic (Croatia) also made the trip across the Pacific, with Wilson making the final of the 200m individual medley, where she placed eighth. In addition, alums Farida Osman (Egypt), Marina Garcia (Spain), Stephanie Au (Hong Kong) and Camille Cheng (Hong Kong) also competed, while McKeever served as a U.S. assistant coach for the third time (she was head coach in 2012). With the results from Weitzeil and McLaughlin, Cal swimmers and divers have won 52 all-time Olympic medals.

A LOOK BACK AT 2020-21: In a pandemic-affected year in which no meet was taken for granted, the Bears came through with their fifth all-time Pac-12 title, placed fourth at the NCAA Championships for their 15th consecutive top-5 finish, and set a combined 26 Cal dual-meet and Spieker Aquatics Center records. At the NCAA meet, the foursome of Eloise Riley, Emily Gantriis, Elise Garcia and Isabel Ivey won the 200-yard free relay to give Cal its 75th all-time event win at the national championships. The Bears swept all five relays and added seven individual victories at the Pac-12 meet – Ivey (100 free, 100 back, 100 fly), Robin Neumann (200 free), Rachel Klinker (200 fly), Isabelle Stadden (200 back) and Alicia Wilson (200 IM). Ivey, who was also on four winning relays, was named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year, while Teri McKeever was tabbed Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the ninth time.

EMA RAJIC BREAKS BREASTSTROKE MARK AGAIN AND AGAIN: Senior Ema Rajic lowered the school record in the 100 breast four times during the 2020-21 season, ending the year with a best of 58.45 during her running-up finish at the Pac-12 Championships. She broke the mark for the first time at the 2019 NCAA meet (58.97) – her first time under 59 seconds – then produced seven sub-59-second swims in 2020-21.

BEAR SMARTS: The Bears added to their string of scholastic honors last year, earning CSCAA Scholar All-American team honors for the 23rd consecutive term in the spring of 2021 – every time the award has been presented. Individually, nine Bears were named CSCAA Scholar All-Americans, with 10 Cal swimmers and divers making the 2021 Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. In addition, Robin Neumann, with a 3.94 GPA as a global studies major, was named second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American.

— The above press release was posted by Swimming World in conjunction with Cal Athletics. For press releases and advertising inquiries please contact