Cal’s Dynamic Duo: Abbey Weitzeil, Amy Bilquist Lead Record Night for Bears

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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When Amy Bilquist and Abbey Weitzeil chose Cal, they knew national-championship performances were in their future.

The duo has been part of a handful of relay titles, but there was always the sense that their best was still ahead. There was always an injury or something in the way of their best individual performance.

Until Thursday.

Weitzeil and Bilquist became Cal’s dynamic duo on the first full night of the 2019 NCAA Division I women’s championships in record-breaking fashion.

They teamed up to win two relays and each turned in the best individual performance of their careers — all in the same night. And in the team race, it has the Golden Bears just a half point behind Stanford heading into Day 3 (173.5-173).

“We have really wanted to show everyone what Cal can do,” Weitzeil said. “We have had up and down years with injuries and such. We just wanted to do it for each other and show everyone what we can do. Having it pay off — so far at least — has been pretty awesome.”

It started with a dynamic relay performance to open the session, as Maddie Murphy, Katie McLaughlin, Bilquist and Weitzeil broke the American record in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:24.55.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Knowing I can trust everyone on that relay to do what I know they can do so I can bring it home was awesome,” Weitzeil said.

Bilquist split a 20.87 before Weitzeil stunningly split a 20.49.

“That relay is my baby. Freshman and sophomore year, we won it. Junior year, got second. It is so great to come back as a senior (and win). I knew we had it in us,” Bilquist said.

“It is a hard feeling to explain when you just turn around and see your teammates, you make eye contact, and you just know what is about to happen. Watching Maddie dive in, I knew we had it. We all feed off of each other’s energy. It has been awesome.”

The duo carried that momentum into the 50 free. If Weitzeil’s relay split was stunning, her 50 free was a step past stunning as she set the American and NCAA record in dominant fashion, finishing in 21.02.

It crushed her previous American record of 21.12 and Erika Brown’s NCAA mark of 21.15.

“I have been waiting for that for a long time,” Weitzeil said. “To have it finally pay off is awesome.”

But the bigger smile might have been on Bilquist’s face after finishing sixth in the same event, clocking a career-best 21.52.

“I wanted to be in the ‘A’ final all four years, and I finally did it,” Bilquist said. “I went a best time in prelims and finals, and I can’t tell you the last time I did that. It felt really good.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

It was one of those moments in a meet that could go overlooked, but the rest of her team knew what that best time and final meant to Bilquist.

“I train next to her all the time. She works so hard and has gone through so many things. Being able to have her make the ‘A’ final with me — we call that a party heat when we have more than one —that is our goal, and it was so awesome for that to pay off, especially her senior year,” Weitzeil said.

If that wasn’t a good enough night for the Bears, Weitzeil and Bilquist teamed McLaughlin and Ema Rajic to win the 400 medley relay to close the session with a pool record 3:25.24.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Cal is in the hunt for the NCAA title despite missing the points of national champion Kathleen Baker, who opted to turn professional after her junior year.

“We just try to focus on ourselves. A lot of people say, ‘Oh you are missing Kathleen and all of those points,’ but she was more than just points. She was a teammate and was awesome in every aspect.

“It is hard to fill that gap, but we just have to look at it a different way. It is not filling a gap. No one is Kathleen. It is rallying around what we have now and being in the present with this team.”

It is working.

If the Bears can continue to ride this momentum, this could be one of the closest NCAA meets in history.

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3 years ago

Way to go Bears! Incredible! ???

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3 years ago

Way to go!!

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awesome job ladies!