The Bears dominated the pool this past week at the Pac-12 Championships, placing third overall behind Stanford and USC. Cal finished with a score of 1260.5, compared to USC’s 1267.5, and Stanford’s 1725.5.
The blue and gold swept the individual medley events as sophomore Leah Polonsky won both the 200-yard medley and the 400-yard medley. This was Polonsky’s first-ever Pac-12 title, which she earned with a time of 1:54.02 for the 200 medley and 4:05.27 for the 400 medley.
Polonsky did not start off with great split times in events such as the 800 freestyle relay. However, she was able to quickly turn that around after getting into a rhythm, picking up her time for the individual medley events that were to come.
“I can’t even describe the feeling (of winning) because it was pretty amazing,” said Polonsky. “Sitting next to (Isabelle) Stadden, being there, present in the moment, feeling powerful in the water and just seeing that I can go fast and actually doing it was so nice.”
The athletes also wanted to go into the tournament feeling connected with the water, so such a showing for Polonsky was certainly encouraging.
Swimming limits the visibility of the other strong swimmers in the pool, so Polonsky really had to focus and not think about how she would place. Nevertheless, she said she managed to feel confident, being surrounded by her coaches and teammates.
“It’s something that really helped me, especially after the first day when I won the 200 IM,” Polonsky said. “I got more excited to do better not just for me, but for them too. I was more thankful for everything they’ve done for me and how they helped me throughout the season.”
The Bears also won the Pac-12 title for the 200-medley relay. The relay team consisted of junior Stadden, junior Jade Neser, sophomore Mia Kragh and sophomore McKenna Stone. They managed to take the win with a final time of 1:35.40, beating their seed time by .22 of a second.
In addition to the three wins, Cal podiumed at numerous events at the championships, including the 800, 400 and 200 freestyle relays, the 100 and 200 butterfly, the 100 and 200 backstroke and the 400 medley relay.
Stadden placed second in the 200 backstroke, with Annika McEnroe right behind her for third place. Stadden finished at 1:48.75, which beat her previous record for the event. Stanford’s Claire Curzan reached the wall 1.32 seconds before Stadden.
At the Championships, the Bears were yet again not able to participate in the diving events as their divers were still on the boards for injuries. Cal is hoping to turn the diving sector of the program around in the next year with the efforts that the diving coach, Pei Lin, is making to bring in a new crew of women.
As for the swimmers, many on Cal’s team were looking to have this championship be their launching point into the NCAA Championships.
Cal is hoping to have around 13 of their swimmers be able to represent the program in Knoxville, Tennessee in the coming weeks
“We did have a group that took care of that business. They’re at Pac-12s, and all of us, all of our women, are in a spot where they want to impact our team at the highest level,” Acting Director of swimming and diving David Durden said. “I thought our women swam great and set us up well for the NCAA.”