The event of the season for women’s swimming and diving is right around the corner and Cal will be sending 13 swimmers to compete at the NCAA championships in multiple events throughout the week.
The NCAA championships will be hosted in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Bears will be throwing their hat in the ring for the backstroke, butterfly, freestyle, individual medley and relay events. Cal did not send any divers to the national championships this year.
There are nine swimmers for the individual events, including newly-crowned Pac-12 champion Leah Polonksy.
These nine will be split to compete in some of the same events, but some events like the 200 fly and 200 back will boast three swimmers, while three events — the 100 freestyle, 100 fly and 400 individual medley — will see only one member of the blue and gold.
Additionally, Cal will be competing in all five relays.
The relay teams will consist of Isabelle Stadden, Mia Kragh, McKenna Stone, Jade Neser, Eloise Riley and Emma Gantriis, but the exact lineups are yet to be announced.
This will be the first time David Durden will be leading the women’s team at the national championships, despite being with Cal for 16 years. As the acting director for swimming and diving, overseeing both the men’s and women’s teams, the 2020 Team USA Olympic head coach took over the women’s program in the summer of 2022.
Following the Pac-12 championships, Durden emphasized reviewing the team’s results in order to prepare for the races ahead.
“Coming off of Pac 12s, there’s a lot of good information and video taken over the three and a half days that we could sit back and evaluate … just trying to hone in on some details,” Durden said.
For many swimmers on the team, the NCAA championship has been the main focus of the season, making this an exciting time for returners and newcomers alike.
This will be Neser and Stone’s first NCAA experience in their careers at Cal; Neser previously swam with Arizona for three years, but has since transferred to Cal and entered the fast lane to a possible championship title.
For returners like Stadden, this will be a chance to once again show off their talent to the nation. Stadden got her lifetime best for backstroke at last year’s event and finished in fourth place in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:49.45.
She is now coming in with a time of 1:48.75 — 0.7 seconds faster than last year. Her biggest opponent, Claire Curzan of Stanford, has an entry time of 01:47.43. In order to hold the reins on the competition, Stadden will need to shave over one second off her time to beat Curzan, who she lost to just last month at the Pac-12 championship.
Stadden will participate in three of the 15 events throughout the weekend, giving her multiple chances to break records.
The championship will begin this week with relay events starting Wednesday and individual events picking up on Thursday.