UVA Women Edge Out Cal In Season Opener

Cal vs Virginia dual meet

October 15, 2021
Spieker Aquatics Complex, Berkeley, California
Short course yard (25 yards)
Full Results
Team scores:
Virginia W defeat Cal W 141-121

In the first-ever dual meet between the two schools, Virginia edged out Cal in the Golden Bears’ first home meet since January 2020.

Though Cal has an impressive depth that allowed them to secure many second- through fifth- places in most events, UVA won 10 out of 14 events. UVA’s impressive output kicks off their NCAA title defense season with a big win over Cal, which finished fourth-place among women’s teams at last year’s national championship meet.

Cal’s performance last season marked its 15th consecutive season with a top-five finish, currently the longest of any program in the country, but it was Virginia that took the number one spot in the CSCAA preseason poll for women’s teams.

This meet was UVA’s official opener, but we’ve already seen their strong newcomers on display during their unscored meet with Georgetown on October 9. Despite not knowing the event they’d swim until they were about to dive in the water at the Georgetown meet, the freshmen won five individual events. At Friday’s meet against Cal, the freshmen again had some remarkable swims, especially from Emma Weyant and Gretchen Walsh.

In general, though, UVA left its mark on the pool — literally, with three pool records. The team began with a pool record in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:34.65, swum by Gretchen Walsh (23.69), Alexis Wenger (26.52), Alex Walsh (23.11), and Kate Douglass (21.33). They defeated the previous record of 1:35.83, set by Cal earlier in 2021. Gretchen Walsh set another pool record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 51.15, defeating Isabel Ivey’s record of 51.52 set earlier this year. And, finally, junior Douglass rounded out the pool record frenzy in the 100 butterfly with a time of 51.51, narrowly lowering Ivey’s old record of 51.54.

Neither team wore technical racing suits for the meet.

In the first individual event of the meet, Weyant, the 2020 Tokyo silver medalist in the 400 IM and U.S. National team member, swam to first place and secured another win for Virginia. Weyant won the 1000 freestyle with a time of 9:52.33. Though Weyant’s swimming prowess is most evident in the 400 IM, she beat the second-place finisher — teammate Maddie Donohoe — by two seconds and the third place finisher, Cal’s Sarah DiMeco, by six seconds. The 1000 was Weyant’s best finish of the night, which might indicate her future this season in distance freestyle events.

But Weyant didn’t match her victory in the 500. Cal junior Ayla Spitz out-touched Weyant by .23 seconds for a winning time of 4:46.83 after a neck-and-neck race between the two swimmers. 

Spitz ended last season with the eighth-fastest 500 time in Cal’s history — 4:38.05 — and finished third at the Pac-12 Championships. She also placed fifth in the 500 freestyle at NCAA Championships. 

The 500, though, is Spitz’s upper freestyle limit, and she usually swims 200-yard events rather than a longer race, like the 1000. Spitz’s later performance in the 200 freestyle at the meet earned her second place behind teammate Ivey, who swam a time of 1:45.27. This was Ivey’s first 200 freestyle swim of the season, though if she had raced the event last weekend at the Chick-Fil-A Invite, she would’ve broken a pool record.

Ivey, Spitz, and Robin Neumann swept the top three spots in the 200 during a display of upperclassmen strength. Ivey’s win in the 200 follows a particularly successful season for the Golden Bear. In 2021, she was named Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year, the 11th Cal student to receive that honor. 

Ivey would fall later in the meet to UVA’s Gretchen Walsh in the 100 freestyle, swimming 49.13 to earn second behind Walsh’s 48.02.

Gretchen and Alex Walsh, the freshman and sophomore sisters, racked up major wins for Virginia. Besides Gretchen’s pool record in the 100 backstroke and her win in the 100 free, Alex won the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:55.07 and the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:53.47.

In the last individual event of the meet, another one of Cal’s upperclassmen, Alicia Wilson, won the 200 IM with a time of 1:59.63. Wilson’s the defending Pac-12 champion in the 200 IM.

Finally, Virginia ended the meet with a win in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:27.82. The members of that relay were Gretchen Walsh (21.88), Alex Walsh (21.91), Lexi Cuomo (22.52), and Douglass (21.51).

On Saturday, the two teams will compete again, but swimming non-traditional events. After that, Cal will take on Pac-12 opponent Utah at the beginning of November, while UVA will return home to swim against Army next week.

Originally posted on SwimSwam.com. Click here to Read More.

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