HOUSTON – Behind a dominating performance on Saturday night that saw the Golden Bears win four of six events, top-ranked California captured the Pac-12 Women's Swimming & Diving Championship for the fifth time in school history.
Over four days at the University of Houston natatorium, Cal won 12 races to tie its 2015 team for the most event wins in school history. Junior Isabel Ivey led the way and was named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet. On Saturday, she added the 100-yard freestyle title to her 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke wins from Friday, while she was also a part of four winning relays. Others to reach the top of the podium on the final night were freshman Isabelle Stadden in the 200 back and sophomore Rachel Klinker in the 200 butterfly. Cal finished off the meet with a win in the 400 free relay to complete a sweep of all five relays at the championships.
"It means a lot," head coach Teri McKeever said of the team title. "I'm just so incredibly proud of this group. I'm proud of every team here, of every coach here. This has been a challenge, like it has for a lot of people. I'm so appreciative to the conference that we were able to pull this off. It means the world to these young women and I'm so thrilled for them."
The final team standings showed Cal with 1,519.5 points, ahead of runner-up Stanford with 1,445. UCLA took third, followed by USC, Utah, Arizona and Washington State. In addition to this year, the Bears' other team crowns came in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
With four swimmers in the 100 free A final, the Bears had a chance to pile up big points early Saturday, and that's exactly what they did with 124 total points. Ivey surged to the lead off the blocks and never let up on her way to the victory, touching the wall in 47.54. Robin Neumann took second in a season-best 47.94, while Elise Garcia was fourth (48.73) and Eloise Riley fifth (48.77).
Stadden led a strong finish for the Bears in the 200 back and earned her first Pac-12 title with a time of 1:50.83 after runner-up finishes in the 200 individual medley and 100 back. Alicia Wilson claimed second place, with Ayla Spitz placing fourth and Tea Laughlin winning the B final.
"I'm really excited," Stadden said in her post-race interview on the Pac-12 Network. "I wasn't expecting it my freshman year, but it's really an honor."
Klinker became Cal's fifth different swimmer to win at Pac-12 individual title when she raced to a victory in the 200 butterfly in a PR 1:52.82. Her time moves her up to No. 3 in the country and No. 4 on Cal's all-time list. Klinker becomes just the third Golden Bear to win the 200 fly at the conference meet, joining Mary T. Meagher (1987) and Noemie Thomas (2015).
"I really didn't know that was coming," Klinker said. "I wanted to get out there and race, and that's exactly what I did. I know I wanted to take it back strong in the second half because I know that's where I usually thrive in the 200 fly. So, I took it out long and strong in the beginning and gave everything else I had coming home."
The Bears capped off the night with a nearly three-second win in the 400 free relay. Riley, Neumann, Garcia and Ivey finished in 3:11.27, good for the third-fastest time in the country this year.
Junior Ema Rajic, who had never placed above ninth in the 200 breast at the Pac-12 meet, came through with a second-place showing in 2:07.19. The result matches her runner-up performance in the 100 breast earlier in the meet. Senior Ali Harrison equaled her high-ever finish in the 200 breast by taking sixth overall.
Sarah DiMeco also posted a runner-up finish in the 1650 free with a lifetime-best 16:06.45, which puts her as the No. 4 performer in Cal history in the event, as well as 11th in the country this year.
In addition to Ivey, Stadden and Klinker, Cal's other Pac-12 individual titles came from Neumann in the 200 free and Alicia Wilson in the 200 IM. Briana Thai led the Bears' divers with top-5 finishes on all three events, including a third-place result on the 1-meter springboard.
Cal returns to the water March 17-20 for the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina.