UVA Women Edge Out Cal In Season Opener

by Emma Edmund 46

October 15th, 2021 AAC, College, News, Pac-12

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.

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1 year ago

UVA did that without 5th year swimmers… imagine if they still had Paige Madden. Also, their 2 Olympians in the 200IM and other Olympian in the 400IM did not swim the 200IM… dang!!

Ledecky will go under 8 minutes in the 800
Reply to  2Cents
1 year ago

It’s normal for good swimmers to swim off events in in-season dual meets

1 year ago

I always thought the medley this year would be Alex Alexis Kate Gretchen but this one is🔥 crazy versatility. Pretty sure Alex has said fly is her weakest stroke?

Reply to  Swimmerj
1 year ago

I thought that was interesting, too. A Walsh’s weakest stroke is definitely fly. If Cuomo gets back in better form she goes almost 8-9 tenths faster than Walsh’s fly split so I would think she’d sub in for the fly leg. She also swam the fly leg on their American Record relay last year at ACCs.

Reply to  lightning
1 year ago

Cuomo will probably be on the relay end of the year, she is a great taper swimmer.

1 year ago

The Walsh sisters and Emma Weyant are insane. I wonder if Emma’s little sister will end up picking UVA too.

1 year ago

Go bears!

Go bears
1 year ago

Was at the meet yesterday evening and the race of the night was the Ayla Spitz vs Emma Weyant showdown in the 500 free, the crowd was absolutely electric! Great swims from both teams!!!!! Go bears!

Wave 1.5 Qualifier
1 year ago

Wenger is an unsung hero for UVA.

Reply to  Wave 1.5 Qualifier
1 year ago

26.5 split and 58.5 are dirty.

ACC fan
Reply to  Wave 1.5 Qualifier
1 year ago

But somehow at the big meets Wenger faulters Everytime

Reply to  ACC fan
1 year ago

She might’ve lost a few close ones but her swims have not been bad. Having to race Sophie Hansson at all the big meets is not exactly an easy spot.

Reply to  ACC fan
1 year ago

At big meets she has to hold back those extra dolphin kicks. Doesn’t matter if she gets called for it in season (not that those things ever get called at dual meets anyway)

1 year ago

G Walsh and Douglass 🤯

1 year ago

Douglass can drop a 21.3 split anywhere, anytime it seems, sheesh