The rivalry between the Stanford Cardinals and the Cal Golden Bears is long and illustrious.
While I believe Stanford’s confidence level is too high to topple, the Cal Golden Bears will surely give them a run for their money. Cal’s roster, very much like Stanford’s, is a mix of grizzly veterans and young (finally healthy) cubs.
Cal is led by Farida Osman (Egyptian Olympian and sprinting guru), Noemie Thomas (Canadian Olympian and top tier flyer), Kristen Vredeveld (and I thought I had a difficult last name), and Celina Li (IM/Breast).
Every member of Cal will need to step their game up to overcome the Cardinals. Cal has arguably the best Sophomore class in swimming highlighted by Kathleen Baker (Silver in 100 Back in Rio), Amy Bilquist (who had stress fractures and a bacterial infection), and Katie McLaughlin (who had to overcome a neck injury as a Freshman). Now fully healthy, expect them to kick it into high gear and prove it.
Baker is the real stud of the group — she should be in the Top 5 most points scored individually (200 IM, 100 Back, 200 Back + 4 Relays). Bilquist was my favorite Freshman going into NCAA’s last year but obviously injuries and illnesses took their toll. Yet, at OT’s, she still improved more than every other swimmer except one. She will be on multiple podiums this year.
Cal has the same issue as Stanford: no 100 Breaststroker ranked in the Top 16. Which is why Abbey Weitzeil has been swimming the breaststroke leg on the 2 MR. We shall see if that sticks.
One impressive, under-the-radar Freshman to keep an eye on is Maddie Murphy who broke 22 in the 50 at Pac 12’s. She will be most helpful on the 2 FR. Speaking of relays, Cal has a lot of choices. It’ll be interesting if the stick with their Pac 12 lineups or if they move people around a bit.