Feb. 15, 2003
A pool record fell and great performances were given by both Bay Area teams as the No. 9 California women's swimming team (8-3, 4-2) fell to No. 7 Stanford (8-2, 4-1), 154-146, Saturday afternoon in front of its largest crowd of the season at Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley.
The Golden Bears won seven of the day's 16 events and held a strong lead throughout the meet until the final diving event was scored. Cal just edged out Stanford 134-130 going into the final two events-the 200 IM and 400 free relay. Junior Natalie Griffith placed second for the Bears in the 200 IM (2:02.82), but the Cardinal took the first and third places to grasp its first lead of the meet, a 143-140 score going into the last event.
Cal needed a win in the 400 free relay to capture the victory, but the team of junior Danielle Becks, freshman Cheryl Anne Bingaman and seniors Michelle Harper and Staciana Stitts fell just short of the Cardinal's top team and placed second with a 3:24.48 finish.
Despite the loss, Cal's head coach Teri McKeever was impressed with her team's performances.
"Both teams fought really hard and every swimmer competed well. There were a lot of gutsy performances out there," said McKeever. "Everyone can definitely walk away from this meet with their head held high."
The meet was an enjoyable experience for all involved, but will be perhaps most memorable to the three Cal seniors that were competing in their final collegiate dual meet. Senior swimmers Stitts and Harper and diver Christina Flynn were honored at the beginning of the meet.
Stitts, Cal's top breaststroker of all-time, finished second to Stanford's NCAA Champion breaststroker Tara Kirk, in both the 100 breast (1:01.53) and 200 breast (2:14.94). Stitts has automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in both of those events and will compete against Kirk both there and at the Pac-10 Championships in two weeks. Stitts also helped Cal to its opening victory in the 400 medley relay (3:41.20). Harper notched a runner-up finish in the 50 free (23.46) and placed third in the 100 free (51.90). Both of those times were her best of the season. Flynn was Cal's best diver of the day and finished fourth in both the one-meter (254.025) and three-meter (275.175) events.
Junior Natalie Coughlin, one of the five finalists for the 2003 Sullivan Award, recorded the fastest time in the 200 fly ever swam at Spieker Aquatics Complex, winning the event with a time of 1:55.03. Former Cardinal, Misty Hyman, set the previous mark of 1:55.89 in 1999. Earlier this season, Coughlin set an American, U.S. Open and NCAA record in the 200 fly with a time of 1:51.91. Coughlin also helped bolster the Bears' score by garnering victories in the 200 free (1:49.26) and 100 fly (52.82). She also swam the butterfly leg on Cal's victorious 400 medley relay team.
Sophomore Lisa Morelli was another swimmer that gave the Bears a boost against the Cardinal. Morelli won the 1000 free with a personal best time of 10:03.57. Morelli's previous fastest time of the season in the 1000 free had been 10:13.73. She also recorded points for Cal with a third-place finish in the 200 fly (2:02.95) and fourth-place showing in the 200 back with her best time of the season at 2:03.98.
Freshman Helen Silver continues to prove why she is one of the Pac-10's best backstrokers, winning both the 100 back (55.95) and 200 back (1:58.95). Silver has recorded NCAA consideration qualifying marks in both events this year.
Other swimmers with impressive performances for the Bears included Griffith, sophomore Amy Ng and junior Danielle Becks. In addition to her runner-up finish in the 200 IM, Griffith swam her fastest times of the season, notching a third-place finish in the 100 breast (1:04.24) and finished fourth in the 200 breast with a time of 2:18.81. Ng finished third in the 200 back with a season-best time of 2:02.44 and fourth in the 200 IM (2:04.19). Becks was runner-up in the 100 free (51.00) and third in the 50 free (23.66).
Cal now looks forward to hosting the 2003 Pac-10 Women's Swimming Championships in Federal Way, Washington Feb. 27-Mar. 1. Be sure to check www.calbears.com for daily results and meet recaps.