BERKELEY - CalBears.com caught up with Teri McKeever before the California head coach left for the U.S. National Championships/World Championship Trials in Indianapolis, where several current, former and future Golden Bears will compete for the chance to swim in the upcoming World Championships. The coach discussed a variety of topics, including Caitlin Leverenz, her freshmen, Missy Franklin and the World Championships.
The U.S. championships/trials will run from Tuesday, June 25, to Saturday, June 29, at the Indiana University Natatorium on the Campus of IUPUI. Universal Sports Network will air live coverage of the first two nights of competition at 6 p.m. ET on June 25 and June 26. NBC will broadcast action at 1 p.m. ET on June 29. NBC Sports Network will conclude the meet coverage at 11 p.m. ET on June 29. The swimming portion of the World Championships will take place from July 28-Aug. 4 in Barcelona.
For more information on U.S. trials, please visit the USA Swimming site for the meet by clicking here: http://usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=1418&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en.
CalBears.com: What legacy does Caitlin Leverenz – Cal’s highly decorated NCAA and Pac-12 champion, All-American and Olympic bronze medalist – leave behind?
Teri McKeever: She just was an incredible leader, the last couple years in particular. And she was not only a vocal leader but just as important a leader by example. She set the tone for personal excellence and accountability – doing the right thing in the pool and away from the pool, supporting her teammates and really not being afraid to set high goals and expectations for herself.
CalBears.com: While people knew how good Elizabeth Pelton, Rachel Bootsma and your other freshmen were before they came to Cal, what was most impressive about what they – especially Pelton and Bootsma – accomplished as freshmen?
TM: The main thing was their poise. Obviously Elizabeth and Rachel Bootsma have had a significant amount of national and international experience. But really – at an NCAA event, at a team event, what was required of them relay wise, during the year – performing the amount of racing is considerably more than what they were used to. I thought they did an incredible job making that adjustment. Rachael Acker was a huge surprise and stepped up significantly and just has a huge upside. Kelly Naze is kind of the unsung warrior in that group in that she can do all four strokes, different distances, and is really a very hard worker and caring teammate. I’m really pleased with the way they stepped up and stepped in, and I think they’ll be even more effective as we move forward now that they know what to expect.
CalBears.com: Many of your swimmers are preparing to compete in the U.S. trials for the World Championships. How many do you expect to qualify for worlds?
TM: A lot of things can happen. That’s what’s wonderful about a qualifying meet. I think we can have good performances from the traditional names of Natalie Coughlin and hopefully Dana Vollmer and Caitlin, and Elizabeth and Rachel. It’s going to be very competitive. People – let alone the quads – are in different places in their careers. I think it’s going to be a really interesting championship meet and thus worlds. Another good thing is we do have a number of women competing internationally – whether it’s in the World University Games in Stephanie Au, Camille Cheng, Cindy Tran, Liv Jensen, Rachael Acker and Catherine Breed or in Farida Osman – an incoming freshman – who is going to worlds, and also Sophia Batchelor and Lauren Boyle made the New Zealand World Championship team. There are a lot of women that are racing internationally who are going to bring that experience, that expectation and that competitiveness to the team environment, which I think will be really exciting.
CalBears.com: Missy Franklin should be heading to Barcelona with the U.S. team, and next fall we know she will be a part of another outstanding freshman class. Could next season’s team be your most talented Cal team ever?
TM: Things look one way on paper, and until they’re here and you see how people adjust to school and to the team…it’s definitely going to be a group next year that will have a number of impressive credentials. The main objective is going to be that college swimming is about the team and putting your individual needs second for the greater good. There’s a learning curve in doing that and a willingness to be able to do that. A lot of our expectations will be based on the ability for all those individual talents to come in and support each other and bring out the best in each other. We won’t really know that until we all get here in the same place and see what happens.
CalBears.com: Missy is obviously an amazing talent. What will be the biggest impact of her swimming here?
TM: It’s too early to predict that. Just like with anybody, the sky’s the limit. The one thing is that college swimming is about a team and not one individual. That will be a very important focus for Missy and for the group. One person isn’t going to win us a national title or some of the other things that we hope to do. We really have to stay committed to each other and have everybody look at what their role is at different times and make sure they’re fulfilling it.
CalBears.com: You’ve already won three NCAA team titles and brought several elite student-athletes to Cal. How will the new aquatics facility benefit your specific program even more?
TM: We’re in desperate need of more water with the four aquatic programs and diving in particular, needing a platform facility. We just need lane space, so that each team has the facility to themselves to maximize the training environment. Spieker is still going to be an important part of what we need. With the new facility, the main benefit for us is going to be the ability to have more training time and training opportunities.
CalBears.com: A 2008 Olympic silver medalist and multiple NCAA champ who ended her Cal career in 2012, Sara Isakovic recently received a 2013 Oscar Geballe Postgraduate Scholarship, and she intends to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. What are your thoughts on Ice’s academic success and her career path?
TM: She totally represents what Cal is about. I’m incredibly proud of the success that she had in the water and the role she had in helping us in achieve team titles and her individual titles and her journey in the water. What it also signifies is most of these women are coming here to get a world-class education, and that the swimming is a vehicle to an amazing university and an amazing life after. Ice totally represents that. I see the same passion, excitement and pride that she had for her swimming goals and aspirations applied to what the next chapter of her life looks like. It’s a wonderful credit to her, credit to our program and credit to what Cal can be for so many men and women.