BERKELEY – National titles are a tradition at the University of California and the 2012-13 campaign was no exception as the Golden Bears notched a team title, had a championship crew boat and saw five different individuals capture national crowns. It was the 40th consecutive year the nation’s No. 1 public university has produced at least one national champion, and this year’s celebration of these impressive athletic achievements by some of the nation’s most esteemed student-athletes will be this week (Sept. 30 through Oct. 5) during the school’s eighth annual National Championship Week celebration.
Last spring, Cal rugby won its 27th national title, and its first title in the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s. The Bears’ women’s varsity eight crew boat won that program’s third title in that race, while Max Homa became men’s golf first-ever individual medalist at an NCAA championship. In the pool, women swimmers Rachel Bootsma, Caitlin Leverenz and Elizabeth Pelton gave coach Teri McKeever’s squad three individual champions. On the men’s swimming side, Tom Shields concluded his phenomenal Cal with two more national crowns under coach David Durden.
"These athletes are outstanding ambassadors for our University…they are winning national championships while also excelling at one of the country’s most prestigious academic institutions,” said Cal Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “In collegiate athletics, a national championship is the ultimate accomplishment and comes as a result of years of hard work, determination and perseverance. National Championship Week is our way of publicly recognizing these tremendous achievements and formally offering our congratulations to the student-athletes, coaches and support staff that helped make a dream of a national championship become a reality. This is a time of year for a very special celebration."
Since Cal began formally honoring its national champions in 2006 with its weeklong celebration, the Bears have enjoyed an abundant amount of success, bringing home 53 individual national crowns and 42 national team titles –including relays, crews and tennis doubles titles.
In 2012-13, the Cal women’s swimming program started the Bears’ national championship ball rolling in March with three individual titles in Indianapolis. Bootsma perpetuated Cal’s tradition of excellence in the 100 back, winning the Bears’ third straight national title in that event – and garnering her first NCAA crown – clocking in the second-fastest time in history with a time of 50.13, which ranks behind only Cal legend Natalie Coughlin’s NCAA record 49.97.
Leverenz concluded her spectacular college career by repeating as the national champion in the 200 IM, clocking in with a time of 1:53.39. The 2011-12 winner of the Honda Sports Award for Swimming who also earned bronze in the 200 IM at the London Olympics, Leverenz finished her Cal career capturing two NCAA crowns in the 200 IM and winning a 200 breaststroke national title in 2012. She was also a member of NCAA champion 200 and 400 medley relays and was the Swimmer of the Meet in 2012.
Pelton won Cal’s third title of the 2013 NCAA Championships, swimming an American-record time in the 200-yard backstroke. Claiming the NCAA Swimmer of the Meet honor after earning seven All-America accolades, Pelton broke her own American record in the 200 back with a time of 1:47.84, which is also an NCAA, U.S. Open and school record, capturing her first national title as a Bear.
On the men’s swimming side, Shields concluded his Golden Bear career with 2013 NCAA titles in the 100 (44.59) and 200 fly (1:39.65) in Indianapolis. As a collegian, he tallied an impressive 11 national titles and was the 2012 NCAA Swimmer of the Meet, capturing the NCAA crown in the 100 fly as a freshman, the 100 fly as a sophomore, and the 100 back and 100 fly as a junior. Shields was also a member of five national champion relays – swimming the 400 free relay and the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay in 2010 and 2011, and the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay in 2012.
On the golf links, Homa made history when he became the first Cal men’s golfer to win individual medalist honors at the NCAA Championship when he shot – 70-65-66 - 201 (-9) – May 30, 2013 at the Capital City Club (Crabapple Course) in Milton, Ga. Homa played bogey-free golf during his final four-under par round of 66 and led most of the way after a hot start that included birdies on three of his first five holes on the par-four second, par-five fourth and par-four fifth hole. He added his fourth and final birdie on the par-five 12th hole.
The Bears’ final two national titles of 2012-13 came on the same day – June 2, 2013. The Cal women's rowing varsity eight captured the NCAA title in the event's grand final at the NCAA Championships at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. Cal’s Rachel Ersted (coxswain), Aggie Nowinski (stroke), Erica Rippe, Paparangi Hipango, Kara Kohler, Jenn Heissen, Kendall Chase, Maggie Simpson and Clair Premzic captured the school’s first national championship in the varsity eight since 2005, finishing the course in 6:21.426 to win by more than a second over runner-up Princeton (6:22.595).
Rugby returned to the top of the podium in 2013 as well. The Bears culminated their unbeaten run through the Collegiate Rugby Championship with a 19-14 victory over Life University in the title match June 2 at PPL Park in Philadelphia. Team captain Seamus Kelly was named MVP of the tournament after scoring the try that proved to be the game-winner in the championship final. Cal, which captured their first–ever Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s, qualified for the final after upending Arizona, 26-12, in the quarterfinals; and UCLA, 33-21, in the semifinals.
A series of events will celebrate Cal’s 2012-13 athletic achievements, culminating in a halftime ceremony acknowledging this past year’s national champion student-athletes and their coaches during halftime of the Oct. 5 Homecoming football game between Washington State and Cal.
Beginning today, the 2012-13 National Championship Display Case and Highlight Video will be available for viewing on the first floor of Haas Pavilion. The highlight video, featuring action footage and interviews with the national champion student-athletes and coaches, will be running continuously on a flat screen television in the national championship display case and will be featured on CalBears.com.
Among the other 2013 NCW events scheduled is a celebratory reception hosted by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at the Memorial Stadium University Club and a staff appreciation luncheon Wednesday at the Memorial Stadium Field Club.
Since its first national championship in 1920 when the football team was considered the best in the land, Cal has had at least one national champion in 78 of the past 93 years. There has been one national champion every season since the 1973 Bears won the NCAA men’s water polo title, marking 40 straight years of athletic excellence in Berkeley.
Cal has claimed a total of 85 national team titles in 14 different sports, as well as numerous national championships in crew, swimming relays, tennis doubles and track relays. In all, Golden Bear athletes have won 163 individual national titles, beginning in 1922 when John Merchant won the hammer and shot put, and Allen Norris captured the pole vault, at the national track and field championships.
Now with their names etched on the list of the school’s all-time athletic legends, Cal’s 2012-13 national champions are all part of the school’s rich history, representing the country’s best in both the classroom and in the athletic arena.