KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In a showdown between two of the top backstrokers in the United States, sophomore Elizabeth Pelton edged teammate Missy Franklin to claim the 200-yard back on the final night of the AT&T Winter Nationals Saturday.
In addition, the Golden Bears closed out the three-day meet with a 1-2 finish in the 400-yard free relay, including a championship record by the Cal A squad, and former Cal standout Natalie Coughlin captured the 100-yard freestyle.
The 200 back featured Pelton, the American-record holder and reigning NCAA champion, against Franklin, who owns the world record in the 200-meter distance and claimed gold medals in the 200-meter back at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships.
On Saturday, Pelton rushed out to a big lead and never relented on her way to victory. She had a full second advantage after 50 yards and slowly pulled further away until she touched the wall in 1:49.59. Franklin came through in 1:51.54 for second. On Friday, Franklin nipped Pelton in the 100-yard back winning in 51.59 to Pelton’s 51.70.
Pelton and Franklin weren’t the only Cal swimmers in the 200 back final as the Bears also captured places 4-5-6. Melanie Klaren took fourth in 1:52.84, followed by Stephanie Au in 1:54.44 and Sophia Batchelor in 1:54.82.
The 400 free relay, the final event of the day, saw Cal take the top two positions. Rachael Acker, Pelton, Kaylin Bing and Franklin came through in 3:13.45 to break the previous meet mark of 3:13.90 set by Arizona last December. Taking second place were Farida Osman, Camille Cheng, Caroline Piehl and Cindy Tran in 3:15.47.
In the 100 free, Coughlin blazed to a 22.60 split at the halfway point and went on to win in 47.19, just ahead of Amanda Weir (47.37). Franklin came in third (47.42) with Acker in sixth 48.47. Bing also prevailed in the B final with a time of 48.91.
Caitlin Leverenz, another former Golden Bear swimmer, was runner-up in the 200 butterfly in 1:55.17, just ahead of third-place finisher and Cal sophomore Rachel Bootsma (1:55.44). Batcher came in eighth in 1:57.88.
In other events, Catherine Breed was 18th in the 1650 free (16:30.38), while Marina Garcia took seventh in the 200 breaststroke in 2:11.96.
Overall, Cal completed Winter Nationals with current or former Bears combining for 11 victories. Franklin captured the 100 back and 200 free; Pelton took the 200 individual medley and 200 back; and Coughlin swept the 50 and 100 free. Freshman Celina Li finished first in the 400 IM, and Cal was victorious in four of five relays – 200 and 400 medley relay and 400 and 800 free relay.
National television coverage from the meet will air on NBC on Saturday, Dec. 21 from 2-3 p.m. PT. Complete results can be found here.