With dual meets now a thing of the past for the 2013-14 season, California now has its sight set on the championship portion of its schedule. The journey begins in Federal Way, Wash., with the Pac-12 women's swimming & diving meet Wednesday through Saturday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
Three weeks later, the Bears will chase their ultimate goal - the NCAA trophy - with the national championships scheduled for March 20-22 in Minneapolis.
Racing for the conference crown gets underway Wednesday night with the 200 medley relay and 800 free relay, and features prelims at 11 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m. the next three days. The meet will be televised on a delay basis by the Pac-12 Networks, with the first airing set for Monday, March 3 at 9 p.m.
The Bears enter the Pac-12 meet ranked fifth in the nation after holding down the top spot much of the year. But a quick look at the leading times in the conference entering this weekend’s competition shows Cal swimmers populating the upper portions of nearly every event.
Nowhere is the Bears’ depth more apparent than in the backstroke, where Cal ranks 1-2-4-5-7-10 in the 100 back and 1-3-4-8-9 in the 200 back. The Bears also own at least four of the 10 best times in the league in the 200 free, 500 free, 200 IM and 400 IM.
Cal finished third at the Pac-12 Championships last year and won titles in both 2009 and 2012. On the national level, the Bears were the NCAA runner-up in 2013 and claimed crowns in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Bears vs. the Pac-12: Heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championships, the Bears own conference-leading times in five different events. Missy Franklin tops the list in both the 200 free (school-record 1:41.40) and 500 free (school-record 4:34.63), while Elizabeth Pelton is rated No. 1 in both the 100 back (51.27) and 200 back (1:49.59). Cal’s 400 medley relay (3:29.91) also heads the field. The Bears went head-to-head against seven Pac-12 schools in dual meets during the year and emerged with a 5-2 mark.
Defending Champions: Three Cal swimmers return to the Pac-12 meet as the reigning champions in their respective events. In 2013, Rachael Acker claimed the 200 free (1:44.66), Rachel Bootsma won the 200 fly (1:54.97) and 100 back (50.64), and Elizabeth Pelton took the 200 back (1:48.39) and 200 IM (1:54.29).
Tops in the Country: In the latest statistics, Missy Franklin owns the best time in the country in the 200 free, and Elizabeth Pelton is at the top of the charts in the 200 back. Franklin’s time of 1:41.40 is a school record that she set in winning the freestyle event at AT&T Winter Nationals in December. Pelton, who owns the American record after claiming the 200 back at the 2013 NCAA Championships, swam 1:49.59 at the AT&T meet.
Several other Cal swimmers are also among the county’s top 10 in their respective races: Franklin (3rd, 100 free; T2nd, 500 free; 7th, 100 back; 7th, 200 back); Pelton (4th, 100 back; 3rd, 200 IM); Cindy Tran (5th, 100 back); Melanie Klaren (10th, 200 back); and Celina Li (4th, 200 IM; 8th, 400 IM).
Anne Kastler Breaks Own Cal Record on 1-meter: Sophomore Anne Kastler scored 297.30 points on the 1-meter board on her way to winning the event at Stanford Feb. 15 to break her own school record of 294.68 from earlier this year against Arizona.