FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - With another dominating performance at the Pac-12 Championships Saturday, California captured the conference title and freshman Missy Franklin was crowned the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet after winning the 100-yard freestyle and anchoring Cal’s victorious 400 free relay.
Elizabeth Pelton also claimed the 200 backstroke for the second straight year to give the Golden Bears five individual event and three relay championships during the four-day meet. Overall, Cal finished with 1,552.5 points, Stanford was second with 1,364 and USC third with 1327.
“It’s very exciting,” said head coach Teri McKeever, who also guided Cal to league titles in 2009 and 2012. “We fought back and had a lot of different women step up. It’s nice to make it an entire team effort. I think we did a real nice job of taking advantage of our opportunities.
“We had a lot of people supporting each other,” McKeever added. “The last month has been rough a little bit with a few setbacks and then the relay (DQ in 200 free relay Thursday). More than anything, the way we kept fighting is what I’m most proud of. Now, we’ll get to enjoy this for a day or two and then get refocused.”
The Bears will next be back in the pool March 20-22 for the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis to close out the 2013-14 campaign. And based on the results at the Pac-12 meet, Cal will certainly have a great shot at its fourth national crown in the past six years.
In some ways, the Bears clinched the conference title during Saturday morning prelims when they qualified 10 swimmers and one diver for the night finals, far more than any other school.
“This final morning is tough for everybody,” McKeever said. “Sometimes, it’s a little mind over matter. We’ve been talking about it. We were definitely very solid and I was proud of that.”
Nowhere was Cal’s depth more on display than in the 200 back where five of the eight finalists were Bears. Pelton pulled way for the victory in 1:52.18, just ahead of Arizona’s Bonnie Brandon, who was timed in 1:52.50. Cal, though, secured the next four positions with Melanie Klaren third (1:53.85), Stephanie Au fourth (1:54.38), Kelly Naze fifth (1:54.73) and Sophia Batchelor sixth (1:54.91).
In the 100 free, Franklin set her third meet record of the championships, finishing in a season-best 47.17. She also established new conference marks in the 200 free and 500 free. The Bears added more points in the 100 free when Rachael Acker took sixth (48.27) and Kaylin Bing eighth (48.54).
In platform diving, senior Kahley Rowell set a school record with her score of 299.80 points to place second in the competition, the highest of her career.
The final event of the night was the 400 free relay. Arizona built a nearly 1.3-second advantage over Cal through three legs. But with Franklin on the anchor, the Bears closed over the last 50 yards and touched first in 3:11.49 to Arizona’s 3:11.90.
“Probably my favorite part about swimming is anchoring the relay,” Franklin said. “Regardless of where you are, you have to get in and do whatever you can to get your hand on the wall.”
Others who placed among the top eight Saturday were Catherine Breed in the 1650 free (8th, 16:33.14), Marina Garcia in the 200 breaststroke (5th, 2:11.75), and Rachel Bootsma (3rd, 1:55.37) and Batchelor (8th, 1:57.17) in the 200 butterfly.