MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – A pair of second-place finishes, a school record and several lifetime bests added up to a productive night for the Cal women’s swimming & diving team on the first night of the NCAA Championships Thursday. Through six events, the Golden Bears stand in third place with 126 points behind Georgia and Stanford.
“I think we’re about where we expected to be,” head coach Teri McKeever said. “We had a great 200 free relay to kick off the meet. Overall, we’re in good shape. Tomorrow is a huge day. We’ve really got to get focused and do the job in the morning.”
The 126 points compiled by six individual swims and two relays matches the second-highest first-day total in school history, and several of the Bears’ strongest strokes are on the schedule for Friday, including the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle. Georgia will enter the morning with 189 points to Stanford’s 136.
The 200-yard free relay opened the night’s action with the quartet of Kaylin Bing, Cindy Tran, Missy Franklin and Farida Osman finishing second to Stanford in 1:26.67, less than two-tenths of a second shy of the school record. Bing opened with a 22.08 split over the first 50, and Osman closed with the fastest 50-yard split of the night among all anchors in 21.44. The Cardinal just out-touched the Bears in 1:26.23, while Georgia was third in 1:27.19.
Moments later, Franklin was in the water for her first individual race, and she just missed on the national title in the 500 free despite setting a school record by nearly two full seconds. Her time of 4:32.66 made her the fifth fastest all-time in the event. However, it took a meet record from Georgia’s Brittany MacLean, who got to the wall in 4:32.53, to beat her.
“I knew it was going to be a really tough race tonight,” Franklin said. “Georgia can finish really, really hard, so I knew I was going to have to strategize a little differently than I normally do. It’s all a learning process, especially the 500. I’m still learning how to swim the 500.”
McKeever praised Franklin for her effort coming so soon after sprinting to a 21.50 split during her leg of the relay.
“I think it’s a fabulous swim,” McKeever said. “To go from the 50 freestyle and 10 minutes later to go a 500 is an incredible demand physically and mentally. I’ve had more than a handful of coaches say how hard that is to do. But it’s about doing what’s best for the team, and she’s been the ultimate team player all along.”
In addition to Franklin, junior Melanie Klaren placed 11th overall and third in the consolation final with a time of 4:39.25, the first time she has scored in the 500 free after contributing in the backstroke events as a freshman and sophomore.
The Bears picked up 35 points in the 200 individual medley with three swimmers combining for the total. Freshman Celina Li, seeded sixth after morning prelims, turned in a personal-best time of 1:53.85 to capture third place, while Elizabeth Pelton was right behind in 1:54.80 for fourth. In addition, junior Caroline Piehl took fifth in the consolation race in 1:57.40.
“I made a couple of mistakes in the morning,” Li said. “I was warming up tonight and getting a feel of the water. I practiced my backstrokes under water a little bit further and picked up my tempo. That really helped my IM. I was really happy.”
In the 50 free, Bing improved on her relay split from earlier in the night to take third in the consolation final in a lifetime-best 22.05, which moved her into a tie for fifth on Cal’s all-time list with Dana Vollmer.
Cal closed out the evening with a fifth-place showing in the 400 medley relay. Tran, Li, Rachel Bootsma and Franklin posted a time of 3:30.70.
Racing resumes Friday with eight events on the docket – the 200 medley relay, 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 free, 100 breaststroke, 100 back, 3-meter diving and the 800 free relay. Prelims begin at 11 a.m. CT and will be shown line online at gophersports.com. Finals will be streamed on ESPN3.com starting at 7 p.m. CT.