A full season’s worth of training has led up to this week when the Golden Bears travel to Minneapolis for the NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships set for Thursday through Sunday at the University Aquatic Center. Cal’s contingent includes 16 swimmers and one diver who will be aiming for the school’s fourth national crown since 2009.
The Bears enter the meet with confidence following their Pac-12 championship at the beginning of the month. Of those traveling, 10 are returning All-Americans from 2013, including national champions Rachel Bootsma (100-yard backstroke) and Elizabeth Pelton (200-yard backstroke), both sophomores. Pelton, who set an American record in winning her event last year, was named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year.
In addition, senior Cindy Tran comes in with six national titles on her resume, having won the 100 back as a freshman and sophomore and been on victorious 200 and 400 medley relays in 2011 and 2012.
Freshman Missy Franklin makes her first appearance at the NCAA Championships after earning Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet honors two weeks ago when she captured all three of her events - 100, 200 and 500 free - in meet-record times and helped three relays to victories.
As a team, Cal has placed among the top five at the NCAA meet each of the last eight years, including championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Last season, the Bears were second overall, while they were third in 2010.
NCAA Meet Coverage: All six sessions of the NCAA Championships - morning prelims and evening finals - will be streamed live online. ESPN3 will cover finals on Friday and Saturday, with the remaining events available on gophersports.com. Coverage of the meet will be broadcast on ESPNU starting at 6 p.m. PT on Wednesday, April 2.
Bears Aiming for No. 4: The Bears are seeking the fourth NCAA championship in school history this week. Cal captured its first team title in 2009 and came back to repeat in 2011 and ’12 (The Cal men also won the NCAA crown in ’11 and ’12.). Last year, the Bears were second in their quest for a three-peat. Overall, Cal has finished among the top five in the country eight years in a row, and the Bears have had 17 consecutive top-10 finishes under head coach Teri McKeever.
52 and Counting: Cal enters the NCAA Championships this week with a combined 52 all-time individual and relay titles. Beginning with the Bears’ first individual national crown – Mary T. Meagher’s 200 butterfly in 1983 – Cal has accumulated 39 individual championships and 13 relay victories. Of that total, 21 NCAA wins have come since 2009. Natalie Coughlin holds the school individual mark with 11 all-time from 2001-04 (four each in the 100 back and 100 fly, three in the 200 back). This year’s squad features three individuals who have earned NCAA titles previously. Senior Cindy Tran claimed the 100 back as a freshman and sophomore in 2011 and ’12, sophomore Rachel Bootsma took the 100 back last year, and sophomore Elizabeth Pelton prevailed in the 200 back in 2013. In addition, Tran owns four additional crowns for her role in relays – the 200 and 400 medley relays in 2011 and ’12.
Tops in the Country: In the latest statistics, Golden Bears own the best time in the country in three different events. Freshman Missy Franklin is No. 1 in the 100 free (47.17) and 200 free (1:41.40), while sophomore Elizabeth Pelton tops the charts in the 200 back (1:49.59). Franklin’s 100 mark came during her victory in meet-record time at the Pac-12 Championships. Both her 200 free and Pelton’s 200 back came at AT&T Winter Nationals in early December.
Homecoming for Rachel Bootsma: Cal’s visit to Minneapolis for the NCAA Championships provides a homecoming for sophomore Rachel Bootsma, who hails from nearby Eden Prairie, Minn. A two-time state champion for Eden Prairie HS, Bootsma set the national high school record in the 100 back in 2012, was named the Minnesota State High School Swimmer of the Year in 2010 and USA Swimming’s High School Swimmer of the Year in 2011. During her first season as a Golden Bear last year, Bootsma won the NCAA title in the 100 back (50.13), was second in the 100 fly (51.68) and sixth in the 200 fly (1:55.57), and she’s entered in the same three events again. Two weeks ago, she won her second straight Pac-12 crown in the 100 back and enters NCAA’s with a season-best time of 51.19.
Cal Captures Third Pac-12 Title: Cal won its third Pac-12 title in school history when the Bears roared back from more than 100 points down after day 2 to claim the crown by nearly 200 points at the conference meet Feb. 26-March 1 in Federal Way, Wash. The Bears placed first in eight races - five individual and three relays - overcoming a DQ in the 200 free relay at the end of the second day that seemed to put their run to the top in peril. However, Cal responded with three wins the following evening from Rachel Bootsma (100 back), Missy Franklin (200 free) and the 400 medley relay to surge to the front. Franklin also prevailed in the 100 free and 500 free and was named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet. In addition, Elizabeth Pelton defended her 200 back crown and the Bears won the 400 and 800 free relays. In the end, Cal compiled 1,552.5 points to runner-up Stanford’s 1,364 points. Prior to this March, the Bears also secured league titles in 2009 and 2012. In both of those seasons, Cal also went on to win the NCAA championship.
Academic Achievement: With a fall GPA over 3.0, Cal earned distinction as a member the 2013 Fall Scholar All-America team by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA).
Franklin Finalist for Laureus Award: For the second year in a row, Missy Franklin is a finalist for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year. Franklin earned the recognition after winning a record six gold medals at the World Championships last summer. The other finalists are Nadine Angerer (Germany, soccer), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica, track & field), Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia, track & field), Tina Maze (Slovenia, skiing) and Serena Williams (USA, tennis). The award will be presented on March 26 at a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Kahley Rowell Takes NCAA Zone E Platform Crown: Senior Kahley Rowell secured her third consecutive invitation to the NCAA Championships when she won the platform competition at the NCAA Zone E meet last Saturday. Along the way, Rowell broke her own school mark (from her runner-up finish at the Pac-12 Championships) with a score of 304.00 points during preliminaries. Rowell is a two-time All-American on platform, having finished fifth in 2012 and eighth last year.