MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – California produced a trio of third-place swims and Kahley Rowell broke her own school record in platform diving on the final night of the NCAA Championships. In the end, the Golden Bears placed third in the team standings, marking the sixth consecutive year they have stood among the top three in the nation.
Sophomore Elizabeth Pelton posted the highest result of the night, taking second in the 200-yard backstroke. In addition, Missy Franklin was third in the 100 free, Rowell placed fifth on platform and the 400 free relay touched the wall in third with a season-best time.
“I think today overall was solid,” head coach Teri McKeever said. “The meet was very reflective of the season in that we have some very high highs and some disappointments. We just have to continue to learn. This is a talented group, but it’s definitely a very young group. I think that we got better tonight. We’ve been in the top three for six years in a row, and there are many days where I would have taken that in a heartbeat. You can be disappointed and hungry, but you have to hold your head up high. I believe we gave it our best shot.”
Overall, Cal secured two NCAA titles, with both coming on Friday when Franklin set the American record in the 200 free and the 800 free relay came from behind to win. In addition, the Bears were the national runner-up in four races and third in three others.
Georgia earned the team championship with 528 points, with Stanford second with 402.5 and Cal with 386.
On Saturday, Pelton missed out on repeating as the national champion by a mere 0.03 seconds in the 200 back. She was second in 1:50.55, just behind the time of 1:50.52 from Indiana’s Brooklynn Snodgrass. In addition, junior Melanie Klaren added a sixth-place finish (lifetime-best 1:52.44) to her sixth-place showing in the 100 back a night earlier. Senior Stephanie Au, swimming in the consolation final, placed 11th overall with a time of 1:53.39 to make her a scorer in the backstroke each of the last four years – twice in the 100 and twice in the 200.
The Bears also picked up points in the 100 free with Franklin taking third in 47.26 and Rachael Acker placing 14th in 48.41. Franklin, the Pac-12 champion in the event, was unable to overcome two conference rivals, as defending champion Margo Geer of Arizona won in 47.10 and Stanford’s Lia Neal was second in 47.17.
Rowell completed her career as a three-time All-America and the most successful diver in school history. She broke her own school record by 26 points during the platform prelims with 330.35 points, then placed fifth with a finals total of 319.10. Rowell was fifth on platform as a sophomore and finished eighth in the event last year.
“The goal is always to get up and down and to do your dives the best you can,” Rowell said. “I was really happy with how I did. I had an injury mid-season, so I think it worked in my favor and pushed me to work harder and got me to where I am right now.”
Of the 17 individuals who earn invitations to the NCAA meet for the Bears, only three were seniors – Rowell, Au and Cindy Tran – meaning the vast majority of the squad will return for the 2014-15 campaign.
“What we all picked up today, there are now 14 women that are going to remember that,” McKeever said. “They’re going to be able to draw from that experience. That’s the beauty of the sport and you get to start again.”