IRVINE – Cal sophomore Missy Franklin continued her dominance in the 200-meter backstroke Thursday, capturing her fourth consecutive title at the Phillips 66 National Championships and leading a final that featured three Golden Bears among the top five finishers.
Franklin’s 200 back crown added to her victory in the 100 freestyle Wednesday and a runner-up showing in the 200 free earlier Thursday night.
In the 200 back, Franklin cruised to victory in 2:08.38, which ranks as the fifth-fastest time in the world this year. The result was more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Kathleen Baker. Cal senior-to-be Melanie Klaren came in fourth place in 2:11.58, while Golden Bear junior Elizabeth Pelton was fifth in 2:11.99. Elizabeth Beisel, who led the morning qualifiers, slipped off the wall at the start and never was a factor.
Franklin’s first event of the night was the 200 free where she engaged in a battle with distance specialist Katie Ledecky. While Franklin won the duel at Winter Nationals swum in yards, Ledecky prevailed Thursday in meters. Franklin finished in 1:56.40 behind Ledecky’s 1:55.16. Incoming Cal freshman Cierra Runge, who was runner-up in the 800 free Wednesday, took sixth in 1:58.40.
First-place finishers in each of event earn automatic berths on the U.S. team that will compete at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia later this month. Second-, third- and fourth-place finishers may be added later in the week, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
“This is really important because this (meet) qualifies for Pan Pacs this summer and worlds next summer,” Franklin said. “The big world meet before the Olympics is the last time we have to get out there before (the 2016 Olympics in) Rio. It’s good to get out there and race and head to Australia, and before we know it, Rio is going to be here.”
The Pan Pacs team is just one of five international teams being selected this week in Irvine. Also at stake are spots on the 2014 Junior Pan Pacific Championships team, the 2015 World Championships Team, the 2015 World University Games Team and 2015 Pan American Games team. Those rosters will be released at a later date.
Racing at the national meet continues through Sunday. For complete results and coverage, visit usaswimming.org.