Feb. 1, 2013
BERKELEY - Seventh-ranked California produced a strong effort to win eight of 16 events against top-ranked USC on Friday at Spieker Aquatic Complex, but the Golden Bears lost the tight dual meet, 155-145. Senior Caitlin Leverenz and freshman Elizabeth Pelton each won three events for the Bears, whose record fell to 5-2 (2-2 in the Pac-12). USC improved to 9-0 (5-0 Pac-12).
The Bears rebounded from a difficult defeat at then-No. 6 Arizona last week, posting 16 NCAA provisional qualifying times on Friday. As with the Cal-Arizona meet, the Pac-12 Networks covered Friday's competition against USC; it will air on Feb. 9.
"We were significantly sharper than last weekend," Cal head coach Teri McKeever said. "The girls really stepped up down the line - not just our superstars. I think there are still things we could do to improve. USC is a very tough team, and they came in ready to give us a battle. I feel that we responded to that challenge favorably but came up a little short."
Those NCAA B times included the 200-yard medley relay, as the Cal quartet of freshman Rachel Bootsma, Leverenz, junior Cindy Tran and freshman Rachael Acker won the day's first event in a time of 1:38.83.
Cal won five of the first eight events to take a 78-72 lead at the first break. Four different Bears won individual events during that span, with Pelton swimming an NCAA B time of 1:46.42 to take the 200-yard freestyle, Tran - the two-time defending NCAA champion in the 100 backstroke - winning the 100 back in an NCAA B time of 53.11, Leverenz capturing the 100 breaststroke (1:01.18, NCAA B) and Bootsma claiming the 200 butterfly (1:58.33, NCAA B).
Pelton later broke her own pool record to win the 200 back in an NCAA B time of 1:53.99, and Leverenz followed with a victory in the 200 breaststroke. The defending NCAA champ in the event, Cal's lone senior posted an NCAA B time of 2:09.92 to win on Friday.
The 200-yard individual medley was the meet's penultimate event. It featured the 2012 NCAA champ (Leverenz) and the swimmers with the top two times in the nation - Pelton and Leverenz - entering the day. But USC's Stina Gardell (1:58.30, NCAA B) edged second-place Pelton (1:58.36, NCAA B) and third-place Leverenz (1:58.67, NCAA B) to win the race.
With perhaps four minutes between swims, Pelton anchored the next race - the 400-free relay - as Cal won in an NCAA B time of 3:19.01 and edged USC (3:19.23, NCAA B).
"I usually swim the IM and the last relay, but when we're swimming with the men, there's a men's event in between," Pelton said. "I asked Teri, `What's the percentage that I'm going to do that double?' And she said, `Probably 90 percent.' I just had to mentally prepare for it."
"Elizabeth Pelton definitely stepped up," McKeever added, "with her 200 free and 200 back, getting the school record, swimming a tough 200 IM and then coming back to swim the relay to make sure we were victorious. Caitlin in the breaststrokes was huge, because they're a really good breaststroking team. I though Rachel Bootsma was huge, too, helping us in some of her secondary events, helping us where we needed help. Cindy had a good 100 back and some tough relay swims."
After being featured on the Pac-12 Networks' first two swimming and diving broadcasts, McKeever lauded the Pac-12 Networks' for covering swimming and a variety of other Olympic sports.
"It's great that the networks are being comprehensive in their coverage," she said. "Both men's and women's events, field hockey, swimming, lacrosse and other sports are televised; different sports that the general public doesn't get regular exposure to. We get exposure in the Olympics, but the college format is different. That was a just great meet; it was close and had good battles. Hopefully people will see it, find it entertaining and maybe come out and check it out in person."
The Bears next take on No. 12 UCLA at noon on Saturday at Spieker.