Feb. 24, 2012
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Four Pac-12 champions capped a banner night by combining to capture the 400-yard medley relay in a U.S. Open, NCAA and conference record time of 3:28.26 and give California the lead on Friday at the Pac-12 Championships. The Golden Bear relay included tonight's three individual champs - sophomore Cindy Tran, junior Caitlin Leverenz and senior Sara Isakovic - along with 50-yard freestyle winner Liv Jensen, whose victory left 2011 NCAA champion with 961.5 points with one day left in the meet.
Stanford (868 points) sits in second place and USC (819) is third in the nine-team standings.
"All four of those girls had big swims and got it done," Cal head coach Teri McKeever said. "Arizona (second in the relay in 3:30.18) gave us a great race, and they'll be tough as we move forward. We're enjoying it. We might've surprised ourselves a little bit, but when you get in there and swim for each other and the group is cheering for you, you can tap into that.
"But those girls are seasoned competitors. They have worked hard and done the right thing for years. I'm happy for all of them. They wanted to be as good as they could be, and they sent a message: `Okay we're ready.'"
Leverenz, a junior, bettered her own school record in the 400-yard individual medley with her winning and automatic NCAA qualifying time of 3:58.46. Her time was just .23 seconds off of the conference, NCAA and American record of 3:58.23 set by former Stanford star Julia Smit.
"I was happy with my 400 IM, and I was excited to swim the relay, which was awesome," Leverenz said. "Relays are always so much fun, and I really get up for those. We had talked about how we could go pretty fast in this one, and we went for it."
A senior, Isakovic moved into fifth place on Cal's all-time list in the 100-yard butterfly after clocking a victorious time of 51.72, another automatic NCAA qualifying time. Tran placed third in the 100 fly with an NCAA consideration time of 52.09, which lifted her into sixth place all-time at Cal.
Tran then repeated as the conference's 100-yard backstroke champion by swimming a career-best and automatic NCAA qualifying time of 50.65, which keeps her in second place on Cal's all-time list. Sophomore Stephanie Au placed seventh in the final with an NCAA B time of 52.80, and now she's seventh fastest all-time in the 100 back at Cal.
Jensen posted a second-place finish in the 200 free with a career-best and automatic NCAA qualifying time of 1:44.01. One night earlier, the senior repeated as the conference's sprint champ. Also in the 200 free, Isakovic placed fifth (1:44.96, NCAA B), freshman Catherine Breed finished sixth (1:45.15, NCAA B) and freshman Caroline Piehl was eighth (1:46.54, NCAA B).
In all, Cal had 11 entries in tonight's championship finals, plus several more in the B and C finals, who combined to score plenty of points for the first-place Bears.
"The main thing is the girls really stepped up this morning in prelims," McKeever said. "We talked about having to be good in the morning, since we weren't as good as we needed to be yesterday and we knew this is a real strong day for us. We finished it off with three individual victories and the relay victory. That was a world-class performance by Caitlin in the IM, Liv led our four Bears in the top eight of the 200 free, Breed stepped up, Au got into a final, Cindy swam a tough double and Sara Isakovic was really, really impressive, and then those four swam in the relay.
"That was a great way to end the evening. Now we can think about what we need to do tomorrow. Last year we let a lead slip away, so we need to learn from that and finish this thing off. We have a lot of momentum and we have to make sure we come in ready tomorrow morning. We can't afford to look over our shoulders; we need to keep moving forward."
The last day of the conference meet takes place Saturday, with prelims in the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly and platform starting at 11 a.m. The finals will start at 6 p.m. and include all those events plus the meet-ending 400-free relay.
2012 Pac-12 Championships
Standings Through Day 3
Team Points 1. California 961.5 2. Stanford 868 3. USC 819 4. Arizona 782 5. UCLA 682.5 6. Arizona State 556 7. Utah 351 8. Oregon State 230.5 9. Washington State 187.5
P Pac-12 Record