March 2, 2013
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Elizabeth Pelton led a furious comeback as the freshman broke her own American record to win the 200-yard backstroke and led off California's winning 400-yard freestyle relay, though the defending conference champion Golden Bears wound up finishing third on Saturday night at the Pac-12 Championships. Senior Caitlin Leverenz and freshman Rachel Bootsma also captured individual titles on the final night of the conference meet at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. The Golden Bears ended the meet with 1333.5 points, as Stanford (1439.5 points) edged second-place USC (1418.5) in a tight race for the team crown.
Pelton took home the 200 backstroke with an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 1:48.39 that was just five hundredths of a second off of the NCAA record, but Pelton set a slew of records - American, Pac-12, Pac-12 meet and school - in her own right. For her sterling efforts at the four-day conference championships, Pelton earned the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet title.
Leverenz - the defending NCAA champion in the 200-yard breaststroke and last year's Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet - won her third-straight conference crown in the 200 breaststroke with an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 2:07.25. Prior to Saturday's finals, the conference named Leverenz its Pac-12 Women's Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The public health major currently boasts a 3.13 grade-point average. She earned Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention in 2011 and 2012.
Back in the pool on Saturday, Bootsma won the 200-yard butterfly in an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 1:54.97, and Pelton, Bootsma, fellow freshman Rachael Acker and sophomore Kaylin Bing won the 400-yard freestyle relay in an NCAA A time of 3:12.37 to end the night.
In leading off the 400-free relay, Pelton posted an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 48.00 in her opening 100-free.
Cal won a total of seven titles at the Pac-12 Championships, including Pelton capturing the first in the 200-yard individual medley on Feb. 28, Acker winning the 200-yard freestyle on March 1 and Bootsma winning the 100-yard backstroke also on March 1. Leverenz, Cal's lone senior, was the only non-freshman Bear to win a 2013 Pac-12 individual title.
The Bears placed a total of 13 entries in A finals on Saturday night, with four in the 200 backstroke. Besides Pelton's triumph, Tran posted an NCAA B time of 1:53.42 to take third, sophomore Melanie Klaren clocked an NCAA B time of 1:54.07 to finish fourth and junior Stephanie Au swam a time of 1:55.13 in seventh place. Both Cal divers finished in the top four of the platform final, as junior Kahley Rowell was third (262.05) and freshman Sara-Lina Boushakra took fourth (257.40).
The other A finalists who scored important points for the Bears included sophomore Catherine Breed (16:23.10, NCAA B) and freshman Lauren Driscoll (16:25.19, NCAA B), who placed 6-7 in the 1650 free, and Acker (48.41, NCAA B) and Bing (48.72, NCAA B), who took fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 100 free.
"Through the four days of the championship, the team picked up momentum, having a stellar night tonight," Cal head coach Teri McKeever said. "Over the course of the meet, we won every individual 200 (IM, free, back, breast and fly) race as well as the 100 back. It was especially meaningful to win the final relay.
"Bootsma was a standout, finishing with two wins and a second place as well as being a part of our relays. Pelton breaking the American record and winning Swimmer of the Meet were highlights. Caitlin winning the 200 breast as well as the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year was representative of how she's impacted our program over the past four years.
"I'm proud of how the group embraced racing and the idea of being their best rather than fixating on the team scores. Though we ended up third, I am excited for the next chapter as we approach NCAAs."
Next up for the Bears is the March 14-16 NCAA Zone E Diving Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Cal's divers will attempt to qualify for the NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships slated for March 21-23 in Indianapolis.
Complete Standings (Through Event 21)
Team Points 1. Stanford 1439.5 2. USC 1418.5 3. California 1333.5 4. Arizona 1128.5 5. UCLA 998.5 6. Arizona State 786.5 7. Utah 347 8. Oregon State 297 9. Washington State 189
~ American Record