March 17, 2012
AUBURN, Ala. - Contributions from every Golden Bear at the NCAA Championships - including 200-yard breaststroke champ Caitlin Leverenz and Kahley Rowell, only the second California diver to qualify for the national meet - gave Cal a repeat championship and its third national title in four years on Saturday night at Auburn's James E. Martin Aquatic Center. Rowell's fifth-place finish on the platform clinched the title for the Bears before the last event of the meet - the 400-yard freestyle relay. Leverenz won the 200 breaststroke earlier in the night and later earned the Swimmer of the Meet award. Cal head coach Teri McKeever claimed the Coach of the Meet award.
The Bears scored 412.5 points, while second-place Georgia had 366, third-place USC tallied 325.5, fourth-place Stanford scored 318 and fifth-place Arizona collected 299.
Leverenz's 200-breaststroke win gave Cal a total of seven individual/relay titles at NCAAs, including her victory in the 200-yard individual medley, senior Liv Jensen's win in the 50 free, sophomore Cindy Tran's repeat title in the 100 backstroke and senior Sara Isakovic's championship in the 100 butterfly as well as Cal's 200- and 400-yard medley relay wins.
"We're just really proud of their effort all three days," McKeever said. "We took one session at a time, and right from Thursday morning we made a statement that we were ready to come in and be a contender. Lots of different people stepped up. We had tremendous leadership from Liv Jensen, Shelley Harper, Sara Isakovic and all the seniors. We're very proud of Caitlin to get her individual titles and Cindy as well. And Kahley and (diving coach) Todd Mulzet - what an accomplishment for the diving piece of the program. To have (Cal's Director of Athletics) Sandy Barbour here was awesome. To feel that support from the administration is really important to the coaches and rest of the staff as well as to the student-athletes and the parents."
The morning preliminaries set up Cal for its fantastic finish in tonight's finals. While Georgia clawed back to within 16 points of the Bears at 332-316 after the 100 freestyle - in which Jensen took fifth place in a time of 47.69 - the Bears surged ahead over the next three finals - the 200-yard individual medley, 200 butterfly and platform.
Leverenz won her second individual NCAA title of the meet and of her career when she broke her school record in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:04.76. That was also just one hundredth of a second from tying the NCAA, American, U.S. Open and Pac-12 record held by U.S. Olympian and former USC star Rebecca Soni. Three Bulldogs scored in the 200-IM B final, but Leverenz's overall win increased Cal's lead by two points to 352-334.
The 200 fly featured two Bears and no Bulldogs, with Isakovic placing fourth in a time of 1:54.38 and senior Shelley Harper tying for 13th at 1:56.32. Cal led Georgia, 370.5-334.
When Rowell - the first Cal women's diver to reach NCAAs in 20 years - scored 292.20 points to take fifth in the platform, Cal led Georgia by 50.5 points - 384.5-334, and Cal won its NCAA championship. Even a relay victory, which would have scored 40 points, would not have helped Georgia.
The Bears took fifth in the 400-free relay, with the quartet of freshman Kaylin Bing, senior Katherine Raatz, Isakovic and Jensen clocking a time of 3:12.53. Georgia was third (3:11.56). Stanford won in an American record of 3:10.77, leaving Cal's 2009 NCAA, U.S. Open and conference record of 3:09.88 intact.
In the first event of the night, freshman Catherine Breed finished 32nd in the 1650 free with a time of 16:36.94. In the second final, freshman Melanie Klaren notched a 10th-place finish for the Bears. Klaren's time of 1:53.99 made her the fifth-fastest 200 backstroker in Cal history.
Seniors Jensen, Isakovic, Harper, Raatz and Colleen Fotsch ended their Cal careers at NCAAs.
"They've set the tone for our culture and set the bar high for the future of the program," McKeever said. "It's exciting that Liv, Sara and Shelley are going to graduate with three NCAA championships, and Katherine and Colleen will graduate with two. It's really special in that regard."
Standings (top 10)
Team Points 1. California 412.5 2. Georgia 366 3. USC 325.5 4. Stanford 318 5. Arizona 299 6. Texas A&M 262 7. Auburn 249 7. Tennessee 249 9. Texas 201 10. Florida 160Results