Dec. 1, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. - Second-ranked California edged closer to the host Bulldogs with a strong run in Saturday's finals at the Georgia Fall Invitational in Gabrielsen Natatorium. U.S. Olympian Caitlin Leverenz won the 400-yard individual medley, Cindy Tran led a dominant showing by the Golden Bears in the 100-yard backstroke and both Bears swam on the victorious 200-yard medley relay that opened the second night of finals. Cal - with 648 points - is in second place behind third-ranked Georgia (694), 10th-ranked Virginia (391) is third and ninth-ranked Auburn (365) is fourth in the seven-team field.
Freshman and U.S. Olympian Rachel Bootsma, Leverenz, Tran and freshman Rachael Acker posted the fastest time in the nation and an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 1:36.29 to win the 200-yard medley relay, an event that Cal won at last spring's NCAA Championships.
Leverenz, a senior and the 400-IM runner-up at NCAAs, won the 400 IM tonight with an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 4:03.07 - the third-fastest time in the nation. A pair of Cal freshmen - Kelly Naze (4:10.10, 4th place) and Lauren Driscoll (4:13.04, 7th) - swam provisional NCAA qualifying times in the championship final, while freshman Alicia Grima (4:15.85) clocked an NCAA B time with her 13th-place finish.
The results of the 100-yard backstroke final perhaps gave a sign of things to come with the Bears filling five of the top six spots, and Tran, Bootsma and freshman Elizabeth Pelton finishing 1-2-3. A junior and the two-time defending NCAA champ in the 100 back, Tran edged Bootsma, 50.42-50.54, for the win, with Pelton taking third (51.26). All three posted automatic NCAA qualifying times, with Tran's and Bootsma's times also ranking as the two fastest in the nation. Cal sophomore Melanie Klaren and junior Stephanie Au also reached the championship final, as Klaren was fifth with an NCAA B time of 52.86 and Au - the two-time Hong Kong Olympian - took sixth with an NCAA B time of 52.92.
Bootsma edged Tran in the 100 butterfly, as the first-year Bear took second with an NCAA B time of 52.16 and the junior placed third with an NCAA B time of 52.41. Naze reached her second individual final of the night with an NCAA B time of 54.37 to take eighth.
Bears posted five provisional NCAA qualifying times in the 200-freestyle final: Pelton (3rd, 1:44.04), Piehl (5th, 1:45.29), Klaren (11th, 1:46.92), Breed (12th, 1:47.04) and sophomore Camille Cheng (13th, 1:47.60). Cal junior Melissa Bates (7th, 1:01.96) and sophomore Yvette Kong (8th, 1:02.17) added two more NCAA B times in the 100-breaststroke final.
In the penultimate final of the night, diver Anne Kastler notched Cal's best finish in the one-meter springboard. The freshman placed 11th with a score of 274.55, while junior Kahley Rowell was 14th (242.45).
Cal took second in the 800-free relay, with the quartet of Piehl, Bootsma, Pelton and Klaren swimming an NCAA A time of 7:02.78.
"We did a really nice job this morning, particularly the 400 IMers starting the day off well by qualifying three for the championship final," Cal head coach Teri McKeever said. "Tonight the medley relays gave us a great start, and in the 400 IM Alicia Grima and Kelly Naze had lifetime bests. That carried over to the butterfly, and we had a solid freestyle. We don't quite have the depth in the 100 breaststroke yet. The backstroke was exceptional. Those were lifetime bests for Rachel and Elizabeth, and having three people swimming that fast was pretty good. Melanie and Stephanie's times in the 100 back are pretty close to getting them invited to the NCAA Championships. Coming back with three solid 800-free relays, with people vying for positions on various relays, produced a lot of tough racing, which was really good to see."
Cal continues to lead the men's side of the Georgia Fall Invitational.
"Having the men here and do well has helped to make this a really good environment to race and see where we are," McKeever added. "That support is great. From the women's perspective, in watching elite level men's swimming you can learn a lot not only our Cal teammates but from the other good competition and good teams that are coached well, with people doing good stuff in each of the programs. We're bringing out the best in each other. It's good to see that and support and encouragement. We want to just finish off the meet tomorrow."
The three-day meet ends on Sunday with the 1650 free, 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, platform diving and 400-free relay.
Georgia Fall Invitational
Standings (through Saturday)
Rank/Team Points 1. Georgia 694 2. California 648 3. Virginia 391 4. Auburn 365 5. Penn State 321 6. Harvard 190 7. Virginia Tech 91
Saturday Finals/Cal Results
200-Yard Medley Relay
800-Yard Freestyle Relay
^Automatic NCAA qualifying time