March 27, 2012
BERKELEY - Caitlin Leverenz joined the pantheon of talented California swimmers when she won the Honda Sports Award for Swimming, the Collegiate Women's Sports Award program announced Tuesday. With this recognition as the top swimmer in the nation, the junior - who played a key role in the Golden Bears capturing their second consecutive NCAA team championship earlier this month - is now in contention to win the Honda-Broderick Cup as the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.
The top performer at this year's NCAA and Pac-12 Championships, Leverenz will attempt to cap her amazing season with a berth on the U.S. Olympic team this summer.
"I'm so honored to have been selected from among such amazing swimmers," Leverenz said. "What happened at the NCAAs this year is a testament to how hard I've worked and to the staff. There are a lot of good swimmers coming out of high schools, but coach Teri McKeever has what can make them great. From the time I started at Cal, I told her I wanted to make the Olympic team, and she has held me to those standards."
Leverenz is the fourth swimmer to claim the Honda honor for the Bears, who have won six overall Honda Sports Awards for Swimming. Dana Vollmer earned the accolade in 2009, Natalie Coughlin won it in 2002 and 2003, and Mary T. Meagher captured the award in 1985 and 1987. Meagher is the only Bear in any sport to win the Honda-Broderick Cup.
"It's a tremendous honor for Caitlin and our program and for the rich tradition of the award to be in the company of the women before not only on our campus - with Mary T., Natalie and Dana - but the other phenomenal swimmers in history," McKeever said. "It's well deserved for her individual efforts and what she meant for our team victory."
The junior scored 57 points to tie for the most points at NCAAs and to lead Cal to its 2012 national championship. In all she posted three American and three NCAA records at the national meet, as she captured the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yardbreaststroke, swam on the victorious 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard medley relay, and took All-America honors in the 400 IM. For her amazing performances at NCAAs, Leverenz earned the CSCAA Swimmer of the Meet award.
At NCAAs, which took place in Auburn, Ala., Leverenz set American, U.S. Open, NCAA, Pac-12, school and pool records with her victorious time of 1:51.77 in the 200 IM. She also swam a school- and pool-record time of 2:04.76 to win the 200 breaststroke and placed second in the 400 IM with an American- and school-record time of 3:57.89. Leverenz swam the breaststroke leg of Cal's winning 200-medley relay as the Bears posted American, U.S. Open, NCAA, Pac-12, school and pool records with its time of 1:34.24. She also swam the breaststroke leg of the Bears' winning 400-medley relay, which posted U.S. Open, NCAA, Pac-12, school and pool records with its time of 3:28.10.
Leverenz was likewise the best swimmer at the Pac-12 Championships to lead Cal to the conference team title. She won the 200 breaststroke and 400 IM and swam on the winning 400-medley relay en route to claiming the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet award.
She will pursue her Olympic dreams in June at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., where she is planning to compete in the 200- and 400-meter IMs and 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events. A top recruit out of Tucson, Ariz., Leverenz opened her collegiate career by being crowned Queen of the Pool at the Cal Poly invitational and was named the 2010 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. As a sophomore, she contributed to her school's record-setting victories and NCAA title at the 2011 national championships in the 200- and 400-medley relays. A public health major, she was selected as a Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention in 2011.
The Honda Sports Award is presented annually to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports. As a Honda prize recipient, Leverenz becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the prestigious Honda Cup. She was chosen by a vote of coaches from 1,000 NCAA member schools. Finalists included USC's Katinka Hosszu, Georgia's Megan Romano and Texas A&M's Breeja Larson.