With the NCAA championship on the line, Cal will be looking at both old and new members to take back the first-place title.
The Cal women’s swimming and diving team is headed to Minneapolis for the NCAA championships, taking place from Thursday to Sunday at the University Aquatic Center. The Bears will have 16 swimmers and one diver in their arsenal as they compete to win their fourth national championship since 2009.
The swimming team is fresh off of its dominant performance at the Pac-12 championships, where they broke several records. The Bears placed first in eight races — five individual and three relays. Cal also faced a disqualification in the 200 free relay that hindered its status as No. 1, but it managed to overcome the penalty and went on to secure the title.
“The team is looking forward to racing — to being our best,” said associate head coach Kristen Cunnane.
The best for Cal refers to most of its contingent, as well as the powerful force behind Cal’s impressive showing at the Pac-12 tournament — freshman and Olympian Missy Franklin.
The five-time Olympic medalist came to Cal with high expectations riding on her shoulders, and she delivered. She was crowned the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet after the Bears captured their third Pac-12 title. Franklin captured all three of her individual events — 100, 200 and 500 free — and helped three relays to victories. She also managed to take first place in the 100 and 200 free with the best times in the country.
With the Pac-12 tournament serving as a preview for what is to come in the NCAA championships, the rest of the Bears are prepared to recapture first place after finishing second in last year’s tournament. Of the 16 swimmers, 10 are returning All-Americans from the 2013 squad.
Those 10 include sophomores Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton. Bootsma entered this season ranked among Cal’s all-time top 10 in four events — the 100-yard back, 100 fly, 200 fly and 200 IM. Pelton, who set an American record in the 200-yard backstroke last year, also earned the title of NCAA Swimmer of the Year last year as a freshman.
Also heading to the NCAA championships is senior Cindy Tran, who comes to the championships as a seasoned veteran with six national titles under her belt. Tran is a two-time NCAA champion, winning a title in both 2011 and 2012 for the 100-yard backstroke.
“We have worked as hard as we could have possibly worked,” Cunnane said of the season. “Now, it is time to enjoy the competition.”
Along for the ride is senior Kahley Rowell, the Bear’s lone diving representative at this year’s NCAA championships. Rowell secured a spot in the championships this past weekend, when she won the platform event at the Zone E meet. She broke her own school record from her runner-up finish at the Pac-12s with a score of 304.00 points during preliminaries. This will be the two-time All-American’s third consecutive trip to the NCAAs.