Bears to compete in Queen of the Pool meet

The Cal women’s swimming team will start the season at Cal Poly in a nontraditional two-day meet in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, swimmers will vie for the Queen of the Pool title in five 100-yard events. The swimmer with the lowest combined times in the 100-yard freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 100 individual medley wins the crown.

Junior Caitlin Leverenz has reigned as Queen of the Pool for the past two years. As a freshman, Leverenz clocked a combined time of 4:49.55 and defended her title last year with a time of 4:48.03.

On Saturday, the Cal men’s and women’s teams will participate in coed 200-yard relays. The Bears took home wins last year in the 200-yard medley relay and freestyle relay.

The meet will mark the beginning of Teri McKeever’s milestone 20th season as the head coach of the squad. An accomplished swimming mentor and U.S. women’s swimming head coach for the 2012 Olympics, McKeever led the Bears to their first NCAA and Pac-10 team titles in 2009. The Bears won their second NCAA team title in three years last March.

As defending national champion, the Bears are the heavy-handed favorites this weekend, led by seniors Liv Jensen and Sara Isakovic, along with Leverenz.

With last year’s combined times ranging from 4:48.03 (first place) to 5:24.59 (14.24 seconds ahead of last place), Cal will not be easy to beat.

This weekend’s meet will be the first for the freshmen, though many have raced high-level competition in big meets prior to college. Catherine Breed is a member of the 2011-12 U.S. national senior and youth teams and on the roster for the 2011 U.S. Pan American games. Casey Mims and Taylor Nanfria join Kaylin Bing on the 2010-11 national youth team.

“All the new personalities are so refreshing, and they each bring something to the team,” writes senior swimmer Emily Bibb in her weekly blog on CalBears.com, Behind the Lanes.

Many of the talented new additions also have medals under their belt. Camille Cheng anchored the winning 400-meter medley relay and swam the third leg of the winning 400-free relay at the 2011 U.S. Junior National Championships. Yvette Kong won a bronze medal in the 2009 Asian Swimming Championships and a silver medal in the 2009 East Asian Games and holds all Hong Kong long-course and short-course breaststroke records. Nanfria placed 17th in the 200-meter butterfly and 18th in the 200-meter IM at 2011 U.S. junior nationals.

With NCAA-winning veterans and able-bodied freshmen swimming for the Bears, under the tutelage of Teri McKeever, Cal women’s swimming team expects to win big this weekend.