Leverenz crowned Queen of the Pool for third time

Fresh off the heels of its second NCAA team title in three years, the Cal women’s swimming team dominated Cal Poly in its first meet of the year in San Luis Obispo, Calif., this weekend.

Junior Caitlin Leverenz swam the lowest combined time of 4:45.12 in five 100-yard events on Friday to win the Queen of the Pool title for her third consecutive season. Her winning time was almost three seconds faster than last year’s 4:48.03.

“For me, it’s just a confidence booster that I’m starting off in a better place than I was last year and I can move forward from here,” Leverenz said.

The No. 1 Bears comprised the top 13 finishers of Friday’s meet. After Leverenz, Cal’s top five consisted of senior Liv Jensen (4:48.78), sophomore Melissa Bates (4:51.31), freshman Catherine Breed (4:51.58) and senior Sara Isakovic (4:51.66).

The Bears’ sweep was not limited to Friday. On Saturday, the Cal men’s and women’s swimming teams combined to win all four coed relays against the Mustangs.

Kaylin Bing, Yvette Kong, Martin Liivamagi and Shayne Fleming won the first event, the 200-yard medley relay, with a time of 1:38.67.

Katherine Raatz, Mikkel-Ane Stipe, Nolan Koon and Nick Trowbridge won the last three events for the Bears. The foursome clocked a time of 1:30.49 in the 200-yard freestyle relay, 1:38.19 in the 200-medley relay and 1:29.40 in the 200-free relay.

The meet was the first opportunity to see the freshmen compete, and three of the six newcomers to the team placed in this weekend’s meet. Breed came in fourth place in the Queen of the Pool meet, and Bing and Kong swam on a winning relay team.

Wins early in the freshmen’s first seasons are promising for the Bears and act as a baseline for their performance this year.

“We have a different team this year,” Cal assistant coach Kristen Cunnane said. “We’re stronger and we have more bodies than last year, and we have to work on using that to our advantage.”

The freshmen are not the only ones who impressed the crowd this weekend. The NCAA-winning veterans are in a better position this year at this point in the season.

Many of the returning swimmers dropped several seconds from last year’s marks in the Queen of the Pool meet. Senior Shelley Harper’s time of 4:52.90 was four seconds faster than last year’s time of 4:56.43.

“This meet was a really good start to the year,” Cunnane said. “A lot of people made some big improvements, so if we can make improvements overall from last season, we’ll be in good shape for the end of the year.”