Bears make waves with two wins against Oregon State

The Cal women’s swimming team took full advantage of two opportunities to defeat Oregon State this weekend.

The No. 1 Bears won all 14 events on Friday to sweep the Beavers, 168-85, at the Dixon Recreation Center, their home in Corvallis, Ore. Cal then won 13 of 14 events against them in a non-scored, non-conference meet on Saturday at the Nike Center in Beaverton, Ore.

The defending national champion Bears dominated the meets, with 19 of 24 swimmers placing in the top five in at least one individual race this weekend.

While Cal’s standout veterans lived up to expectation, it was the freshmen that stole the spotlight.

“It was the first time the freshmen competed in a college dual meet, which is very different from a high school dual meet,” assistant Kristen Cunnane said. “I was pleased with their performance. They definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Melanie Klaren won three races on Friday in the first dual meet of her college career. Her time of 10:07.11 in the 1000-yard freestyle was an impressive 14 seconds faster than her runner-up, Cal sophomore Stephanie Au.

Klaren also beat out Oregon State senior Jenni Dole — one of the Beavers’ two representatives at the 2011 NCAA Championships — in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke.

Freshman Caroline Piehl also won three races for the Bears this weekend. She captured the 200-yard freestyle on Friday and the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard freestyle on Saturday.

Yvette Kong took first in the 200-yard breaststroke on Friday and swam on the winning 400-medley relay team alongside Au, senior Colleen Fotsch and freshman Kaylin Bing on Saturday.

“I was really proud of my class and how we handled this weekend, even though we were exhausted from previous races,” Klaren said. “We knew that we needed to step up as a class, but we’re embracing it and we’re not letting ourselves feel pressured by it.”

Cal’s leading upperclassmen also contributed to its wins against Oregon State.

On Friday, junior Caitlin Leverenz captured the 200-yard butterfly and the 400-yard individual medley for the Bears. Senior Liv Jensen won the 50-yard freestyle and senior Sara Isakovic won the 100-yard butterfly.

On Saturday, Isakovic clocked in at 4:55.48 to finish first in the 500-yard freestyle. Leverenz placed second, behind Isakovic, in the 500 free (5:00.27) and won the 100-yard breaststroke.

Cal did well across the board and the results of this weekend’s meets will act as the baseline for the team’s growth over the course of the season.

While most of the improvements will be individual, the team as a whole will need to work on its consistency when competing in consecutive meets. Several of the swimmers won races on the first day but substantially slowed down on the second day. Klaren, for example, finished first in three races on Friday and came in third place in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle on Saturday.

In the future, it will be important for the Bears to swim fast consistently for the four-day Pac-12 championships and three-day NCAA championships at the end of the year.

“We’re in a really good place right now, but we still have a long way to go,” Cunnane said. “(Head coach Teri McKeever) and I were able to identify the few things we really need to work on with the team, so we can do even better next time.”