The Cal women’s swimming team trailed Stanford for the majority of the weekend but came back to fly by the Cardinal and claim the title at the Arena Invitational.
The Bears started the third and final day of the meet in Long Beach trailing No. 7 Stanford by 17.5 points but finished the day on top of the leaderboard. No.2 Cal overpowered third-place Stanford by 177 points, with No. 23 Arizona State wedged in between trailing the Bears by 123.5 points. Their win at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool this weekend gave Cal its first invitational victory of the season.
“I think being able to have a victory in our own sense in the pool made it a little sweeter,” sophomore Melissa Bates said. “They always challenge us, but it is always nice to beat Stanford.”
Senior Liv Jensen provided her usual leadership in the pool when she won the 100-yard freestyle in an NCAA B qualifying time of 48.96. This victory thrust the Bears past the Cardinal to the number one spot in the invitational, where they remained through the rest of the day.
While Jensen catalyzed the turning point for the team, junior Caitlin Leverenz reached an individual turning point for herself on Thursday night. Leverenz, who represents the United States on the national team, won the 200-yard Individual Medley with a time of 1:55.66. That time secured her the meet record, an NCAA qualifying time and the fastest time in the nation.
“Caitlin is definitely one of our leaders and superstars on the team,” assistant coach Kristen Cunnane said. “She picked up her A cut and had a great meet. She is on the national team, and she did a great job of setting herself up not only for this March and NCAAs, but also for Olympic season and those trials this summer.”
Leverenz also won the 200-yard breaststroke in NCAA A qualifying time of 2:09.23 and was second in the 400-yard IM with a NCAA B time of 4:05.67. NCAA A qualifying times automatically qualify a swimmer for the NCAA Championships, whereas NCAA B times give the swimmer a good chance at qualifying but depend on certain quotas and are therefore not guaranteed.
“It’s really great that we’ve been getting a lot of B cuts lately, but we need to start picking up some of those A cuts,” Cunnane said.
The three-day invitational format provided the opportunity for the swimmers to face higher levels of competition and experience the fatigue that accompanies those types of events. In a dual meet that spans only an afternoon, a swimmer might swim about three or four races, explained Bates. But the sophomore, for example, swam in nine events over the three-day span. Invitational-type settings are important to experience, particularly for the younger swimmers, because that is the format that Pac-12 conference championships and NCAA national championships take.
“I think the freshmen definitely learned how to manage their energy over the three day meet,” Cunnane said. “They got to watch the older girls and saw how they managed their energy, and experienced the fatigue for themselves.”
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