Caitlin Leverenz broke a school record in the 400-yard Individual Medley with a time of 4:00.59. She broke another in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 59.20. Overall, the Bears saw five NCAA A qualifying times and 19 NCAA B qualifying times.
But despite how fast they swam or how many points they accumulated, Georgia was still able to accumulate more.
The No. 2 Cal women’s swim team took second behind the No. 1 Bulldogs at the Georgia Fall Invitational in Athens, Ga., this past Friday through Sunday. This gave the defending NCAA National Champion Bears their first loss of the season as they head into the winter offseason before returning for the more competitive spring.
The Bears, however, do not see it as a true loss. In fact, the coaching staff has been consistent with its claims of focusing on the spring rather than on wins, losses, rankings and records. Cal was not full-force for much of the meet, as several of the Bears’ top swimmers participated in the AT&T Winter National Championships in Atlanta, Ga., while the rest of the team was at the invitational. Even when these swimmers returned to their teammates to swim the following few days, fatigue was certainly a factor.
“We figured that if our girls can do one day of travel, fly across the country and swim both competitions it would make them tougher,” assistant coach Kristen Cunnane said. “It definitely had an effect on fatigue, but it was worth doing. It was defiantly a goal to go out and beat Georgia, but they beat us and did a really nice job. Our focus is March, and we are doing what we can to set our girls up well for the rest of the year.”
Leverenz won the 200-meter individual medley (2:09.39) as well as the 400-meter individual medley (4:37.68) in two days at the Winter National Championships, and then cemented these victories with two school records, four NCAA qualifying times and wins in the 400-yard IM, 100-yard IM, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard butterfly in the following two days in Athens. The world-class swimmer was apparently unfazed by the travel and fatigue of competing in two meets over the same weekend, as she had her most successful weekend of the season.
“It was a learning experience for us to travel across the country, compete and then bounce back and race the top-ranked team,” Cunnane said.
The Bears will surely have a chance to race that top-ranked team once more this spring, as both of the nation’s top two teams will be battling for the NCAA Championship. With the expectation of meeting the Bulldogs again, the Bears hope to redeem this loss with a win of even greater value when it really counts. For now, Cal is turning its attention away from racing and towards training for the winter offseason.