Missy Franklin leads Cal women’s swimming into fall season

Kore Chan/Staff

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Missile Missy has landed.

As Cal women’s swimming enters the fall season, the Bears will welcome four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin and seven other freshmen to the team.

Franklin is fresh off a record- setting performance at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona. With six gold medals, she set the record for the most gold medals won by a female swimmer at a single world championship. Her performance at the world championships showed that the freshman is not entering a slump after the 2012 London Olympics.

“You hear about the post-Olympic slump, so I was really nervous, and I worked really hard this year to prevent that from happening,” Franklin said in a press conference Wednesday.

With the nation’s best recruiting class, Cal will use this upcoming fall season to create a team dynamic on a foundation of trust in preparation for the busier and more important spring season.

The fall season begins on Sept. 20 with the Cal Poly Queen of the Pool meet, but for the first few months of competition, the team’s focus is on building a supportive team environment.

“Even if you have the same people, they’re in a different place, I’m in a different place, there’s different challenges and opportunities, and we need time and space to build a team,” head coach Teri McKeever said. “This team is an amazing team with incredible women.”

Franklin is not the only swimmer making the incoming freshmen the best recruiting class.

In addition to Franklin, Cal increases its depth with Celina Li (finished sixth in the 200 IM Olympic Trials and the top butterflier in the incoming class), Kristen Vredeveld (a freestyle sprinter who held the 15-16 National Age Group Record) and Sophia Batchelor of New Zealand (holds the national record in the 100 fly).

Marina Garcia Urzainqi of Spain is McKeever’s latest addition to the freshman class with a faster breaststroke time than any current NCAA swimmer. Urzainqi will replace the vacancy in breaststroke events left by the end of Olympian Caitlin Leverenz’s eligibility for collegiate racing.

This freshman class is joining a talented group of veterans. Sophomore Elizabeth Pelton, who was Swimmer of the Meet at the 2013 NCAA championships, holds the American record in the 200 back. Pelton’s classmate Rachel Bootsma was the NCAA champion in the 100 back and senior Cindy Tran was a major contributor to Cal’s most recent NCAA championships with two individual NCAA titles and four relay titles.

With all of the Bears’ star power, McKeever certainly has the pieces for an NCAA champion team.

But right now, the NCAA championships are a long ways off, and Cal is focused on building a team atmosphere instead of focusing on NCAAs.

And for Franklin, a team is exactly what she wants after giving up the prospect of earning millions in endorsements in favor of a collegiate career.

“Missy came out in January for parents weekend,” McKeever said. She was swimming in the morning, doing her own workout and she looked over and says ‘I can’t believe I’m in the Cal pool — it has been my dream to swim here.’” McKeever said.

“And I start laughing and say ‘Yeah, my dream too.’ ”

Jessica Lim covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected].