The women’s swim teams of the Bears and the Florida Gators look eerily similar. Both have All-American swimmers, NCAA champions and Olympic medalists. The coaches were the two head coaches for the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics in London — Cal coach Teri McKeever for the women’s team and Florida coach Gregg Troy for the men — and have won collegiate coach of the year honors.
In other words, these two teams are good. Really, really good.
While Florida, ranked No. 1, and Cal, ranked No. 6, see a lot of each other at the NCAA finals, the teams have never faced off head to head in a dual meet. That is, until this weekend.
The most drama from the meet should come in the individual medley and backstroke events, in which both teams have incredible depth. The Gators will be led by Elizabeth Beisel, who at the 2012 Olympics won the silver medal in the 400-meter IM and the bronze medal in the 200-meter backstroke. Cal freshman Missy Franklin took gold in the backstroke.
The 200-yard backstroke reads like it should be the NCAA finals rather than a dual meet. From Cal, the race will feature four-time Olympic gold medalist Franklin, but she’s just the start. Also racing will be sophomore Elizabeth Pelton, last year’s NCAA champion. Additionally, the event will include junior Melanie Klaren, who finished 10th in the event at last year’s NCAA Championships.
In the IM, the Bears will look for a big performance from freshman Celina Li, who bested Franklin in the 400-yard IM earlier this season.
Cal co-captain Klaren said that the team has acknowledged that this weekend’s meet — which starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday — will be the first time this season the team is making a lineup that showcases its depth.
Klaren said the large crowd that is expected for the meet — organizers have suggested there might be need for overflow room — will fire up the team.
Many of the girls on both teams know each other and are friends, and Klaren said Franklin and Pelton have been Snapchatting Florida’s Beisel leading up to the meet. Still, she said, everyone on the team is a competitor, and this weekend will be a great test for the rest of the season.
“A win against Florida would be huge,” Klaren said. “It would keep the momentum going.”
Senior Cindy Tran, a two-time NCAA champion in the 100-yard backstroke, said she’ll start the day as she does any other race, eating oatmeal and eggs for breakfast — she “hates it,” but it digests quickly and is a good source of carbs — but thinks the rest of the day could be very different from usual. She said she’s excited about the “unexpectedness.”
She added that because the teams are so familiar with each other, the meet will be fun for athletes, not just spectators.
“It’s cool because we’re all friends,” Tran said. “We compete against each other during the collegiate season, but on a national team, we’re all swimming for the U.S.”
Assistant coach Kristen Cunnane said that the meet will be a great way to see how the team comes together to perform.
“It’s going to be a friendly old brawl,” Cunnane said.
Cunnane said this weekend’s goal is “absolutely to win.”
“What really matters is the Cal cap beating the Florida cap,” Cunnane said.
Shannon Carroll covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]