Despite sweeping the competition away at the Pac-12 tournament a few weeks ago, the Bears fell short of the first-place podium in Minneapolis this weekend.
The Cal women’s swim team stood among the top three in the nation for the sixth consecutive year after taking third place at the NCAA championships.
“We’ve been in the top three for six years in a row, and there are many days where I would have taken that in a heartbeat,” said Cal head coach Teri McKeever to Cal Athletics. “You can be disappointed and hungry, but you have to hold your head up high. I believe we gave it our best shot.”
The Bears started off strong with the 200-yard free, with the quartet of Kaylin Bing, Cindy Tran, Missy Franklin and Farida Osman taking second place behind Stanford. Just moments after that, Franklin competed in her first individual event of the championships and just missed the national title in the 500 free with a time of 4:32.66. She was beaten by Georgia’s Brittany MacLean with a time of 4:32.53.
Cal continued throughout the day to place in the top slots of its respective races and closed out the evening with a fifth-place finish in the 400-medley race. The Bears’ total of 126 points put them in third place, just behind Stanford and Georgia.
The next day of competition saw Cal starting out strong once again, but its own mistakes throughout the day proved detrimental to its overall score.
Franklin picked up the first NCAA crown for the Bears when she beat the American record in the 200 free. The 800 free relay closed out the day’s races in a dramatic fashion, with the top three teams battling to the last tenth of a second against one another. The Cal quartet — made up of Rachael Acker, Caroline Piehl, Elizabeth Pelton and Franklin — maintained third place until the final 200 yards when Franklin took to the water, anchoring for the Bears, and her split of 1:40.08 propelled Cal to the first-place finish in 6:54.94.
But the day also had its downs; the Bears lost an opportunity for points when the 200 medley relay was disqualified during the preliminaries. Cal finished in a time of 1:36.51, which would have been the second fastest of the qualifying heats.
The final day of competition was a solid day for the Bears, with Pelton taking second in the 200-yard backstroke, the highest of the day for Cal. Franklin finished third in the 100 free and Acker placed 14th.
The Bears’ lone diving representative, senior Kahley Rowell, broke her own school record by a large margin of 26 points during the platform preliminaries with 330.35 points. She placed fifth, with a finals total of 319.10.
“The meet was very reflective of the season in that we have some very high highs and some disappointments,” McKeever said to Cal Athletics. “What we all picked up today, there are now 14 women that are going to remember that. They’re going to be able to draw from that experience. That’s the beauty of the sport, and you get to start again.”