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Star-studded Cal women's swim squad fell short of NCAA title expectations

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APRIL 09, 2014

The Cal women’s swimming team is world renowned — from the Olympians on the squad to a head coach considered to be one of the best in the world to the nonchalant way the swimmers set world records throughout the season.

So while it was no surprise that this year’s team finished the season in third place at the NCAA championships, it was a bit of a disappointment that it didn’t secure first. This year marked the sixth consecutive season the Bears have ended up as one of the top three of the nation.

Cal started this season ranked No. 1 in the nation and for good reason, too. With the addition of freshman Missy Franklin, along with strong performances from returning sophomore Elizabeth Pelton and veteran seniors such as Cindy Tran and Stephanie Au, the Bears’ roster proved that the high ranking was justified.

Tran returned to the team after representing the USA at the 2013 World University games, where she earned a bronze medal in the 400-meter medley. Au, just one of the Bears’ Olympians, entered this season ranked among Cal’s top-10 performers in the 100 yard back. Both seniors entered this season with NCAA experience, having both been apart of the Bears’ previous success at the championships.

Pelton came into the season after having a breakout season for Cal in her freshman year and earning a plethora of awards, including the 2013 NCAA Swimmer of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

But perhaps the biggest story of the season was the addition of Franklin, who came to UC Berkeley with five Olympic medals and a world record in the 200 meter — just a couple of accomplishments on her long resume.

With a stacked squad, the expectations piled upon the Bears were immense, especially with the past success of the squad being so strong. And Cal didn’t disappoint, beating its opponents by a significant gap. The few losses the Bears did endure were erased at the Pac-12 tournament — when Cal dominated the platform.

The Bears won their third Pac-12 title, finishing ahead of Stanford and USC, both of whom served as Cal’s only two losses of the regular season. With the Pac-12 tournament serving as a precursor for the NCAA championships, the Bears headed to Minneapolis with high hopes.

Cal secured two NCAA titles, both on the same day when the 800 free relay team came from behind to win and Franklin set the American record in the 200 free. But the day was also marred when the Bears lost an opportunity for points when the 200 medley relay team was disqualified during the preliminaries.

The NCAA championships proved to be reflective of the season — very high moments sprinkled in with little disappointments, which ultimately proved to be the Bears’ undoing in the race for first place.

“We had some incredible moments this year,” said Cal associate head coach Kristen Cunnane. “From Melanie Klaren making it to a finals to Missy Franklin demolishing the American record to many Bears in between.”

But of the 17 individuals who raced for Cal at the NCAA championships, only three — Tran, Au and lone diver Kahley Rowell — were seniors, giving high hopes to next year’s squad, which will be made up of a lot of returning swimmers.

Alicia Fong covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]

APRIL 09, 2014

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