Cal women’s swim’s Celina Li wins ‘Queen of the Pool’ title

Katherine Chen/File

The Cal women’s swimming team is well known for its many stars and Olympians, but at the first event of the season, sophomore Celina Li reigned supreme.

The Queen of the Pool competition, which takes place in San Luis Obispo, California, and is hosted by Cal Poly, has swimmers from both schools taking part in five different 100-yard races: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and the individual medley. The scores are then combined from all of the races, and the swimmer with the lowest overall time is crowned “Queen of the Pool.”

On Friday, for the second-straight year, Li won the title. Finishing the event this year with a 4:42.90, she improved on her freshman-year victory of 4:43.10. While she did not win any of the individual events this year, she finished either second or third in all of the races.

“Celina came in last year as a freshman and surprised some people when she took the win,” said Cal associate head coach Kristen Cunnane in a text message. “I was impressed then but even more now that she came back and repeated as champion. Her lower time shows how much she has grown this year.”

The Bears had swimmers in the top 11 spots in the final combined times and had five different swimmers win each of the individual events. Cal dominated in all areas of the meet, with the closest Cal Poly swimmer, junior Allison de Peralta, having a time of 5:03.99 in 12th place. The Mustangs’ next swimmer had the 19th-best time, showing Cal’s control over the top 20 spots. They also did not have a top-three finish in any of the individual events.

For Cal, junior Elizabeth Pelton, 4:45.34, finished in second place overall and also won the 100-yard individual medley in 56.21. Fellow junior Rachel Bootsma finished third overall in 4:47.02 and won the 100-yard backstroke in 54.67.

An exciting freshman class debuted at the pool this weekend and had an overall impressive appearance in their first meet as Bears. Two freshman scored in the top six, with Jasmine Mau, 4:51.59, in fifth and Noemie Thomas finishing sixth in 4:57.53. Thomas also won the 100-yard butterfly, 53.59, the only freshman to win an event.

The other two events were won by two sophomores. Missy Franklin finished the 100-yard freestyle in first in 50.27, but she only competed in three events: freestyle, butterfly, where she fell to seventh, and the individual medley, where she finished in third place. The 100-yard breaststroke was won by Marina Garcia in 1:03.84, who finished seventh overall.

“Having five different (individual) winners is exciting because it shows versatility and lends itself to healthy competition within the team,” Cunnane said.

The team also competed Saturday in co-ed relays with the Cal men’s swim team, which was also at Cal Poly competing in the King of the Pool. The Bears combined to win the 200-medley championship relay and the 200-free relay.

“We feel the team performed well over the weekend,” Cunnane said. “This meet is a great chance to get the year kicked off with some racing and team time. We feel like we accomplished both this weekend.”

Alaina Getzenberg covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]