The only word to describe the Cal women’s swim team’s tremendous results at the Pac-12 Championships is “impactful” because of the astounding overall team results. The Bears came in with a vision — a vision to win their second straight and fourth overall Pac-12 Championships title. The team captured that vision, as well as five records.
The Bears racked up 12 titles in the four-day meet, which started Wednesday and concluded Saturday. Each swim contributed to the Bears’ momentum, as the No. 1 team made a long-lasting impact, which started with the first event of the meet, in which the team captured an American record.
Throughout the course of the meet, the Bears’ total win count outscored their old record of nine events in 2009, and these victories gave them a total of 1,629.50 points.
Associate head coach Kristen Cunnane is described as the bond of the team that allowed the women to perform so well.
“The team has great team chemistry and camaraderie,” Cunnane said. “This is a really great group of girls who want the best for each other.”
The Bears kicked off the meet with both a victory and an American record in the 800-yard freestyle relay. The team of freshman Cierra Runge, junior Elizabeth Pelton, senior Caroline Piehl and sophomore Missy Franklin reeled in an incredible time of 6:50.18, which was not only 10 seconds ahead of the runner-up Stanford but also beat the school record, as well as the American, U.S. Open and NCAA records of 6:52.64.
This event was followed by the 200-yard medley relay, composed of the foursome of junior Rachel Bootsma, sophomore Marina Garcia, freshman Noemie Thomas and sophomore Farida Osman, in which the women decimated the race in a 1:35.25 finish, setting both the meet record and the fastest time in the nation this year.
With an extraordinary performance Wednesday, the Bears showed no signs of stopping. In the 500-yard freestyle, Runge set an NCAA record. The energy continued to accumulate with a 1-2-3 Bear finish in the 200-yard individual medley, led by Franklin. Osman proved victorious in the 50-yard freestyle, and the Bears finished the night by setting a new Pac-12 record in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
Points piled on top of points as the Bears swept three more events Friday. In the 400-yard individual medley, sophomore Celina Li captured her first conference title. Franklin, the No. 1-ranked swimmer in the 200-yard freestyle, out-touched Stanford’s No. 2-ranked Simone Manuel to capture her second consecutive title in the event. Bootsma pulled through to win her third consecutive 100-yard backstroke title.
The Bears proved dominant throughout the entirety of the meet. On the final day, Runge’s time of 15:40.17 not only gave her a title in the 1,650-yard freestyle but also set both a school and meet record. Because of her astonishing results, Runge was named Pac-12 Swimmer of the Meet. Also on the final day, freshman Noemie Thomas captured her first individual title with a win in the 200-yard butterfly.
The backstroke events highlighted Cal’s depth. In the 200-yard backstroke, Franklin outraced Pelton, the two-time defending Pac-12 Champion and American record holder in the event, to lead a Bears sweep with a time of 1:49.94 to Pelton’s 1:50.27. Senior Melanie Klaren finished the event in third.
Cunnane is ecstatic with the results of her swim team.
“I think the team is really proud and excited for the next step,” Cunnane said. “Today, we are just enjoying the fact that we won a Pac-12 championship. We had a really magical meet.”
Isabella Busacca covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected].