Season snapshots: Cal women’s swim wins national championship on back of Missy Franklin

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Editor’s Note: This piece is the second of a series looking back at the most important point of some teams’ 2014-15 season.

Cal women’s swim put on another clinic for the world to witness this season from March 19-21 in Greensboro, North Carolina, with the team capturing its fourth NCAA Championship in the past seven years.

Four-time gold medalist sophomore Missy Franklin played a pivotal role in helping the Bears set a new school record with 513 points in the NCAA Division I Championship Meet. Cal toppled Georgia, which finished in second with 452 points, and Stanford, which took third with 363 points, to re-establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in the collegiate swimming world.

Franklin added to her long list of accolades by winning the 2015 NCAA Swimmer of the Year award and bested the American record by posting a 1:39.10 time in the 200-yard freestyle. She also snatched victories in the 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard individual medley. Her victory in the backstroke event, however, was in serious jeopardy for the first 150 yards as Franklin trailed Virginia’s Courtney Bartholomew. Franklin put her foot on the pedal and didn’t look back for the last 50 yards as she posted the second-best time in American history with 1:47.91 — a little more than a second better than Bartholomew’s 1:49.35 time.

Franklin also helped the Bears to a second-place finish with a time of 3:09.76 in the 400-yard freestyle relay, losing to Stanford’s quartet of Lindsey Engel, Janet Hu, Simone Manuel and Lia Neal, which set an American record in the event with their time of 3:08.54. Franklin led off with a school record of 46.66 in her 100 yards. She cemented her legacy in Cal history by setting a record with five individual and relay titles in one NCAA Championships Meet.

Senior Melanie Klaren also put up a strong showing in the meet, claiming sixth in the 200-back for the second consecutive year and setting a personal record with her time of 1:51.83. Klaren took a strong third in the 100-yard backstroke with another personal record of 51.31. She closed out her outstanding career as a Bear with times in Cal’s all-time top 10 in three events.

Other strong performances included freshman Cierra Runge’s second-place finishes in the 1,650-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle, along with the 200-yard medley relay victory headed by junior Rachel Bootsma, sophomores Farida Osman and Marina Garcia and freshman Noemie Thomas.

Franklin became the second Bear to capture three individual titles during an NCAA Championship Meet, following in the footsteps of Natalie Coughlin, who took the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Cal’s utter domination of the NCAA Championships was a byproduct of the team’s depth, with nine swimmers claiming either an individual or relay victory for the team. But the team will miss its superstar, Franklin, next season.

She will turn pro after her two years of swimming at the collegiate level and prepare for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she looks to add even more hardware to a growing collection. For now, though, the Cal faithful can bask in the glory of yet another outstanding effort at the NCAA Championships to add to the victories in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Shiktij Dave is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].