In case the Cal women’s swimming community wasn’t already aware that Missy Franklin’s departure is going to be a big loss for the program, they certainly know now. On Monday, Franklin was awarded the Honda Cup, which is annually handed out to the best female collegiate athlete in the country.
With the victory, Franklin adds yet another award to a mantle that’s got to be getting crowded by now. The cup joins four Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal, the 2015 NCAA Swimmer of the Year award and 14 NCAA All-American honors from her two years at UC Berkeley.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Franklin said to Cal Athletics after she was presented the cup. “To be here and to receive such a prestigious honor, I’m so incredibly thankful. I couldn’t have dreamt of anything more.”
Franklin edged out an accomplished group of candidates from around the nation for the Honda Cup. Her toughest competition came from UConn basketball’s Breanna Stewart. Like Franklin, Stewart was the best player on a team that won the national title. Another prominent candidate for the award was Florida softball player Lauren Haeger, who also led her team to a national championship. Franklin’s dominant championship performance, however, was too much for Stewart and Haeger to overcome.
Franklin won five titles at this year’s NCAA Championships. Three of these titles were individual crowns, making her the first Bear to achieve this since Cal alumna Natalie Coughlin, who accomplished this in 2002 and 2003. At the meet, Franklin set the American record for the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:39.10. She also came first in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard backstroke, with times of 1:52.11 and 1:47.91, respectively.
The 2015 Capital One Academic All-American of the year also dominated at the Pac-12 Championship meet. She won the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year award after winning the same individual titles she won at the NCAA meet, along with anchoring the 800-yard free relay team for an American record time of 6:50.18.
These wins helped Franklin become the second Honda Cup winner in Cal history after Mary T. Meagher, a swimmer for the Bears, who won in 1987. Along with the Honda Cup, the College Women’s Sports Awards also give Honda Awards to the top female athlete in each sport. Franklin’s Honda Award is the ninth in Bears history and the seventh win for the Cal women’s swim team. The previous Cal winner is Caitlin Leverenz, who won for her performance on the swim team in the 2011-12 season.
Franklin led the Bears to the NCAA Championships in her last meet with the team in March. After the event, she left Cal to turn pro and intensify her training for August’s World Championships and for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Her departure leaves the swim program without its biggest name since Coughlin.
“My two years of being a Golden Bear were the best two years of my life,” Franklin said to Cal Athletics. “I met the most incredible people, and I made friendships and relationships that I know I’m going to have as long as I live. I’m so grateful for the memories we made together.”