The Cal women freshmen are living up to their considerable hype already this season, as they topped the Texas Longhorns in Berkeley by tally of 172-128 (albeit with no exhibition events – showing still some good fight from Texas).
First, the Lady Bears swam a blazing 3:36.60 in the 400 medley relay. There’s been a lot of curiosity about where this medley will go this year, and for now the group is Cindy Tran, Caitlin Leverenz, Kelly Naze, and Liz Pelton. That might not even be their best 400 medley, but it’s definitely spectacular. They split 53.5-1:00.5-53.7-48.8 (that’s Pelton anchoring in sub-49 already). The middle section still needs some work (we know Leverenz will be there) but everything we’ve seen this season indicates that the Bears medleys will be about as untouchable as everyone has expected, especially now that Pelton has proven a more-than-capable sprint anchor after Liv Jensen’s graduation.
Pelton also added three individual wins at this meet: a 1:46.56 in the 200 free, which ranks her 4th in the country this year, a 4:09 in the 400 IM, and sandwiched in between a 1:54.55 in the 200 back. That 200 was the only backstroke race she swam, and ranks her now 2nd-best in the country (behind only another freshman, Kendyl Stewart at USC). She actually negative split taht swim in a big way – going out in 57.5 and coming back in a 57.0. That time set a new Spieker Aquatics Complex Pool Record, crushing the 1:56.20 set by Stanford’s Julia Smit in 2007.
A pair of National Teamers, Caitlin Leverenz and Laura Sogar, had two great breaststroke battles in this meet. In the 100, Leverenz showed some good speed to win in 1:00.33, pulling just away from Sogar in 1:00.66. Texas sophomore Gretchen Jacques had a solid 3rd-place swim of 1:01.44.
The 200, though, was where the real fireworks flew (it’s both swimmers’ best distance of the two). The swimmers posted the two best times in the country this year easily (even better than A&M’s Breeja Larson, who has been so good in the 100), but at the touch Leverenz was a 2:09.52 and Sogar was a 2:09.64, with Cal’s Olympian again overtaking Sogar on the last 50 yards of the race.
In other good swims, Texas’ Kaitlin Pawlowicz is off to another hot start like she did last season, putting up a 9:52 to win the 1000. That’s not as good as the 9:45 she was last week, but ultimately that could be a good thing. Last season, she was a head-scratching 9:42 this same weekend, but was unable to hit her taper at NCAA’s. She looks to be in a much better position this year.
The women’s 100 backstroke was another lighting-quick race, featuring 3 swimmers who should be in the A-Final at this year’s NCAA Championships. Cal saw two swimmers mark 53.4′s already, and neither of them was Liz Pelton. Freshman Rachel Bootsma tipped the defending NCAA Champion Cindy Tran by mark of 53.43-53.45. Texas’ transfer Sarah Denninghoff was 3rd in 54.03.
Texas ended the meet on a high note, with their 200 free relay (arguably their best this season) winning in 1:31.85 to Cal’s 1:32.00. Those are the number-two and number-four times in the country this season, and for Texas included matching 22.72′s from Gretchen Jacques and Bethany Adams (both on rolling starts). Bootsma has the fastest split for Cal, marking a 22.70 on Cal’s third leg.
In the 400 IM, we noted already Pelton’s 4:09 in the 400 IM, but strangely Leverenz was far off of that mark in 4:16. In the past, she’s been consistently good in this race all year long, so this time is a bit of an anomaly for her. Perhaps the Olympics pushed back her typical start-of-season training schedule, which would explain why she wasn’t quite back to form yet in this tough event. We’ll have to watch for better at the Arena Invitational in two weeks, where historically Cal has been very sharp (Leverenz swam a 4:05 at that meet last year).