2013 NCAA Preview: Loaded #2 Cal Women Return Three NCAA Champions, Add Top Class

Key Additions: Missy Franklin (multi-event World Champion/Olympic Gold Medalist), Celina Li (IM), Kristen Vredeveld (sprint freestyle), Farida Osman (Egypt, sprint fly/free), Sophia Batchelor (New Zealand, sprint fly/free/back), Marina Garcia (Spain, breaststroke), Taylor Young (breaststroke), Abi Speers (sprint free),

Key Losses: Caitlin Leverenz (NCAA Champion, NCAA record holder)

2012-2013 Lookback

Despite winning multiple individual events and finishing second as a team NCAA’s, the 2012-2013 season left Cal wanting more.  After looking a bit flat in a surprise third place finish at Pac-12’s, we were expecting Cal to light up the pool at NCAA’s with the same monster taper they have had over their previous four seasons where they came with three team titles.  Even with some great individual efforts, the Bears didn’t have enough top-to-bottom to compete with Georgia.  Regardless of the rumors of sickness, even if this Cal squad was 100% “on”, Georgia would have been tough to beat.  The Bulldogs controlled the meet from the get-go, putting up 56 points in the first individual event and never looking back.

There were plenty of great moments for the Bears, however.  They went 1-2 in the 200 IM at both Pac-12’s and NCAA’s (courtesy of Caitlin Leverenz and Elizabeth Pelton), Rachel Bootsma was crowned NCAA champion in the 100 back, and Elizabeth Pelton crushed the American record in the 200 back.  In addition, head coach Teri McKeever got some great performances from a number of future stars, including Rachael Acker and Melanie Klaren.

2013-2014 Preview

Fab Freshmen

Considering this class contains three World Championship finalists (Marina Garcia, Farida Osman, and Sophia Batchelor), one of the top sprint recruits from the last decade (Kristen Vredeveld), and one of the best all-around swimmers (Celina Li) in addition to best swimmer on the planet (Missy Franklin), it’s no surprise this is the number one ranked class in the country.

How good is this class?  The number crunching was pretty quick, but based off of their best pre-collegiate times (we had to include conversion for Osman and Batchelor, but we were pretty conservative), this class would have placed eighth as a team last year at NCAA’s.  And that’s only swimming four relays, and without Franklin or Li really getting a shot at a full-on short course taper.  No, seriously… look:

Event

Swimmer

Place

Points

500 free Franklin

1st

20

200 IM Li

8th

11

50 free Vredeveld

8th

11

Osman

13th

4

400 IM Li

8th

11

100 fly Batchelor

8th

11

200 free Franklin

1st

20

100 breast Garcia

6th

13

100 back N/A
200 back Franklin

2nd

17

100 free Vredeveld

10th

7

200 breast Garcia

4th

15

200 fly N/A

TOTAL Individual Points:

140

 

200 Free Relay

Flat Start

Split (-0.5)

Total Time

Place

Points

Franklin

22.01

22.01

5th

28

Vredeveld

22.17

21.67

Osman#

22.30

21.80

Speers

23.13

22.63

 1:28.11  5th  28
200 MR
Franklin

23.90

23.90

Garcia#

27.30

26.80

Osman#

23.40

22.90

Vredeveld

22.17

21.67

 1:35.27  2nd  34
400 MR
Franklin

50.97

50.97

3rd

32

Garcia#

59.30

58.80

Batchelor#

52.00

51.50

Vredeveld

48.32

47.82

 3:29.09  3rd 32
400 FR
Franklin

47.28

47.28

Vredeveld

48.32

47.82

Osman#

49.80

49.30

Li

50.40

49.90

 3:14.30  8th  22
 # denotes converted time

TOTAL Relay Points:

116

  • We don’t really need to elaborate much about Missy.  She’s maybe the best all-around swimmer in the world, and has already proved she can post top-level short course times.  Her 200 and 500 freestyles from Sectionals last March would have won NCAA’s a year ago, and she wasn’t fully rested.  Tough to say what Franklin’s third event will be, but with Elizabeth Pelton already easily beating the field in the 200 back last year, Franklin might get a shot at the 100 free to maximize Cal’s point total.
  • Franklin is only one of three World Championship finalists in this class.  Marina Garcia is already one of the top breaststrokers in the NCAA, with lifetime bests of 1:05.82 (short course meters) and 1:07.08 (long course meters, from 2013 Worlds, where she placed seventh), and will almost surely take over for Caitlin Leverenz on Cal’s medley relays.  Sprint specialist Farida Osman is one of the best sprint butterflyers in the world, including a seventh place finish of her own last summer in the 50m butterfly.  Between Osman, Bootsma, Franklin, Tran, Pelton, and a boatload of others, the Bears have an insane amount of flexibility in their medley relays (more on that below).
  • Not to be outdone, Sophia Batchelor from New Zealand is actually the fastest 100 flyer in this class, with a long course best of 58.71. That time would have made her the third fastest performer amongst Americans in 2013 (only Dana Vollmer and Claire Donahue)
  • Kristen Vredeveld was one of the top five age group sprint freestylers in the country prior to her arrival in Berkeley.  She broke onto the scene back in 2011, when she went 22.17 and 48.32 as a 15 year old at NCSA Junior Nationals.  While she hasn’t come close to those times in almost two years, a new environment combined with a 100% focus on short course should yield some better results.
  • Celina Li is excellent across the board, and is one of the top IM recruits in the last few years.  She would have made NCAA A-Finals in the 200 and 400 IMs.
  • The two lesser known names in this class are no slouches either: Taylor Young (1:01.2, 2:14.9 breaststroker) and Abigail Speers (23.1, 50.8) steadily improved throughout high school, and could be key contributors in a couple years.

Returning Champions

Cal is returning three different NCAA individual champions: Rachel Bootsma, Cindy Tran, and Elizabeth Pelton.  The dynamic duo of Bootsma and Pelton were the top performers for the Bears last March (as true freshmen), scoring a combined 104 individual points, and also taking part in four relays each.  With incredible underwater work, both are superb backstrokers and freestylers, with Bootsma also tripling as an All-American butterflyer.  Thanks to an elite freshmen class and a great supporting cast, they should have easier programs at NCAA’s; neither of them should have to take part in more than one preliminary relay (most likely the 200 free relay) this year.

Although her 2013 performance left a lot to be desired, Cindy Tran will be looking to reclaim the 100 back title from her teammate in her final short course season.  She’s the 2011 and 2012 NCAA champion in the 100 backstroke, and actually also holds the fastest returning time in the 100 butterfly.  Her underwaters are some of the best in the world, and her on-top-of-the-water ability has improved each year.  To come away with the win this March, Cal needs Tran to return to 2012 form.  Her versatility in the medley relays gives McKeever a lot of additional flexibility when putting together lineups.  Speaking of relays…

Too Many Relay Options?

Is that possible?  Despite being pretty locked in with their breaststroke slots (Marina Garcia is unquestionably their best option at this point, although Celina Li looks like she could do a decent job filling in), coach Teri McKeever will essentially be able to use an entirely different squad on a preliminary relay, and still be able to easily secure a spot in the A-final.  Their depth across the board is unmatched:

Backstroke options:
Bootsma

50.13

Tran

50.31

Franklin

50.97

Pelton

51.26

Au

51.88

Klaren

52.12

Butterfly options:
Bootsma

51.68

Tran

51.62

Batchelor

51.90#

Osman

52.90#

50 free options:
Bootsma

21.72*

Tran

21.88*

Franklin

22.01

Pelton

22.01*

Vredeveld

22.17

Bing

22.22

Osman

22.30#

Acker

22.75

100 free options:
Bing

48.86

Piehl

48.69*

Vredeveld

48.32

Pelton

47.78

Acker

47.74*

Bootsma

47.71*

Franklin

47.28

200 free options:
Franklin

1:41.81

Pelton

1:42.13

Piehl

1:44.11

Breed

1:44.33*

Vredeveld

1:45.63

Acker

1:44.66

* denotes relay split time
# denotes converted time

While Bootsma, Franklin, and Pelton will surely be on their fair share of relays, what McKeever chooses to do with the remaining relay spots will largely depend on the championship performances of true freshman Kristen Vredeveld and senior Cindy Tran, two swimmers who were well off their best times a year ago.  The crazy thing to think about: with the depth at McKeever’s disposal, it’s entirely possible that Vredeveld and/or Tran won’t swim a single relay in finals.

At this point, Cal should be considered the favorite in every relay except for the 200 freestyle, partially because that’s the one Missy Franklin likely won’t be on (expect to see her swimming the 500 freestyle on day one).  The concept of evaluating teams’ prospects on paper is never certain, but Cal has the top-end horses (Bears?) and surrounding depth to take home at least four relay titles.

Names Not to Be Forgotten

  • Junior Catherine Breed scored in both the 200 and 500 free at NCAA’s last year, and recorded the second fastest split (1:44.33) on Cal’s third place 800 free relay.
  • Sophomore Rachael Acker was an unsung hero of sorts last championship season.  After winning the 200 free at Pac-12’s, she swam even faster at NCAA’s, winning the B-final in the 200, finishing top 8 in the 100, and swimming on three Cal relays.
  • Stephanie Au and Melanie Klaren have both been incredible valuable backstrokers for Cal each of the last two years.  Both have scored twice in the 100 back, and while only Klaren made it back in the 200, Au took preliminary relay duty for Cal’s medley relays last year.

The Outlook

Georgia is pretty loaded again, but this season has “Cal” written all over it.  While Caitlin Leverenz was critical for the Bears’ success over the previous four years, the points scored by Garcia, Li, Vredeveld, and Osman should definitely top what she brought to the table.  Add in Missy Franklin to that group, and you have a team with very, very few weakness (1650 and breaststroke depth are their noticeable flaws).  The only potential downfall (apart from mass sickness or injuries) would be if there are too many fast swimmers on the roster, and not everyone buys into the “team first” environment.  McKeever has never seemed to have had a problem fostering a “team first” environment, and this isn’t the first time she’s had a ton of swimming talent at her disposal.  With maybe their deepest team ever, look for Cal to run the table this year.

In This Story

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calswimfan

I’m very excited to watch this team throughout the season. go bears!

bobo gigi

You are not the only one!
I’d like to be a little mouse to see the backstroke trainings in Berkeley. It must be quite a show to watch.

WOW

Great article, really in depth and accurate. No doubt Cal will run away with the title this year

GOMYDAWGS

Sorry this article smacks of a certain unfair bias towards those media darlings CAL Bears to me, so I’m forced to vent my extreme displeasure here.

Let’s get real. Lady DAWGs are rolling along with 85+ home wins – while Lady BEARs, let’s see, LOST to a bunch of no name teams in their most recent outing last weekend.

And hello, UBerkeley was picked as hot favorites by guys here last year but look what actually happened…

That’s why they race the races, and not make absurd foregone conclusions this early in the season like, “this season has “Cal” written all over it”…or “look for Cal to run the table this year”

JEEZ!!

Chris

If you want to see Georgia’s streak change, just ask Baurle to invite Cal over for a dual meet 😉

bobo gigi

I was sure you would react very quickly! 🙂

duckduckgoose

Where is Swim Swam’s editorial integrity? How dare they ignore the long established/well-known Stanford bias in favor of all things Berkeley and allow a Stanford swim alum to write a fawning love letter to Cal swimming. For shame, Morgan. Turn in your pre-IPO railroad shares, Robber Baron.

gosharks

You get real.

Your bias is so strong that it has blinded you to the thorough data and facts presented within the article to back up its “absurd” conclusions.

Oh, and, dual meet streaks and winning an NCAA championship are not correlated.

dmswim

While I don’t have a dawg (or bear) in the fight, I think it’s completely unfair to characterize CAL’s loss last weekend as a typical dual meet loss. They sent their B team (or more like C team) of only 10 swimmers to an early season invitational. I think it was a great idea to give other girls on the team, who likely won’t get to swim much this year due to the stellar recruiting class CAL brought in, a chance to compete. Considering that a “loss to a bunch of no name teams,” is just misleading.

Ellen

FYI the Cal women’s teams are not the “lady” Bears….like the men, they are the Golden Bears.

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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