Day 3 of the Women’s Pac-12 Championships has concluded in Federal Way, Washington. Here are 4 big things we noticed:
1. The Stanford breaststroke carousel keeps going around: Stanford’s big advantage over Pac-12 rival Cal at this point is their deep breaststroke group, an area of need for Cal (more on that below). One interesting note about Stanford’s breaststrokers, though, is how they seem to rise and fall in cycles. Last year at this time, then-junior Katie Olsen was heating up, and rolled right through the post-season as the team’s go-to breaststroker. This year, it appears to be current junior Sarah Haase who is red-hot, and she picked up the 100 breast win tonight, plus was the difference-maker on the winning 400 medley relay. Could freshman Heidi Poppe be the next breaststroker to heat up for the Cardinal?
2. Missy vs Simone: You won’t get to see showdowns of this caliber much, so hopefully you enjoyed tonight’s battle between Missy Franklin and Simone Manuel. Two of the rising stars of American swimming went head-to-head in the 200 free tonight, possibly the only time they’ll face each other directly at the Pac-12 Championships, if Franklin elects to swim the 200 back tomorrow instead of the 100 free. Franklin touched out Manuel 1:41.09 to 1:41.15. But even more exciting than that finish is how far ahead of her 2014 pace Franklin is at this point. At last year’s Pac-12s, Franklin was just 1:42.2, and then went on to break the American record with a 1:40.31 at NCAAs. If Missy can pull off a similar taper drop this season, she’ll become the first woman under 1:40, and she’ll do it by a longshot.
3. Cal still lacking a breaststroker: Despite outsplitting Stanford in fly and back by about a full second each, Cal still couldn’t overcome the Cardinal for the relay win. That falls mostly on the breaststroke leg, where Stanford’s Haase went 58.9 and Cal’s Marina Garcia couldn’t even break a minute. The Golden Bears were hoping Garcia would finally come around this season or that freshman Maija Roses would develop in a hurry, but Garcia is still struggling to adapt to short course and Roses still looks a ways away from stepping into the primary breaststroker role. That’s going to be a need to watch going forward for Cal, who have the talent in many events to contend for an NCAA title, but need to shore up a few glaring holes to challenge the Georgia juggernaut.
4. Bootsma’s back: Cal’s Rachel Bootsma was an NCAA champion in 2013, going 50.13 as a freshman and looking like the next big challenger to Natalie Coughlin‘s American record. But Bootsma fell off badly as a sophomore, never going faster than 51.19 and failing to even make the A final at NCAAs. Her junior season is shaping up to be a comeback run, though, as Bootsma went 50.84 to win the Pac-12 title in her best swim since March of 2013. She’s still got her work cut out for her to beat Virginia’s Courtney Bartholomew at nationals, but it has to be a welcome sign for Cal fans to see Bootsma back to looking like the girl who made the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 while still in high school.