While many squads around the country are kicking off their seasons with intrasquad meets, Cal begins its year a bit differently at the annual King/Queen of the Pool Pentathlon hosted by Cal Poly. At this meet, swimmers compete in a 100 of all four strokes, plus a 100 IM, and the swimmers with the fastest combined time are declared royalty for the year.
This is really a great and entertaining format that helps put an emphasis on racing early in the season. For the 2nd-straight year, sophomore Marcin Tarczynski and junior Caitlin Leverenz won the overall titles. For Leverenz, in fact, this is the third win in as many seasons, which is no surprise given that she’s one of the top IM’ers in the world.
The meet is a full-weekend of events to kick off the season in San Luis Obispo, and the two teams embrace it as a light-hearted, spirited affair in a very similar nature to that which you would see at an intrasquad competition.
On the men’s side, Tom Shields finished a total of 1.8 seconds behind the winner in 3rd place, but he was almost entirely dominant in the meet. In fact, he won four out of the five events, but was doomed in by a dreadful breaststroke time of 1:04 in what otherwise would’ve been a dominant win. He kicked things off with marks of 48.4 in the 100 fly and 48.9 in the 100 back, both of which are events where he’s the favorite at NCAA’s this year. He also marked a great 45.2 in the 100 free. Absent of Nathan Adrian after his graduation, Shields becomes by far the Bears’ top sprinter – nobody else was better than 46. Senior Mathias Gydesen, who is more known for his backstroking, will be looking to step up in this 100 free this year for a potential relay swim, and he got things off to a good start with a 46.77.
Cal also got some good swims from their senior breaststrokers, which despite losses remain amongst the nation’s best group. Martiin Liivamagi, who was 2nd overall in the meet, posted a 55.79; though the 200 breaststroke and the IM’s are his true specialty. Nolan Koon had the 2nd-best time in that event of 55.90.
Some pieces of the Cal freshman class didn’t compete, including World Youth Championships team member Seth Stubblefield, though he did make the trip. William Hamilton (49.88 – 100 fly) and Tyler Messerschmidt (46.29 – 100 free) both looked very strong in their Cal debuts though.
The Cal Poly men are in rebuilding mode after the graduation of NCAA qualifier Peter Kline. They’ve got two good young swimmers to build around in sophomore Joseph Wasko and freshman Jimmy Deiparine, who placed 16th and 17th overall, respectively. Wasko posted a 53.4 in the 100 back, and Deiparine broke a minute in the 100 breaststroke with a 59.21.
As for the King, Tarczynski, he didn’t dominate any single event, but was versatile across all 5 to win the event. His best swims (in official events) were a 49.2 in the 100 fly and a 49.7 in the 100 back.
On the women’s side, Leverenz proved the most versatile, punctuated by a dominant 1:02.65 in the 100 breaststroke. She also went a 56.79 in the 100 IM, which is a very fast time.
Senior Liv Jensen also had a very good all-around performance, including a 50.23 in the 100 free where she was the 2010 National Champion. Senior Sara Isokavic, who is looking to end her college career on a high-note after a roller-coaster for four years, got off to a good start with a 50.96 in the 100 free and won the 100 fly in 54.98.
The really impressive Cal swimmer was freshman Catherine Breed out of Pleasanton. With all of the buzz about Cal’s recruiting class of 2012, don’t let it be overlooked that they also grabbed three out of the top 5 in last year’s senior class, including Breed. She placed 4th overall this meet, including an awesome 56.85 in the 100 back for 3rd, 2nd in the 100 fly in 55.04, and 3rd in the 100 free in 50.96. Her time in the 100 fly, in fact, is a career-best for her already, showing that her training at Cal has paid off immediately. That’s a great representation of what Breed can be for this Cal program, as her versatility across the sprints will prove huge over the long-term for a team that has performed so well in relays.
Amongst the other freshman, Melanie Klaren didn’t show the same versatility, but did come away 2nd in the 100 back in 55.93.
Sophomore Cindy Tran, the defending National Champion, won the 100 back in 55.45, and looked solid in the 100 fly, her 2nd-best event, in 56.01. Her partner-in-crime, Deborah Roth, didn’t look great (57.78 in the 100 back). She rarely starts the season fast, but this time is still a bit slower than she would have liked. The season is still very young though, so it would be silly to read too much into the time.
Sophomore Melissa Bates got her season off to a very good start in the 100 breaststroke. She showed very good balance, including a 52.1 in the 100 free that is a great time for her, but rode her 1:03.9 100 breaststroke to a 3rd-place overall placing in the meet. There’s a lot of pressure on Bates this season – if there’s an area where Cal has a weakness, it’s a lack of depth in the breaststrokes. Leverenz does well in the 200, but Cal didn’t have any entries in the 100 at NCAA’s last year. They also proved they didn’t necessarily need an entry in the 100, but if they could put one in (even to give Leverenz a break on some prelims relays) this year, they’d feel much better about their chances at repeating.
The top-finishing woman for Cal Poly was junior Angie Haven, who finished 14th overall. She had a solid 1:05.9 in the 100 breaststroke, and is one of the most dominant swimmers in the Conference. Also with a good swim for the Mustangs was senior Gloria Benefield in the 100 back, where she went a 57.88.