College Previews: #3 Cal Looking To Challenge For Number One Spot With A Talent Filled Roster

The Cal women have some of the top names in college swimming that makes up a fantastic roster and undoubtedly categorizes them as one of the best teams in the nation.

With a great number of swimmers on the team bringing home points at last year’s NCAA Championships, the Cal team is in a great position his season, as they haven’t lost much, but they’ve gained a whole lot.

Cindy Tran will be the biggest factor missing from the Cal team this season as she had an electrifying career that involved multiple finals swims at the NCAA Championships as well as being a crucial part of the Cal relays.

They’ve gained some great athletes with the likes of Cierra Runge and Noemie Thomas, so there’s merit to believe that Cal could come back swinging and try to top Stanford and Georgia for the women’s NCAA title.

Last Season

 The Cal women were extremely successful last season with Teri McKeever utilizing a large majority of the athletes on her team to score points at both the Pac 12 Championships and NCAAs.

With a fantastic record last season, the Cal Golden Bears came into the 2014 Pac 12 Championships as the undisputed favorites, with the exception of Stanford.

The Cal team won the Pac 12 meet with a total of 1552.5 points to take down Stanford who finished second with 1364.

Later in the season at the NCAAs, Cal wasn’t able to hold off Stanford and ended up finishing third behind them and the eventual winners, Georgia. Cal had 386 points which was extremely close to Stanford’s 402.5.

Cal fell to Stanford much due to a disqualified 4x50m medley relay, with that race their point totals would have been much closer.

Overall, the Cal team saw success from swimmers like Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Pelton and Celina Li who all scored in multiple events in order to help Cal get the finish they needed.

Heading into this season, they might be in an even better position to demonstrate their dominant roster to the rest of the NCAA.

2014-2015 Freshman Class

The Golden Bears don’t have a huge freshman class for the 2014-2015 season, drafting only five swimmers. Quality over quantity is the definition of how Cal recruited however, picking up big names such as freestyle star Cierra Runge and Canadian butterfly star Noemie Thomas.

Noemie Thomas fits perfectly in the Cal roster with Cindy Tran -who previously swam the fly splits on all the relays and placed sixth in the 100 fly at NCAA’s last year- gone. Coming from Canada, the one weakness that Thomas has is that she doesn’t have as much experience as her American counterparts swimming yards.

In Canada, short course meets are held in 25m pools, where Thomas has absolutely excelled. Her short course 100m fly sits at 56.64; when converted that time is a 51.02 in yards. A 51.02 would have placed second at the NCAA Championships last year behind Felicia Lee of Stanford who will not be coming back this year meaning that Thomas could possibly have a shot at the title.

Her long course 50m fly is a 26.23 which ranked her at 16th in the world for the 2013-2014 season. Converted to short course yards, that’s a 23.00. The fastest split in the 200 medley relay at NCAA’s last season was a 22.71 by Ellese Zalewski. Thomas is set up to possibly have the fastest split. If she can convert her long course success to yards well a 23.00 with a flat-start will render an amazing fly leg on the 200 medley relay.

The Cal 200 medley relay was disqualified last year, however they have one of the most stacked teams in the NCAA. With Thomas now on the team, they’ll have amazing back, fly, and freestyle legs. Their one weakness would be the breaststroke leg with Celina Li, however Li is coming back after finishing her freshman season with a lot more experience than ever before which should help her cause.

Thomas will be very successful in the 100 fly, as well as the relays, and will come as a dual threat with potential to score in the 200 fly. Her 200 fly conversion time is a 1:55.41 which would have gotten her seventh at last year’s NCAA’s. She spoke to SwimSwam about putting some more focus on her 200 fly before moving to California, however the sprints are her specialties.

While Thomas takes control of the sprint fly events, Cierra Runge will step in to make her move in the middle-distance and distance freestyles. Runge is coming off an amazing season where she made her first senior national team, heading to Pan Pacs. Runge swam a 4:04.67 in the 400m free at nationals to finish second behind Katie Ledecky and earn herself a spot on the roster.

Runge also made the team in the 800m freestyle, and ended up earning a silver medal at Pan Pacs, again behind Ledecky, to earn her first major international medal on a senior level. Runge also got to work with Cal coach Teri McKeever while she was there.

Runge holds extremely fast times in meters, however she hasn’t produced anything as impressive in yards, but there’s no doubt that McKeever has a plan for her. So far, she set two personal best in yards swims this season with a 4:43.36 in the 500 free and a 16:40.89 in the 1650 free at the All-Florida Invite. Those times wouldn’t have scored points at last year’s NCAA Championships, however come NCAAs she’ll most likely be able to throw something down that will be competitive.

No Cal swimmer scored in the 1650 at last year’s NCAAs as the distance-freestyle portion of the program was lacking in athletes. With Runge, it only adds more depth to the team and gives Cal more potential to score in every single individual event.

Possibly shadowed by the two stars is freshman Maija Roses. Roses is a breaststroker, and might give Celina Li a run for her money on the breaststroke legs of the relays. Her personal best in the 100 yard breaststroke is 1:01.48. Li split a 1:01.20 on the 4×100 medley relay last season, so Roses is definitely in contention for taking over as the top breaststroker and grabbing that relay spot.

Last season, Cal was unable to score in only four individual events, two of which happened to be the breaststrokes. Roses could be the solution to that problem if she can drop some time this season. She’ll need to be around the one-minute mark in the 100, and under around 2:09 in the 200 if she wants a chance at making the consolation final. Those times are very achievable, and if she’s able to make those time drops it will only make the Cal relays that much more successful.

One of the Cal relays that was very successful last season was the 4×100 freestyle relay. The team finished third at NCAAs, the slowest split being a 48.72 leadoff from Kaylin Bing. This season, Cal recruited Jasmine Mau who swims a 48.67 100 freestyle.

Bing still has the edge on Mau. In the individual 100 freestyle she was a 48.56 in prelims last season. The potential for Mau to get a relay spot however will be fuel for her to improve, and will create a great freestyle training environment.

Returning Swimmers

Cal has one of the best returning classes in the nation, only giving up two point-scoring swimmers and keeping a total of 9 on board.

Not only are these 9 swimmers point scorers, but four of them were able to score points in more than one event. Missy Franklin racked up the most individual points out of any swimmer on the roster with a win in the 200 free, a silver in the 500 free, and a bronze in the 100 free.

Her versatility is well-known to the world as she’s one of the top swimmers on the international scene, however she didn’t swim any backstroke events at last year’s NCAA Championships despite those being her expertise in international competition.

This season, Franklin could very well come back and earn just as many points as the previous season. She’s almost a guarantee in the 200 freestyle being the American record holder and setting the fastest time ever in that event at least year’s NCAA Championships with a 1:40.31. In the 500, she’ll have her hands full again with Brittany MacLean from Georgia. The Canadian came charging home on the last lap of the race to beat Franklin to the wall by 13 one-hundredths, sparking a freestyle rivalry which will most likely carry on into this season.

Franklin does have room to improve in the 100 yard freestyle as Margo Geer from Arizona who won the event last year graduated. This moves Franklin up a spot, however if she’ll want a chance at winning the event she’ll need to get past Stanford’s Lia Neal who finished ahead of her last season.

The option is open for Franklin to change-up her schedule and possibly opt for a backstroke event or possibly both. Franklin has the speed to most likely win both backstrokes, events which McKeever might choose to give a little more of a focus on after she finished third in the event at Pan Pacs this year. Franklin was also fourth in the 200 backstroke despite being the current world record holder.

Elizabeth Pelton is another swimmer who has multiple options to consider when putting together her NCAA schedule. Last season she was fourth in the 200 IM, second in the 200 back, and 12th in the 200 freestyle. Pelton has tons of success in the backstrokes which are her speciality, and will have the option to include the 100 into her repertoire.

Her 100 backstroke personal best of 51.26 would have earned her a sixth place finish last season, so it was most likely a smart move to throw her into the 200 freestyle. Her personal best of 1:42.13 would’ve grabbed her a second place finish, however after not swimming fast enough to get a spot in the championship final, she ended up settling for 12th place.

Pelton is an all-around success story, and can bring points to the team in many events. McKeever will have to make her mind up, much as she will with Franklin, about what to do with Pelton’s schedule in order to get the most out of her this season.

Franklin and Pelton are the two stars of the team, but it’s the depth of the roster which really adds up to define Cal’s success. Melanie Klaren picked up points last season in both the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. Celina Li was a bronze medallist in the 200 IM and earned herself a spot in the finals in the 400 IM eventually finishing eighth. Kaylin Bing demonstrated her sprint freestyle talents with an 11th place finish in the 50 free touching the wall in 22.05.

Farida Osman has the potential to make the 50 freestyle as well, although last season she fell short but her sprinting talents are undeniable. Osman ended up scoring in the 100 fly, however if all goes as planned she should be able to grab points in the 50 free as well and be a dual threat.

Rachel Bootsma was an important part of the Cal medley relays and finished 11th in the 100 back. She has talent in the 100 fly, and can most likely put together a faster swim in the 100 back that will produce more points this season.

Throw in Camille Cheng andRachael Acker and they can both score individual points as well. Acker will most likely be a member of the 4×200 freestyle relay as well considering she was part of the team that won gold last season.

There’s no denying the overall depth and possibilities for this group of girls as they head into another season together. Each and every one of them brings something to the table and it with a great coaching staff, having more NCAA experience under their belt can only help.

What To Expect

The depth of the Cal team is almost unmatched by any other in the NCAA. Out of all the returning swimmers, they scored in every single individual event other than the two breaststrokes, the 200 fly, and the 1650 at last year’s NCAAs. Now with freshman swimmers who have the potential to score in those events the roster seems almost unstoppable.

By having one or more athletes scoring in every event, as well as improved relays, it seems as though Cal will pass Stanford and come a lot closer to Georgia, who’s won for the last two seasons after coming second to Cal back in 2012. Cal is clearly looking to regain that title, and it’s looking as though they have the swimmers and potential to do so.

Cal should repeat as the Pac 12 champions and their relays are looking to be in great shape. With the addition of Noemie Thomas and Maija Roses, the potential to swim faster medley relays is greater than ever. The 400 freestyle relay should remain in a similar position, although the 200 free relay might fall slightly without Cindy Tran. They should be able to pick up sturdy points in all their relays which will be a huge plus for them as they lost points drastically last year on the DQ’ed 200 medley relay.

With the great depth on the Cal team which includes seven athletes who’ve competed in international swimming competition, two of which are freshman, they’ve assembled one of the greatest teams in college swimming and will be a driving force in the NCAA for years to come.

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8 years ago

Is this the same “Floppy” I read derogatory comments about Cal swimmers, and HC in the past?
His current posts of late are most welcome and make for good contribution to this forum!

Reply to  longseeker
8 years ago

Longseeker – what is ‘HC’?
And, derogatory? No.
Critical? Yes.

One year ago, Cal looked like they’d swamp the NCAA on paper. That didn’t pan out. They still have enormous talent and a great coach. They’ll make things work, I hope and expect.

For what it’s worth… The USA’s major meets this summer (Nationals and Pan Pacs) were swam outdoors, in less than ideal conditions. I hoped Cal’s vaunted backstrokers would do better, but I’m not all that surprised.

Reply to  floppy
8 years ago

HC—–Head Coach. Keep up the adroit and tactful comments!

Andy H
8 years ago

Now Floppy’s got some interesting points – stay away from opinion and analyze the objective

8 years ago

Love the articles and most of the comments, but some of it is so tribal it’s comical. Michael Thomas commits to Cal and a post reading simply, “Welcome to Cal” gets 2 down votes. How could that possibly offend anyone?!? Leah Stevens is an exceptional swimmer and every school in the country would be lucky to get her, but a serial troll claims she should be ranked #1 (over Ledecky, Weitzeil, and Baker) and that gets 7 up votes? Not everyone is unbiased and able to think critically and some will lash out in bizarre ways.

Do think it’s fair to offer reasonable criticism of coaches and swimmers in articles about the teams, but not every time a recruit commits… Read more »

samuel huntington
8 years ago

People need to stop freaking out when a swimmer or coach is criticized. As long as people are civil when posting, criticism should be welcomed. Sometimes people have bad swims and there’s no harm in pointing that out. The girls at Cal are top notch athletes and people and can certainly handle some criticism.

8 years ago

I’m calling Celina Li to have a huge year. She could win both IM’s this year and be a top-3 200 flyer. She seems to be learning a lot of great elite fundamentals under Teri, specifically how to string consistent top times together in a meet and win!

I think she may be under heralded here!

8 years ago

I just looked at Cal’s roster, thought this was interesting:
– Maija Roses – 5’2″
– Celina Li – 5’3″
– Noemie Thomas — 5’4″
– Marina Garcia – 5’5″
– Jasmine Mau – 5’5″
That is impressive short-axis speed for these shorties!

On the other end of the spectrum is Cierra Runge at 6’3″.
(Will be very curious to see how she swims. She was a sprinter, then became a star with NBAC’s distance corps. Cal needs her in the distance, but she could probably do a mean 100/200 if training for it).

8 years ago

With so much talent, it’s hard to give due credit to everyone on Cal’s roster. And since this is swimswam, I get to nerd out a bit:

Minor corrections:
– The 50 fly. Technically, Barbea (Mizzou) and Worrell (Lville) split 22.66’s at NCAAs, they just did it in the prelims.
– Cierra Runge slipped to 5th at Pan Pacs, I believe.

Teri McKeever is a smart coach. I’m sure she will change some things up this year. If her swimmers look like they did in 2013, Cal should win NCAAs. If her swimmers look like they did last year, probably another 3rd place.
The name of the game in NCAAs is underwaters. That’s the first, second,… Read more »

8 years ago

Marina garcia underperformed last year for sure. It was so drastic that I think it may have been illness or injury. She split 59.6 I believe at sc nationals on the 400 medley relay.

Jasmine Mau was mentioned as a quality sprint freestyler, and she is. But she was also the national high school record holder in the 100 fly at 52.2. To me this cal squad is the most dangerous Butterfly crew ever. Add McLaughlin next year without graduating a single flyer. This year you have thomas, bootsma, Osman, and Mau.

Cal looks like a win this year. Because.. Stanford and georgia will need to exert too myuch power to top one and other in the sprint relays. With… Read more »

bobo gigi
Reply to  Phil
8 years ago

Are you sure Miss Ledecky will leave NCAP and Mr Gemmell to start her college career next year, a few months before the biggest meet of her life? She can defer it, no? After the olympic games. I’m not sure she has still officially said she would go to Stanford in 2015. As a big fan of her, I’d prefer to see her go to college after the olympic games.

Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

If Ledecky weren’t planning on attending Stanford next Fall, she wouldn’t have committed early and she wouldn’t have spent last weekend on the Farm with her prospective freshmen teammates.

Reply to  duckduckgoose
8 years ago

no, I’ve heard directly from her over the summer that she was still deciding when to go. she could have decided by now but it seemed she was leaning towards waiting.

Reply to  duckduckgoose
8 years ago

Could be that she wanted to influence future recruits by committing early.

Chia Pet
Reply to  OBear73
8 years ago

Or maybe she committed early because she didn’t want the overwhelming distractions that come with being the number one high school recruit. Getting the decision out of the way before July 1 means that she didn’t even have to deal with phone calls.

My guess is that Ledecky stays at NCAP next year. She and Andrew Gemmell are great training partners, and she has no one to do distance sets with at the single gender Stanford practices.

Reply to  Phil
8 years ago

To Mr. Bowmile: not only will Franklin have to get past Neal in the 100, she’s going to be totally owed by superstud Manuel who has already been faster than Franklin in Queensland, and is only going to get stronger & faster! We may have lost one of our superstars in Lee, but rising star Hu’s sure to dominate Thomas in the fly. Not really a smart move to underestimate the Cardinal’s number 1 ranked class for this year! LOL
LSJU’s relays can only get more intimidating too after UGA has lost two of their best contributors to graduation. Won’t pretend it will be a one-team race as the bulldogs are always dangerous, but looks like those bears may… Read more »

Reply to  CardinalChamps
8 years ago

Janet Hu will dominate Noemi Thomas?
Maybe only in SCY. but even then, we’ll have to see.
But in LCM, Thomas will definitely dominate Hu.

About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch worked for 5-years with SwimSwam news as a web producer focusing on both Canadian and international content. He coached for Toronto Swim Club for four seasons as a senior coach focusing on the development of young swimmers. Mitch is an NCCP level 2 certified coach in Canada and an ASCA Level …

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