Celina Li Tops Missy Franklin for Tight Queen of the Pool Title

In a turn that might surprise lay-fans, but really shouldn’t shock too many given the format, Cal freshman Celina Li topped her classmate Missy Franklin for the women’s Queen of the Pool title in San Luis Obispo against the Cal Poly Mustangs.

This meet pits all competitors in a 100 yard fly, back, breast, free, and IM, with the fastest cumulative time taking the title.

The battle came down to the final race, but it was the supremely-versatile Li that took the win with an overall time of 4:43.10 to Franklin’s 4:43.22 – by just over a tenth of a second.

The battle was close early, with Cal having a mass of swimmers who excel in the 100 yard backstroke and butterfly races. Li, though, took the lead immediately with a 54.89 in that 100 fly – the fastest time overall.

That is a fantastic time for a collegiate-opening swim, but Franklin wasn’t far behind in 55.14. Rachel Bootsma and Liz Pelton were both right around 55.6 in that race – remember that Bootsma was the NCAA runner-up in the 100 fly in 2013 as just a freshman.

Note that incoming freshman Farida Osman, expected to be a spectacular butterflier for Cal, was just 58.12 in the 100 yard race; Sophia Batchelor was also a bit off of the pace in 57.24. Both should settle in as they become more accustomed to their American surroundings and yards swimming.

Into the backstroke race, it was an immediate battle between Franklin and Pelton: two of the best 100 backstrokers in the world and the United States’ two representatives in this race in Barcelona.

It ended up being Pelton who got to the wall first in 54.70, a couple-of-tenths ahead of Franklin; though her 54.79 was a great start for her college career.

Bootsma, a 2012 Olympian in the event, was again well back in 56.40, but it’s a bit early to read too far into her times at this meet.

Other impressive times from the loaded Cal backstroke group included a 55.51 from Stephanie Au, and a 55.67 from two-time NCAA Champion Cindy Tran. Li was a 56.16 to maintain contact with Franklin, Pelton, and Bootsma in the overall rankings.

Then on to the breaststroke: a race which has been a weak spot depth-wise for Cal (though that problem should be alleviated this year). Li was again the fastest in the breaststroke, which really was impressive given how good she’d already been in the first two races. She swam a 1:03.70, which was just better than Spanish freshman Marina Garcia‘s 1:03.88 (advantage Garcia, given her situation as an international freshman).

Franklin, though, put in a quality swim of 1:06.01. She’s said that this is a stroke she really wants to work on (it’s by far her weakest) in her first year at Cal, and that’s a good starting point. It put her just behind junior Yvette Kong (1:05.50) and senior Melissa Bates (1:05.98) in the breaststroke rankings.

Then Franklin took control in the freestyle. She was the fastest finisher in that race by more than a full second, punching in a 49.43. That jumped her back into the overall lead over Li’s 51.44 and Pelton’s 51.22.

In the 100 IM, not an official NCAA Championship race, Li once again won (56.91), and made up just enough ground on the overall leader Franklin (57.85) to win the overall battle.

Pelton was 2nd in the 100 IM race (57.34), but after going just a 1:09.5 in the breaststroke event, ended up 3rd in the overall battle.

Li joined men’s King of the Pool winner Ryan Murphy in wearing the crown. The two teams will match up in a more traditional meet on Saturday.

Some other notable spot swims:

  • Rachael Acker, a sophomore, was the 2nd-best 100 freestyler in 50.89. She wound up 8th overall.
  • Cal Poly’s Jill Jones was their highest finisher, taking 17th overall. She had a very good breaststroke swim of 1:08.59 followed by a solid 53.18 freestyle leg.
  • Cal Poly sophomore Alisha Bender had a solid 59.31 in the 100 yard fly.
  • Cal senior Mikkel-Ane Stipe might have a little juice to make the Cal relay selections interesting. She was a 52.75 – faster than Bootsma and Kelly Naze.
  • Catherine Breed, who has battled injury-after-injury in the last few years, was back in the water. It looks like she passed on the breaststroke (she has bad knee injuries).

Full meet results available here (men and women).

Top 8 Table

Total

Fly

Back

Breast

Free

IM

1

Celina Li

4:43.10

54.89

56.16

1:03.70

51.44

56.91

2

Missy Franklin

4:43.22

55.14

54.79

1:06.01

49.43

57.85

3

Liz Pelton

4:48.28

55.59

54.60

1:09.53

51.22

57.34

4

Rachel Bootsma

4:53.32

55.67

56.40

1:08.83

52.95

59.47

5

Kelly Naze

4:55.09

56.76

57.65

1:07.93

53.19

59.56

6

Yvette Kong

4:55.34

58.17

1:00.10

1:05.50

53.12

58.45

7

Caroline Piehl

4:57.53

59.21

59.32

1:08.94

51.57

58.49

8

Rachael Acker

4:58.04

56.74

59.46

1:10.79

50.89

1:00.16

 

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24 Comments on "Celina Li Tops Missy Franklin for Tight Queen of the Pool Title"

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cynthia curran

I like Celina Li only 5’3″, she has a much better breaststroke than Missy Franklin

liquidassets

I always wondered why Tran didn’t try the IM; I figured it’s because she’s more of a pure sprinter, but I thought she might do a 100 IM SCM. But now I know the real reason, a 1:14.7 breast leg. Ouch.

Yeh… her PBT is a 1:11….. At this meet in 2010, Tran posted a 59.48 in the i.m.

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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