Will Hamilton had a huge season-opening day at the Cal Poly “King and Queen of the Pool” event, winning a tight battle with defending “King of the Pool” Ryan Murphy for the 2014 title.
Meanwhile on the women’ side, sophomore Celina Li won her second title in a row, remaining undefeated at the “Queen of the Pool” meet for her college career.
The format meet combines five different 100-yard races. Each swimmer competes in the 100 fly, 100 back, 100 breast, 100 free and 100 IM, with all five times added up to determine the overall winners.
Murphy, last year’s breakout freshman star who won two NCAA titles, actually dropped well over two seconds from his 2013 winning composite time. But Hamilton, who didn’t compete at this meet last year, was always one small step ahead. Hamilton ended up with a combined time of 4:07.25 to Murphy’s 4:08.62.
Hamilton, a senior, won the first and last events, going 48.35 to win the 100 fly and 49.15 in the 100 IM. Murphy had some ground to cover heading out of butterfly, but the sophomore backstroking sensation went 47.5 to win by over a second with Jacob Pebley second (48.77).
Some new faces showed up on the breaststroke, of course, but Hamilton managed a third-place showing in 55.45 to stay in the lead. Chuck Katis, in his second season with the team, was fastest at 54.04, and Josh Prenot was 55.05.
Murphy won the 100 free at 44.2, but still trailed Hamilton by eight tenths, and Hamilton came up with the dagger swim with his 100 IM victory. Murphy was second, a half-second back at 49.64.
Prenot wound up third overall with a composite time of 4:10.76, more than four seconds faster than he went at this time last year. The rest of the top 5: Katis at 4:12.11 and Jacob Pebley at 4:16.47.
Celina Li won her women’s title on pure versatility, never winning a single stroke but also never finishing outside the top 3. Li was the runner-up on butterfly, freestyle and IM to bookend the competition.
Canadian freshman Noemie Thomas showed that she’ll be a force to be reckoned with as a first-year, winning the 100 fly in 53.59. Li was second in that race, going 54.41 with Rachel Bootsma third (54.94).
Bootsma came back to win the 100 back, a race she won at the 2013 NCAA Championships but fell off in last season. Her time of 54.67 just bettered her teammate Elizabeth Pelton, who went 54.86. Li snuck in for third place at 55.29, profiting from the absence of Golden Bears’ star Missy Franklin, who did not compete in this stroke or the breaststroke.
In the breaststroke, it was Spanish sophomore Marina Garcia who picked up the win, going 1:03.84 to blow away the competition. Freshman Maija Roses out of SwimMAC was second at 1:05.42, and Li once again took bronze with a 1:05.70.
Franklin, who swam the butterfly (55.96) but skipped the back and breast legs, returned to win the 100 free with a 50.27, nearly a second up on the rest of the field. Still, missing those two strokes put her out of the running for the overall crown, which she nearly took from Li last season.
Second in that 100 free was junior Elizabeth Pelton, who stormed back with big swims in the final two events to take second overall. Pelton was 51.02, but Li came in right behind at 51.18 to keep control of the overall lead.
In the 100 IM, it was once again Pelton and Li duking it out, with Pelton going 56.21 for the win and Li taking silver in 56.32. Franklin was third at 57.13.
That allowed Li to claim the overall crown for the second year in a row, going 4:42.90 combined, just two tenths faster than she was a year ago. Pelton was second in 4:45.34, which is nearly three seconds faster than her time last season. In an encouraging sign for Cal, most of that drop came breaststroke, where Pelton was about two seconds faster than 2013.
Bootsma took third (4:47.02) with Kelly Naze (4:50.20) and freshman Jasmine Mau (4:51.59) rounding out the top 5. Mau is part of a very solid freshman class that looked good here, with Roses and Thomas also making waves.
The winners for the host Cal-Poly were junior Alison de Paralta for the women and Brandon Nguyen and Mickey Mackle, who tied for the men’s crown. De Peralta rode 58s in fly and back to an overall score of 5:03.99. Nguyen and Mackle were both fast in the fly (51.48 for Nguyen, 51.88 for Mackle). Nguyen put up a 58.57 to pull away on breaststroke, but Mackle closed with a 52.56 IM to tie things up at the finish.