The California Golden Bears were overpowering Friday night, knocking off the visiting Wisconsin Badgers in a pair of duals.
The Badgers have been sneaky-good this year, especially on the men’s side, where they’ve beaten Arizona and Minnesota, both on the road. There seemed a chance they could give Cal a fight in a few events, but on this night, the defending NCAA champs were way too locked in. The Golden Bear men swept every event, going 1-2-3 in six of them to crush Wisconsin.
Meanwhile on the women’s side, Cal was nearly as dominant. Though they simply couldn’t find the antidote anywhere on their deep roster for Ivy Martin, the Bears were never in much danger as a team and were already exhibitioning by the 200 back, just 9 events into a 16-event meet.
Perhaps the race of the night was the 100 free, where Wisconsin’s best swimmer, U.S. National Teamer Ivy Martin, went toe-to-toe with American Olympic hero Missy Franklin of Cal. The sprint freestyles are Martin’s bread and butter, and though Franklin is at her best in backstroke, she’s no slouch in the 100 free – in fact, she was 3rd at last year’s NCAA Championships.
Martin won the intense battle, though, pressing out to a three-tenth lead at the 50-mark and holding on to win by just .07. Neither time was spectacular (Martin was 49.13, Franklin 49.20), but it was still an outstanding race between two elite talents in the thick of tough training.
Franklin was coming off a win in the 100 back, where she went 54.36 and led a 1-2-3 sweep for the Cal ladies. Though she wound up swimming all freestyle last postseason, there’s a good chance Franklin moves into at least one backstroke race for what’s expected to be her last collegiate season. She looked good in this 100 back, and really wasn’t challenged at all.
Martin, meanwhile, was unstoppable in her other event, the 100 fly. She went 53.93 in that race to blow out Cal’s tough Canadian freshman Noemie Thomas.
Elizabeth Pelton also won twice for Cal. The junior was a quick 1:47.58 to win the 200 free easily, another 1-2-3 sweep for Cal. Pelton would come back to win the 200 back in 1:54.58, and by that point, Cal was exhibitioning most of its swimmers.
The Bears also got three solid individual swims, two of them wins, from sophomore Marina Garcia. She swept the breaststrokes, going 1:02.93 and 2:15.79. In a unique event combo, Garcia’s third individual race was the 1000 free, where she took second overall in 10:08.17.
The Cal women are notoriously weak in distance free, though, and Wisconsin’s Jenny Holtzen took full advantage. The junior won that 1000 easily in 10:01.84, and came back to triumph in a very tight 500 free battle. She trailed Cal’s Catherine Breed for most of the race, but took over at the 400-mark and closed to the wall first in 4:52.15. Breed was 4:52.23.
Wisconsin won two more tight battle in both relays. The team of Annie Tamblyn, Anna Meinholz, Martin and Chase Kinney went 1:41.30 to nip Cal by a few tenths in the 200 medley and grab an early points lead. That was headed by a nice 23.31 fly split from Martin, plus a 22.76 anchor leg from Kinney to hold off a charging Franklin and Farida Osman on the two Cal relays.
Osman won the individual 50 for Cal, going 23.14 to top Kinney.
Wisconsin also won the 400 free relay, going 3:23.85, led by a 49.30 leadoff split from Martin.
The visitors swam much better than the score indicates. It seemed like most of the close races broke in Wisconsin’s favor, but the Badgers just didn’t have the all-around firepower to run with Cal in the points. The Bears were too deep and too talented, and basically every event that wasn’t a Badger touchout was a dominating Cal sweep.
Noemie Thomas won the 200 fly, going 2:00.98, and that was yet another 1-2-3 California sweep. Celina Li took the 400 IM late in 4:21.14, but that was well after the meet was already in hand. Also helping the cause was Anne Kastler, who swept the diving events for the home team.
That added up to a 161-124 win for Cal, which gets back in the win column after dropping a big meet to Texas last weekend.
The Cal men didn’t make things nearly as interesting. The Bears were locked in from the get-go, not dropping a single event, and taking the top three spots in nearly half of the races.
Things were lopsided from the get-go. The Bears put up the nation’s third-fastest time to win the 200 medley relay – after they split their top swimmers between their two best relays.
Ryan Murphy, Connor Hoppe, Justin Lynch and Henry Chung were the winners, going a 1:27.28 that’s three tenths away from leading the NCAA. Murphy was his usual dominant self on backstroke, going 21.65, and also impressive was the 21.29 butterfly leg for the freshman Lynch.
The Bears’ second team had the faster breaststroker and freestyler. Senior Chuck Katis was 24.24 on breaststroke and Tyler Messerschmidt anchored in 19.65. (Though Henry Chung continued his strong run of swimming with a 19.75 on the A relay. He seems like a big-time player so far this year).
With the four fastest legs on one relay, Cal would’ve been 1:27.75, tops in the nation by two tenths.
Maybe most impressive for Cal individually was Josh Prenot. We’ve always known the junior was versatile, but he popped off a win in the 1000 free that many might not have expected. Prenot, typically an IMer and breaststroker, was 9:16.51 to just beat senior Adam Hinshaw as the Bears went 1-2-3 over the top of Wisconsin’s Matt Hutchins, who’s one of the top distance freestylers in the nation this season, sitting 6th in the nation in the 1000.
Prenot went back to what we know him for at the end of the meet, leading another 1-2-3 charge in the 400 IM. His 3:52.50 won by three second, though the event was exhibitioned.
Murphy was all but untouchable, as he’s been basically since showing up as a freshman last fall. He won the 100 back in 47.20, not far off his nation-leading time. That was an easy win over Wisconsin’s Drew teDuits, a former NCAA champ and one of the nation’s better backstrokers.
Murphy also won the 100 free, going 43.78 that moves him to 4th in the NCAA in what’s essentially an off-event for him.
Without Murphy, the reigning national champ, in the 200 back, Cal still came out on top. Junior Jacob Pebley picked up the slack, going 1:44.90 to beat teDuits – this race was a barn-burner, with Pebley leading by just .05 at the halfway point and ultimately triumphing by just three tenths.
Katis doubled in the breaststrokes. His 54.37 in the 100 was especially impressive, and he was also 2:01.42 in the 200. Second in the 100 was freshman Connor Hoppe, who was also fast with a 54.82 – Cal’s breaststroke group was a big liability early on last year, but the depth seems to be coming around much more this season.
A couple other freshmen made waves. Ryan Kao put up the fastest time in the 500 free, though that was the first event where Cal started exhibitioning. Kao was 4:28.05, easily beating Wisconsin’s Nick Caldwell, who’s been outstanding so far this season. In fact, that race was a 1-2-3 sweep for Cal over Caldwell.
In the next race, Kyle Gornay took home the title. His 100 fly time of 48.91 was the clear winning swim, with no one else under 50 seconds.
Cal’s diving duo split the wins, with freshman Finn Scribbick winning on 1-meter and junior Peter Cyr taking 3-meter.
The home team capped off its dominance by going 1-2-3 in the 400 free relay to end the meet (though of course only two relays can score and all three were exhibitioned). They spread most of their studs out among those three relays, but the fastest splits came from Murphy (43.68 on the A), Long Gutierrez (44.07 on the B) and Seth Stubblefield (44.08 on the A). The winning team was 2:56.55, 4th in the NCAA.
Gutierrez also won individually. He paced the 200 free, going 1:36.56 and rising to 4th in the nation. Cal also got back-to-back 1-2-3 sweeps of the 200 fly and 50 free. Will Hamilton and freshman Justin Lynch tied atop the 200 fly in 1:46.45, and Tyler Messerschmidt won the 50 free with a 20.03.
That led to a 169-116 Cal win.