The Golden Bears talk about Day 2:
Missy Franklin passed on making an obscene amount of money to experience this:
Bears claimed 2 NCAA titles on Friday night:
- Missy Franklin with an American record of 1:40.31 is the NCAA Champion in 200 Free. Missy opened up a big lead early and her only competition was that imaginary line that was the record.
- The last event of the night was the 800 Free relay. The Cal quartet of Rachael Acker, Caroline Piehl, Elizabeth Pelton, and Missy Franklin are the NCAA Champions. Facing a ~2.5 second deficit to Georgia and slightly behind them Stanfurd, Missy Franklin swam a 200 Free split of 1:40.08 (better than her record just half an hour or so earlier) to allow the Golden Bears to edge Georgia.
Also on the night, Cal saw their dominance of 100 Back snapped as Cindy Tran was edged by Texas A&M's Paige Miller. Tran has won that event in 2011 and 2012. Cal's Rachel Bootsma who finished 11th this year was the defending champion.
Cal did suffer a major blow to their comeback bid early in the day as they were disqualified in the 200 medley relay during the prelim. A bad exchange between Cindy Tran and Celina Li turned into a false start. This may be a case where all the different potential options available to Cal hurt them. Cindy Tran had been swimming the backstroke portion of the relay (which starts first) but was swapped in this prelim with Rachel Bootsma so that Tran would do Fly and Bootsma do the back.
In the team race, Bears would need a miracle to overtake Georgia on the final day of competition on Saturday. A closer race now is between Cal and Stanfurd for 2nd place. On Saturday, the Bears have good chance at two individual title in 100 Free (can any one beat Missy Franklin?) and 200 Back (Elizabeth Pelton is a favorite but she has not swam well this weeknd). There is also the 400 Free relay, where the dominance of just one swimmer (Franklin) is lessened.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
Tonight's final action will be stream live on ESPN3/WatchESPN (you can watch replay of the action as well).
Live stats can be found here.
The Golden Bears need a miracle to win the 2014 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving team championship. As I wrote in the preview yesterday, Cal is kind of considered an underdog to No.2 Georgia, the defending NCAA champs thanks to Georgia's number of swimmers and also a diver that is expected to score points in all 3 diving events. Knowing that they would need to be nearly perfect to overcome Georgia, the No.1 California Golden Bears gambled on using their trump card, one Missy Franklin, in as many key situations as possible.
In last night's very first final, the 200 free relay, Cal used Missy Franklin despite Missy was to swim the 500 Free, an event that was scheduled next. The Bears with Missy was able to best Georgia, but fell short of winning the relay as rival Stanfurd managed to win that event. In the 500 Free relay, an event that was not Missy Franklin's specialty but one that she has embraced during the season and came into the NCAA as the favorite (because she is just that good), Franklin was ahead for 19 of the 20 50's, but in the very last 50 yard, Georgia's Brittany Maclean was able to just catch up to Missy Franklin to claim that title.
While the ideal case was that Missy Franklin lift the team's spirit with two big wins to open the meet, Georgia instead got a huge lift for besting Missy Franklin even though Missy Franklin probably could have won the 500 Free had she not swam the 200 Free relay.
The rest of night 1 saw Cal's Celina Li and Elizabeth Pelton finishing 3rd and 4th in the 200 IM, after Li was ahead after the first two legs. Georgia then capitalized on their expected advantage in the freestyle events by having the winner (Smoliga) in the 50 Free, where only one Cal Bears was able to score and that was in the consolation final (Kaylin Bing finished 3rd in the B-Final).
Georgia also got yet another big lift from their diver, senior Laura Ryan. Ryan, who did not score in the 1 meter diving last year, managed to not just make it to the A-Final but win that. Giving Georgia another 20 point. With Georgia having a 59 point lead heading to the final relay, the Bears are in a big need of a strong finish to the day. The 400 medley relay saw a Cal quartet of Cindy Tran (back), Celina Li (breast), Rachel Bootsma (fly), and Missy Franklin (free) starting on the edge thanks to a mediocre prelim swim that used Marina Garcia (breast) and Sophia Batchelor (fly). Cindy Tran jumped out to a big lead but faded toward the end, then Celina Li fell way behind that Bootsma (who wasn't faster than the competitors) and Franklin (clearly trying to catch the Bears up) had no chance to win. A 5th place finish was helped out by a DQ to Virginia.
At the end of the first night, Cal found themselves in 3rd place with a 63 point deficit to No.1 Georgia. Bay Area rival Leland Stanford Junior University also managed to say in front of the Golden Bears. Also rather surprisingly, the Bears were denied any individual or relay title.
Standings through 7 events
1. Georgia 189
2. Stanford 136
3. California 126
On Friday morning, the Bears knew they had a lot of work to do to get back in this team championship fight. In 200 medley relay prelim, Coach Teri McKeever decided to switch up Rachel Bootsma and Cindy Tran. Bootsma gets the backstroke leg while senior Cindy Tran now gets the butterfly leg. This decision backfired big time as the inexperience of Cindy Tran in judging the end of freshman Celina Li's breast leg (which sometimes is swam by freshman Marina Garcia) caused a bad exchange and a costly Cal DQ.
If I am older and more cynical, I may say something about how this is just typical of Cal Athletics, but the truth is that Cal swimming have been immune from these kind of falling short of expectation in recent years in winning 3 of the last 5 NCAA titles. Besides, there are still plenty of swimming left.
From the DQ onward, the Bears knew that this was going to be a big day with a couple of their special events. 7 Golden Bears will be swimming for a NCAA individual title tonight. Bears will also have a chance at redemption in the 800 free relay.
Friday Night's Schedule:
200-yard medley relay
Bears got DQ'ed, so this relay would be tough to swallow. Both Georgia and 'Furd are of course in the A-Final.
400-yard individual medley
Freshman Celina Li got the 8th and final spot in the A-Final. She will be racing two Dawgs, including Melanie Margalis who has the best time. The one to watch here may be Furd's Maya DiRado, who won the 200 IM on Thursday night. DiRado claimed the 200 IM and 400 IM combo in the Pac-12 championships this year.
Two more Dawgs and 1 Furd are in the consolation final that has 0 Golden Bear.
Two Golden Bears will swim for the 100 Fly title and they are freshman (and Egyptian Calympian) Farida Osman and senior Cindy Tran (who is probably trying hard to atone for her relay miscue earlier today). New Zealand freshman Sophia Batchelor made the B-Final. No Dawgs are in either of the finals.
Although freestyle is Georgia's speciality, Cal Golden Bears are expected to be very strong in this event. Unlike the 500 Free where she was the favorite just because of her name, Missy Franklin is clearly the favorite in this event. She posted the best prelim time to back this up.
Outside of Missy, it was a mild disappointment that only Caroline Piehl made the A-Final. Elizabeth Pelton, who was very strong in this event last year, only made the B-Final where she is joined by fellow Bears in Rachael Acker and Camille Cheng.
Georgia does have 3 swimmers in the A-Final to make sure that Cal doesn't get the upper hand in this event.
As the medley relays have shown, Cal is desperately in need of better breast stroker. Freshman (and Spanish Calympian) Marina Garcia didn't make either of the finals. Georgia will get some points from one B-finalist.
This event is Cal's specialty, yet Elizabeth Pelton and Missy Franklin will not be swimming this event thanks to their commitment to the 200 Free. Cal does have two swimmers in Cindy Tran and Rachel Bootsma who have won the last 3 titles (Tran in 2011 and 2012, Bootsma in 2013).
Hometown girl Rachel Bootsma continue to have a poor day (after not qualifying for even the B-Final in the 100 Fly) when she shockingly misses the A-Final. Instead only Cindy Tran and Melanie Klaren will be swimming for the Bears in the A-Final. B-Final will have Cal's Rachel Bootsma against Georgia's Smoliga, who many also thought would make the A-Final.
Georgia Laura Ryan, winner of the 1-meter diving yesterday, will have the chance to go for the 3-meter title as well in the A-Final. She is guaranteed at least 11 points, not that Cal really need to be scoreboard watching.
800-yard free relay
Bears did not DQ in this relay in the prelim.
With the pressure off after the relay DQ, the Bears actually did okay as a team. Cindy Tran is in contention to win both the 100 Fly and the 100 Free. Missy Franklin should do well in the 200 Free. Golden Bears should be able to show what they are all about on the ESPN3 live coverage. I don't know what is going on with sophomores Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton as they have underperformed so far (Pelton did have that 4th place finish in the 200 IM yesterday). It just goes to show that winning the NCAA team title is a hard proposition, even when you have a trump card like Missy Franklin. In some way, maybe coach Teri McKeever got too many options this year that the swimmers not knowing which events that they will swim or whether they would do the relay had an adverse effect. Anyhow, I will take much consolation if I can call multiple Golden Bears NCAA champions after tonight.