Thursday night's finals basically went quite well for the favorite California Golden Bears after a morning prelim that saw plenty of Georgia Bulldogs making the finals to score points. When everything was said and done, the Bears found themselves proud winner of two more NCAA titles - 200 Free Relay and 200 IM by Missy Franklin, and in a great position, 2nd place by just 10 points to Georgia heading into Day 2 when the Bears are expected to make a huge move.
Here are your links to view the meet online:
Prelims for all 3 days and Thursday evening session (FREE): NC State website
Friday evening session: WatchESPN
Saturday evening session: WatchESPN
Live results: Meet Results
My preview, including the scoring for this meet can be found here.
Day 1 Finals:
200 Free Relay -
The Bears opened the first night of finals in style by taking the 200 Free relay. Just when you think either Stanford or Georgia will take this race, the Bears got an unbelievable split of 21.17 from Farida Osman swimming as the anchor to catch Stanford and Georgia from behind. This was a huge emotional lift for the Cal squad who had modest expectation for Day 1 of this meet coming in, despite being the winner of this event as well in the Pac-12 Championships two weeks ago.
Of course, Bears also got a great split of 21.28 from Missy Franklin as the second leg. Bootsma swam a very solid 21.60 and Kaylin Bing opened with a 22.36. The final time of 1.26.41 is a school record for the storied Cal women's swimming program.
Senior Bing talked to the press about her first individual NCAA title in winning this 200 Free relay:
500 Free -
Senior Melanie Klaren made the B-Final and finished 16th overall to score a point for the Bears. The Swimmer of the Meet at the Pac-12 Championships, Cierra Runge had a tough task of racing Virginia's Leah Smith who had a great prelim swim that morning. Runge was in a close 3rd position behind Smith and Georgia's McDermott for most of this race until late. Runge made a move and McDermott faded as Cierra finished as the runner-up to Smith.
On the team side of things, McDermott dropping to 4th and how the rest of the Bulldogs in the A-final finished 6th, 7th, and 8th (yep, they had 4 swimmers in the A-Final and one more in the B-Final to give them 4-6-7-8-9 in this event) was about as optimal as a result as possible from Cal's POV.
200 IM -
The 200 IM was the event for the Bears in Day 1. Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Pelton, and Celina Li were the top 3 qualifiers in the morning. Senior Caroline Piehl also managed to earn her a spot in the B-final.
Piehl actually got a pretty inspirational outing in the consolation final. Her late surge in the freestyle leg earned her a 2nd place finish (10th overall) in that event.
The Bears then followed that up with a two women's race between Pelton and Franklin. I personally thought Liz Pelton was visibly slower out of the block but she was right there pushing Missy for the title. Missy eventually prevailed, earning her 2nd individual NCAA title after taking the 200 Free last year, in an event that is far from her specialty. Celina Li finished 6th for the Bears.
50 Free -
Cal's Egyptian Olympian Farida Osman was able to best Stanford's Simone Manuel at the Pac-12 two weeks ago, but this was still Manuel's race to lose. Despite her best effort to make up for a slowish start (Osman was 7th at the turn), Farida was only able to earn a 4th place finish.
Like Missy Franklin, Farida Osman was also competing in 3 events in Night 1: the two relays and an individual race.
1 meter diving -
Neither Cal nor Georgia had a diver. Arizona's Pickens bested Stanford's Cook for the title. Yeah, Pac-12 pride!
400 Medley Relay -
This may be the race that non-Cal swim fans will talk about in the future. A phenomenal start by Virginia had them in the lead ahead of the favorite Stanford. In the end Stanford managed to just out touch Virginia with the Bears finishing 3rd in the 3 fastest times of this event in NCAA history.
The opening backstroke was a close race between Virginia's Bartholomew and Cal's Bootsma. Stanford had ground to make up. Bears had to concede about 1.5 to 2 seconds to those two in the Breast leg, swam by Spanish Calympian Marina Garcia. Farida Osman had a fly split that was right there with Virginia and Stanford and it's on to Missy Franklin to close the gap. Just when it appears that Virginia will get an easy win, both Franklin and Stanford's Manuel had a great anchor leg. In the end, the time to make up was a bit too much for even Missy Franklin and the Bears had to settle for just a school record and the 3rd best time in history.
Here is the points standing going into Day 2:
1. Georgia 172
2. California 162
3. Stanford 111
The Bears are in a great position heading into night 2. Here is the quote from Georgia's head coach Jack Bauerle.
"This meet's always won in the mornings, I think. We have to have another good one, and see if we can put a little pressure on because Cal is certainly a great team and is supposed to score a heck of a lot of points tomorrow so it's going to be hard to even be close."
I for one would not be disappointed if there is little drama heading into Day 3.
Coming up for Day 2:
- 200 Medley Relay: Georgia have the 10th best time coming in (them missing the A-Final would be huge)
- 400 IM: Georgia could have 2 or 3 swimmers scoring, Bears have a likely A-finalist in Celina Li and Kelly Naze may also score
- 100 Fly: Osman, Bootsma, Thomas, and Mau could all score; Georgia's top swimmer has the 12th best time according to the psych sheet
- 200 Free: Missy is the favorite, Runge should also be an A-finalist, Cheng and Piehl can also score; Bing and Acker are also swimming for the Bears; Georgia's top time is 14th best
- 100 Breast: Marina Garcia is the only one for the Bears but she may not score; no Georgia swimmer qualified for this
- 100 Back: Bootsma, Pelton, and Klaren are all likely A-finalists; Georgia has Smoliga and possibly Stewart (B-finalist by psych sheet)
- 800 Free: Cal's time is 5 second better than anyone else but that 2nd best is Georgia
So that's possibly one event (400 IM) in Georgia's favor while the rest (other than 100 Breast and diving) goes for the Bears. I think the expectation is at least another 2 NCAA titles tonight. Let's see if the Bears can meet that.