FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – Through the first two days of the Pac-12 Championships, swimmers have competed in six events in the pool. And in each case, the No. 1-ranked Golden Bears have touched the wall first.
After winning the 200-yard medley relay and 800-yard free relay Wednesday night, the Bears added four more titles to their resume Thursday. Cierra Runge set an NCAA record in the 500-yard freestyle, Missy Franklin led a 1-2-3 Golden Bear finish in the 200 individual medley, Farida Osman blazed to victory in the 50 free, and the 200 free relay lowered a conference record.
As a result, Cal leads the team standing with 550 points. Stanford is second with 512.5 and USC is third with 377. The meet continues through Saturday.
Runge, a freshman, nearly broke the Pac-12 500 free record in her morning preliminary swim, finishing in 4:35.92, which was just 0.2 seconds off the mark established by Franklin last year. In the evening final, Runge charged ahead and cleared the field by nearly six seconds. She completed her race in 4:31.90, breaking the previous NCAA record of 4:32.53 by Georgia’s Brittany MacLean. Runge became just the fourth Cal swimmer to win the conference title in the 500 free, joining Franklin, Sarah Anderson (1989) and Lauren Boyle (2010).
In addition to Runge, Melanie Klaren was fifth in 4:42.30.
The Bears had four swimmers in the 200 IM final, and Franklin out-dueled Elizabeth Pelton for the crown. She finished in 1:53.47, with Pelton right behind in 1:53.80. Celina Li placed third in 1:55.52 and Kelly Naze came through in fifth in a career-best 1:57.06.
Osman charged through the water to win the 50 free in 21.65, ahead of Stanford’s Simone Manuel, who was second in 21.81. Kaylin Bing picked up sixth in 22.23 and Kristen Vredeveld was eighth in 22.79.
The Bears did not have anyone in the 3-meter diving final, but once teams got on the blocks for the 200 free relay, Cal came through again. The foursome of Kaylin Bing, Franklin, Rachel Bootsma and Osman were timed in 1:27.18, beating the old Pac-12 record of 1:27.47 by Arizona in 2009. The Bears’ victory was their first in the 200 free relay since 2003.
Thursday's outstanding performance followed an amazing Wednesday for the Cal women, setting an American record in the 800-yard free relay and meet record in the 200-yard medley relay. The No. 1 Cal women’s swimming & diving team could not have asked for a better start to the Pac-12 Championships Wednesday night.
As a result, the Golden Bears scored a maximum 128 points through two events, ahead of second-place Stanford (112) and third-place Arizona (104) on the first day.
“I think the two wins are huge for momentum because the relays are such an awesome part of the meet and get the whole team involved,” head coach Teri McKeever said. “I think it gives people a lot of confidence going into the next three days.”
Cal entered the meet having won the 800 free relay nine times in the last 11 years, and the Bears quickly put away any doubts about victory No. 10. Freshman Cierra Runge completed the first 200 yards in 1:42.73, which not only is the third-best 200 in the country this year, but also the No. 5 time in school history.
Elizabeth Pelton followed with a split of 1:43.29 and Caroline Piehl went 1:43.48 before Missy Franklin closed in 1:40.68. Cal’s final time of 6:50.18 was more than 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Stanford, which finished in 7:00.84.
The Bears’ time beat the old American, U.S. Open and NCAA record of 6:52.64 set by Georgia in 2013. It also lowered the Cal school record of 6:52.69 from 2009.
“That was something that we wanted to keep on our radar,” McKeever said of the record. “We have such a great group of 200 freestylers right now. There’s a lot of competition for the relay. I think it gives a really good indication of where you are as a program. There’s a lot of pride in that relay for us.”
Cal’s B relay of Rachael Acker, Camille Cheng, Catherine Breed and Melanie Klaren was timed in 7:01.60, which was lower than the NCAA A qualification standard.
In the 200 medley relay, which opened the competition, the foursome of Rachel Bootsma, Marina Garcia, Noemie Thomas and Farida Osman blazed to the wall in 1:35.25 to not only set a meet record but also record the fastest time in the nation this year, just ahead of a the 1:35.31 by Tennessee set last week at the SEC meet. The victory was Cal’s first in the event since 2012.
Bootsma’s 23.59 backstroke split put the Bears in front early. But Cal found itself just out of first through the three legs. Osman, though, closed with a 21.19 split for her 50 yards of freestyle, easily the best of the night, to touch .05 seconds ahead of runner-up Stanford.
“I’m really proud of them because we haven’t always been firing on all cylinders,” McKeever said. “I thought that was pretty exciting.”
Although the time didn’t count for points, Cal’s “B” squad of Jasmine Mau, Celina Li, Kelly Naze and Kaylin Bing won its heat in 1:37.80, which beat the NCAA A standard and would have placed fifth overall Wednesday night.