Golden NCAA Years For Cal Bears
Mar 26, 2012 - Craig Lord
Federal Way, Washington and California celebrated yet another NCAA victory. For the men it was title No4 and the first consecutive crown for the school in 30 years.
Will Hamilton and Tom Shields delivered the end game at the weekend with a 1-2 finish in the 200-yard butterfly as the Golden Bears held off Texas for the second year running. California accumulated 535.5 points, while Texas was second with 491 and Stanford was third with 426.5.
During the three-day event, California picked up a total of six titles in individual races and relays. The first race of the meet set the tone, Cal winning the 200 freestyle relay from an outside lane.
"Everyone looks at our youth or looks at what we lost and we tend to focus on what we have. With 11 returning guys that swam in this meet last year, that brought enough experience to the group and brought enough learning how to navigate this meet but also how to be successful at this meet," Cal coach Dave Durden told AP. "They just did a great job, particularly our seniors ... in guiding our guys over the last three weeks to be successful."
Texas finished second for the fourth time in the last five years. James Feigen of Texas also doubled during the championships, winning the 100 freestyle on Saturday to go with his victory in the 50 free on Thursday, then anchored the winning 400 freestyle relay by holding off Shields over the final 25 yards.
The finals started with a record-setting duel in the 1,650 freestyle. Georgia's Martin Grodzki, of Germany, and Stanford's Chad LaTourette went stroke-for-stroke until Grodzki stopped the clock in 14:24.08 for a championship and US Open record, LaTourette' the best of American with a national record of 14:24.35. Grodzki's best long-course metres is a 15:14.68 from last year, the closest you might get to context out there in a wider world that placed a RIP notice on yards some while ago.
Californian success among men followed a week after her women took the women's NCAA crown. Teri McKeever's charge Caitlin Leverenz, the medley ace in the 200y breaststroke, brought the crown home once more to give the Golden Bears their second straight title and third in four years.
"Our goal was: Can this senior class get out of here and have a trophy every year?" said Teri McKeever, coach of Cal and women's head coach for the USA at London 2012 whose charges have worked closely with water whisperer Milt Nelms on an holistic journey to sporting success. "They're going to have three championship trophies. That sets the bar high," added McKeever.
"What I'm proud of is the competition brought out the best in our group," added McKeever, barefoot and soaking wet from a celebratory plunge, as AP pointed out. "As a coach, you couldn't ask for anything more."
I listened to a talk given by coach McKeever in Sweden back in January, her words music to the ear. She spoke of the journey, attitudes, seeking out the right raw material for the job, long-term development not just of swimmers but people fit for the world. Inspiring stuff. More of that when the chance arises.
California's women, meantime, notched up 412.5 points, Georgia 366, followed by Pac-12 Conference trio Southern California (325.5), Stanford (318) and Arizona (299).
Leverenz, who won two individual and two relay titles, crushed rivals in the 200-yard breaststroke in a time of 2:04.76. That will mean little to those who know only metres but suffice it to say that the power in Leverenz's breaststroke will be significant as she chases Olympic selection on medley in late June.
The women's event delivered one of the great races of the NCAA season: North Carolina's Stephanie Peacock got the better of three-times defending champion Wendy Trott (RSA) of Georgia in the 1650 freestyle to break the 22-year-old NCAA record of the great Janet Evans. Peacock clocked 15:38.79 to axe 7sec off her previous best.
"Swimming it this year and getting the record is kind of crazy for me," Peacock told reporters before adding, with a nod to Evans's standard. "I don't even have words to say to that." Peacock clocked 8:50.91 over 800m free in 2008 but her college career has meant a book of yards times and few metres efforts that fit the context of worldwide swimming. That may soon change.
As former Aussie international and a man at the heart of the Ryde programme, Mark Morgan, keeper of great swimming stats down the ages, noted: the average gap between Peacock and Trott across all 33 splits was 0.18, with Trott ahead of Peacock at the 750 and 1,500 yd marks only, while the average gap covering the top three for the first 1,000 yds was 0.24, before Haley Anderson started to drop back a touch:
You can read a fine take on what the NCAA wins for California mean at Casey Barrett's Cap and Goggles blog