BERKELEY, California, November 2. FOUR Golden Bears – Elizabeth Pelton, Caitlin Leverenz, Rachel Bootsma and Catherine Breed – won individual events and third-ranked California won 10 of 16 events overall in a 172-128 victory over No. 7 Texas on a sunny Friday afternoon at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal improved its record to 3-0 after the nonconference dual meet, while Texas (2-1) lost its first meet of the season.
The meet was the Bears' home opener and featured the return of Cal alumna and Texas head coach Carol (Felton) Capitani.
“I'm really proud of the way our Bears raced,” Cal and 2012 U.S. Olympic head coach Teri McKeever said. “It was exciting to get Texas to come here and on a weekend celebrating aquatics, having Carol back as an alum and in her first head coaching role was pretty nice. They had put up some pretty good times a couple of weeks ago, and we knew that we had to step up from what we had been doing. I was really pleased with how our team stepped up, supported each other and really raced tough on a beautiful afternoon.”
The Cal athletic community is lauding its four highly successful aquatics programs in various ways this week, including recognizing the many Bears who took part in the recent London Olympics at the Friday night football game against Washington and through the Cal Aquatics Gala set for Saturday night. Both events take place at California Memorial Stadium.
At Spieker, Pelton collected victories in four events, including the 200-yard backstroke, in which she swam a pool-record time of 1:54.55. In the first race of the day – the 400-yard medley relay – the quartet of junior Cindy Tran, Leverenz, freshman Kelly Naze and Pelton posted a winning time of 3:36.60, which was not far off of the pool record of 3:36.36 that the Bears set in 2011.
A talented member of McKeever's highly touted freshman class, Pelton also won the 200-yard freestyle (1:46.56) and 400-yard individual medley (4:09.89), just missing Leverenz's 400-IM pool record of 4:09.51.
“Elizabeth is an incredible talent,” McKeever said. “I think the thing she brings to the table is she is a weapon in almost any event. It really allows us as a coaching staff to use her in a lot of different ways, and I think it's going to allow her to continue to grow and develop as an athlete. She's a fierce competitor. She brings a lot of determination, and that's contagious for everybody. She's going to be a force for our program for years to come, and it's pretty exciting to have her.”
Leverenz, Cal's senior co-captain and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, swam a pair of close races with Texas senior All-American Laura Sogar, edging the Longhorn 1:00.33-1:00.60 in the 100 breaststroke and 2:09.52-2:09.64 in the 200 breaststroke. Those winning times also narrowly missed edging the pool records in the 100 (59.51) and 200 (Leverenz's own 2:09.45) breaststrokes.
Bootsma, a freshman and an Olympic gold medalist in London, won three races today, first edging teammate and two-time defending NCAA champion Tran in the 100 backstroke, 53.43-53.45. She had another close race with Rachael Acker in the 100 free, out touching her freshman teammate, 50.12-50.16. In the 100 butterfly, Bootsma held off Texas sophomore Gretchen Jaques, 54.07-54.52.
Breed, a sophomore, prevailed in the 500 free, 4:50.06, with Longhorn Kaitlin Pawlowicz taking second in 4:51.37.
Pawlowicz was one of two individual multi-event winners for Texas, as she captured the 1000 free (9:52.48) and 200 fly (1:59.55) and diver Maren Tayler won the one-meter (318.15) and three-meter (312.15) springboards. Bethany Adams won the 50 free (23.28) and anchored the Longhorns' winning 200-free relay (1:31.85) in the last event of the day.
“We were really pleased with the way our team did,” Capitani said of her Longhorns. “Obviously it would've been great to win, but I just felt that if we swam better than we had in the past and if we swam tough, I'd be really proud of them, and they did. I think it's somewhat daunting sometimes to go up against the national champions and feel like you have a chance. But we won some events, and they did race tough, so I am happy for them.”
Capitani, under her maiden name of Carol Felton, earned eight All-America honors at Cal from 1988-91.
“I didn't know how I'd feel coming back,” she said, “but walking back in this place, it's really a big part of who I am – Cal, what I learned here and the experiences I took away from it. I feel like if I'm doing my job well at Texas, there's still going to be a little Cal-ness to it.”
Cal's top swimmer in the 1000 free was sophomore Melanie Klaren, who placed third (10:03.45), Naze clocked Cal's fastest 200 fly (2:02.25) to take second and sophomore Kaylin Bing took third with Cal's best finish in the 50 free (23.56). On the one-meter board, freshman Anne Kastler posted Cal's best finish (3rd) with 265.13 points, and junior Kahley Rowell was the top Bear at three meters (2nd, 307.20).
The Bears hit the pool again in less than 24 hours, as they host No. 23 Wisconsin at noon on Saturday. The Cal men also take on their Badger counterparts tomorrow at Spieker.
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