LONG BEACH, California, November 16. THE University of California-Berkeley showed their dominance in the first day of the Arena Invite, featuring a showdown between two of their star swimmers in the 200-yard individual medley.
Senior Caitlin Leverenz and freshman Elizabeth Pelton posted the two fastest times so far this collegiate season in the event, with Leverenz winning in 1:56.84 and Pelton just behind in 1:57.11. While the times are extremely fast for in-season performances, the two were still well off their lifetime bests. Leverenz is the reigning NCAA champion with a 1:51.77 from March, and Pelton's best stands as a 1:53.92 from February. Placing third in the race last night was San Diego State Leona Jennings, who swam a 2:00.47.
The meet started off with a surprising win by Hawaii in the 200 free relay. The foursome of Rachel Cote, Sofia Mustelin, Morgan Mark and Jasmine Alkhaldi posted a 1:31.72, with places two through four also dipping under the 1:32 mark. Arizona State was second with a 1:31.92, San Jose State took third with a 1:31.97 and Cal was fourth in 1:31.99.
Stanford's men's team had an easier path to victory in the 200 free relay, winning with a 1:18.94 using David Nolan, Aaron Wayne, Andrew Saeta and Jake Hartley. Stanford nearly cleared the automatic NCAA championship qualifying time of 1:18.36. Brigham Young University placed second with a 1:20.48, and UC-Santa Barbara was third in 1:21.28.
Arizona State's Tristin Baxter won the women's 500 free with a 4:41.79, a lifetime best time by two seconds. Teammate Cassie Morris was second in 4:42.76, another lifetime best, and San Diego State's Mela Garibaldi took third with a 4:45.81.
Stanford freshman Danny Thomson held off fast-charging teammate Drew Cosgarea to win the men's 500 free with a 4:19.54. Thomson was less than a second from his lifetime best of 4:18.86 from earlier this year at the Illinois high school state meet. Cosgarea was 13th at the 2012 NCAAs with a 4:17.87. Placing third last night was Cardinal junior Bryan Offutt with a 4:20.81.
Stanford's men's team swept the top three places again in the 200 IM, with Matt Thompson using four solid legs to win in 1:45.89. He has a lifetime best of 1:45.30 to his credit from 2010. Tom Kremer and NCAA runner-up David Nolan tied with matching times of 1:46.62.
Berkeley postgrad Liv Jensen, the reigning NCAA champion in the 50 free, won that event in the Arena Invite with a 22.52 over Arizona State's Shannon Landgrebe's 22.87. Third place went to Cheyenne Coffman, who finished a stellar career in Division III at Fresno Pacific, placed third with a 22.92.
Another tie took place in the men's 50 free, with Andrew Saeta and Aaron Wayne sharing the victory with a 19.91. They are now the second and third swimmers under 20 seconds so far this season, with Louisville's Caryl Blondell still holding the top spot with a 19.90. UC-San Diego's Reid McCallum placed third with a 20.42.
In what could likely be a preview of the lineup for next March's NCAAs, Berkelely won the 400 medley relay using Cindy Tran, Leverenz, Rachel Bootsma and Pelton. Their time of 3:37.64 was well ahead of second-place Arizona State, who touched in 3:39.15. San Diego State placed third with a 3:40.60.
Stanford's men's team was equally impressive in the medley relay, winning with a 3:14.66 on the strength of swims by Thompson, Nolan, Kremer and Wayne. Brigham Young was second with a 3:16.81 and UC-San Diego was third with a 3:19.00.