BERKELEY, California, February 12. FOURTH-ranked California defeated top-ranked Stanford for just the fifth time in the rivals’ long Big Meet history and handed the Cardinal its only dual-meet loss of the season, 155-145, to close the 2011 dual-meet season on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Amanda Sims won both butterfly events in her last competition at Spieker, sophomore Caitlin Leverenz set two pool records and junior Liv Jensen clinched the upset by anchoring the final event – the winning 400-yard freestyle relay – in front of a large, vocal crowd.
After claiming 10 of the 16 events, the Golden Bears finished dual-meet competition with a 7-1 record and wound up unbeaten in the Pac-10 Conference at 5-0. Stanford fell to 8-1 (4-1 Pac-10). Leverenz, a sophomore, won three individual events, Jensen, a junior, won two, Sims won two, freshman Cindy Tran triumphed in the 100-yard backstroke and the Bears won both relays for its 10 victories today.
Prior to the meet, Cal honored its eight seniors – swimmers Sims, Erica Dagg, Kelsey Hoff, Katie Kastes, Ellie Monobe, Sara Sun and Hannah Wilson and diver Laura Sanford – who would be competing in the final dual meet of their collegiate careers.
“This means a lot, because this is a great group of seniors,” Cal head coach Teri McKeever said of today’s big win. “To do it for them is what I’m really happy about. They stepped up huge – Amanda, Hannah, Erica, Katie, everyone. We’re obviously going to miss them tremendously. But to have them go out like this and to have this kind of momentum heading into Pac-10s and NCAAs is really important.
“You have to keep it in perspective as well. It’s a great win, but there’s plenty of swimming and diving to be done. Todd Mulzet’s doing a great job with the divers, and it’s all pretty exciting.”
Cal last beat Stanford in 2006.
“It’s just really exciting,” Sims said. “We’ve been talking about beating Stanford since I was a freshman, and we were never quite able to do it until now. I don’t know if anyone ever thought we could except for us. I’m just really happy and excited to be there today.”
In the opening 200-yard medley relay, the quartet of Tran, Leverenz, Sims and Jensen posted an NCAA B consideration time of 1:38.97 to give Cal the early lead.
Sims, the 2009 NCAA champion in the 100 butterfly, continued her winning ways by capturing the 200 and later the 100 butterflies. She posted her fastest time of the season and an NCAA B time of 1:56.25 in the 200 and swam an NCAA B time of 52.58 to win the 100.
“Amanda has just done a fantastic job all year and her whole career,” McKeever said. “She’s a young lady who leads by example, is one of the hardest workers, is always engaged in trying to get better, and I’m so happy for her to be rewarded like that.”
The Pac-10 Swimmer of the Month for January, Leverenz extended her success to February with stellar performances that included a win in the 100 breaststroke in a Cal season-best and NCAA B time of 1:00.26. She set Spieker records in winning the 200 breaststroke in an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 2:09.45 and in taking the 200 individual medley in an NCAA B time of 1:56.95. Her IM time broke the previous pool record of 1:57.54 set by former Cal great Natalie Coughlin, who was in attendance today.
“Caitlin is really coming into her own with her maturity and confidence,” McKeever said. “You need a great supporting cast, but you need some weapons, and that’s what Amanda was today, Liv was today, Caitlin was today. That’s what’s awesome about college swimming – it can’t just be two or three people. It’s got to be two or three studs and then a great supporting cast. That’s what’s so rewarding about it.”
Tran (53.25) edged Stanford’s Betsy Webb (53.49) in the 100 back, as both swam NCAA B times.
The Cal divers collectively contributed 15 points towards the Big Meet victory. On the one-meter springboard, Cal’s scorers included junior Molly Hayes, who posted an NCAA Zone E qualifying score of 267.52 to take second, Sanford, who was third with a score of 260.47, and sophomore Kelsey Heiken, who finished fourth with a score of 253.50. At three meters, Cal’s scorers were Hayes, who placed third (286.80, NCAA Zone E qualifier), Heiken, who finished fourth (277.58), and freshman Lena Kardos, who took fifth (277.23).
Jensen, the 2010 NCAA champion in the 50 free, came within .04 seconds of tying her pool-record time in the 50 free, winning the sprint today in an NCAA B time of 22.22. She later sealed the 100 free by swimming an NCAA B time of 48.99.
Cal led 142-141 heading into the 400-free relay, meaning that whichever team won the race would claim the meet. The Bears trailed at times during the exciting race, but the foursome of freshman Nathalie Lindborg, Dagg, Wilson and Jensen posted a pool-record and NCAA B time of 3:15.85 to claim victory in the race and in the Big Meet.
“Like Teri said, `You’re going to remember this moment for the rest of your lives,’ and it’s so, so incredibly true,” Leverenz said. “That last moment when we were screaming on the deck, all of us together, and we’ve never had this big of a crowd since I’ve been here – the whole day has just been great. Beautiful weather and really great racing.”
Six difference Cardinal athletes won events, as Kelsey Ditto claimed the 1000 free, Kate Dwelley won the 200 free (1:46.53, NCAA B), Meg Hostage won the one-meter springboard (284.92, NCAA Zone E qualifier), Maya Dirado took the 200 back (1:57.08, NCAA B), Andie Taylor won the 500 free (4:45.74, NCAA B) and Stephanie Phipps captured the three-meter springboard (305.10, NCAA Zone E qualifier).
Cal next hits the pool at the Pac-10 Championships Feb. 23-26 in Federal Way, Wash.
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