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NCAA.com | February 26, 2014

Conference Championship Preview: Four Pac-12 teams lead competitive weekend

Pac-12 Conference Championships

California, the nation’s top-ranked team, is aiming for its third Pac-12 team championship—the last one coming in 2012. The Bears have been a force in collegiate swimming over the past five years, winning three NCAA team titles in that span, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. Cal finished its regular season slate going 7-2 with its only dual losses coming at the hands of a pair of conference foes in No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 USC.

A squad already stacked in talent, Cal welcomed the addition of world champion and Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin this year and is poised to pick up its second conference championship in three years. Franklin hasn’t missed a beat in her first year swimming collegiately, winning multiple individual events in all but two meets this season and helping her team to several relay victories. Sophomore Anne Kastler, the Pac-12 Diver of the Month for the month of January, heads into the diving championships with momentum after setting a school record on the 1-meter board against Stanford in the final competition of the regular season.

Stanford, the defending Pac-12 champions and winners of 19 conference titles overall, finished the dual season with an unblemished 10-0 record that was capped by a rivalry win against No. 1 Cal. Ranked fourth nationally at the end of the season, Stanford also recorded dual victories against No. 5 USC and No. 17 UCLA. Seniors Felicia Lee and Maya DiRado, who both own multiple All-America awards and Stanford records, will guide the Cardinal through the Pac-12 championships in the pool. On the diving board, senior Stephanie Phipps is a keynote performer for Stanford and will defend her first-place finish in the 3-meter competition at Pac-12 championships last year.

The fifth-ranked Southern California team completed the dual season with a 7-1 record overall, going 6-1 in Pac-12 meets, including an upset victory against No. 1 California and a come-from-behind victory against rival and 17th-ranked UCLA to finish the season on a strong note. The Trojans’ lone loss came against No. 4 Stanford. USC will rely on key swimmers like senior Kasey Carlson, the defending Pac-12 champion in the 100 breast, and sophomore Kendyl Stewart, the reigning champion in the 100 fly. In the diving well, junior Haley Ishimatsu will look to defend her platform title from last year’s Pac-12 championships after winning the competition at the Bruin Diving Invitational and coming in second at the Wildcat Diving Invitational.

Arizona may have lost their head coach a month into the season, but the Wildcats responded to adversity well, recording a 5-4 mark in their dual meets in 2013-14 while being ranked 10th in the latest CSCAA poll. All four of the losses came against opponents ranked in the top six in the country, including Pac-12 foes California, Stanford and USC.

Arizona’s biggest win of the season came against UCLA as the Wildcats came from behind on the final day of the event to steal a narrow 151-149 victory. Leading the Wildcat swimmers this year are senior Margo Greer and sophomore Bonnie Brandon. Brandon highlighted her second year of collegiate swimming by shattering her own school record in the 200 back with a time of 1:50:70. The Arizona women’s diving squad will be led by senior Samantha Pickens, who became the first Arizona female diver to win a national title when she won the 1-meter dive at the 2013 NCAA championships.

Big 12 Championships

Texas is ranked No. 6 nationally and have won 11 of 17 Big 12 championship meets along with 116 Big 12 individual swimming titles, 54 Big 12 relay crowns and 34 Big 12 diving championships. UT won the 2013 Big 12 championships in Austin with 1,051 points. Samantha Tucker has posted an NCAA qualifying time in the 200 freestyle. Junior Kelsey LeNeave holds the No. 25 slot nationally in the 200 freestyle at 1:45.89.

Junior Kaitlin Pawlowicz has top-15 national times in the 1,650 freestyle and the 1,000 freestyle. UT’s 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams also have qualified for the NCAA Championship. The Longhorns' women's divers won the combined team title for a second straight year at the USA Diving Winter National Championships. Senior Maren Taylor and freshman Murphy Bromberg are the top performers in diving. Taylor has earned a spot on the U.S. roster for this summer's FINA World Cup in Shanghai, China.