GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Consistency is everything.
One national championship is nice, but can be written off as a fluke if if the success is not sustained or predicated. To be in the conversation year in and year out, as Cal women’s swimming and diving head coach Teri McKeever puts it, is the key.For years, McKeever worked to find that success. It came gradually. She was in her seventh year with the Golden Bears before the squad was able to crack the top five in the NCAA Division I national championship meet.
It got better, a lot better in fact. Approximately $10 million in donor funds over the year built facilities and scholarship funds suitable for a championship-caliber program. Only once the 2005-06 season has Cal finished as low as fifth in the nationals. And since winning its first national championship in 2009, the Golden Bears have finished no worse than third.
“We started to have some success, and I think quality people attract quality people,” McKeever said. “I am very proud of the consistency of the program. To me, that’s the sign of a program ... a philosophy ... a belief ... that a group of women can come in and be their best year after year.”
This year’s national crown is Cal’s fourth in the past seven seasons. Consistency? McKeever and the Golden Bears have it all right.
Cal won going away this year, besting rival Georgia 513 to 452 in team points. Stanford, Texas A&M and Virginia rounded out the top five.
Afterward, McKeever took questions from a group of reporters gathered for the event. She appeared drained -- satisfied, obviously, but drained.
“I’m happy, relieved,” McKeever said. “I don’t think it’s sunk in. I mean ... it has, but it hasn’t. As a coach, it’s just wonderful to see how much it means to the girls. It’s pretty awesome.”
Every championship is different, she added, just because of the personalities involved and the day-to-day struggles it took to get there. Each and every one has its own unique flair. There were members of past title teams and from squads twenty-five years in the past here this week. McKeever’s predecessor, Karen Moe Thornton, was here, too.
The Golden Bears stood second to Georgia on Thursday, the first day of competition, but came roaring back Friday to take a commanding advantage. They couldn’t exactly put it on cruise control here Saturday, but it was close.
At what point did she feel comfortable that the victory was in the bag?
“When we got second in the relay,” McKeever said of the meet’s final event. “Tonight, there were definitely some highlights, but definitely, a few people were running on fumes. So just making sure we didn’t get too confident ... that would be a little embarrassing.”
Georgia managed to take the runnerup spot in the meet, despite not winning a single event during the week.
“We lost to a great team,” said Jack Bauerle, Georgia’s head coach. “They were a complete team. We swam really well. Sometimes, you swim what you can do. We swam above our seeds, but that just shows you how good Cal is.”