INDIANAPOLIS -Kathleen Baker put herself in rare territory on the final night of the NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships Saturday night.
Namely, the sophomore captured the national title in the 200-yard backstroke and, as a result, became a three-time winner at the meet after earlier earning NCAA crowns in the 200 individual medley and 100 back.
Those results combined to lift her to one more honor: 2017 NCAA Swimmer of the Year.
Baker becomes the third Golden Bear to win three individual championships at one meet, joining Natalie Coughlin, who performed the feat three times from 2001-03, and Missy Franklin from 2015. She is also the sixth Cal swimmer to earn Swimmer of the Year honors and fourth in the last six year.
"She definitely put herself in a special category with three national titles at the same meet," head coach Teri McKeever said. "Coming off what she did last year with making the Olympic team and medaling and really leading the team in her own way, it's a credit to her. She's a gamer and someone you can count on. It's going to be exciting to have her for two more years."
As a team, Cal finished second behind Stanford, marking the ninth consecutive year the Bears have placed among the top three at the NCAA meet -the longest current streak in the country.
Overall, Cal captured six event crowns. In addition to Baker's trio, senior Farida Osman won the 100 fly, and the Bears won the 200 free relay and 200 medley relay both in NCAA-record times. Cal has won more than six titles just twice before with seven in both 2012 and 2015.
"We had a lot of different people step up and had kind of an emotion ride like any meet like this," McKeever said. "I'm really proud of the way they stuck together. We stayed focused on what we can control and supported each other. It was very rewarding."
In the 200 back race, Baker jumped out to her typical fast start and led throughout. Her winning time of 1:48.44 was just a tenth of a second off her personal best, but more than half a second ahead of runner-up Alexia Zevnic of North Carolina State.
In the B final, sophomore Amy Bilquist placed sixth in 1:52.03.
The Bears placed two swimmers in the A final of the 100 free and were led by Osman. The senior posted a PR 47.07; the No. 3 time in school history and placed fifth in the event, with freshman Abbey Weitzeil eighth in 47.79. In addition, senior Kristen Vredeveld finished seventh in the B final in 48.02 after posting a lifetime-best 47.95 in morning qualifying.
Sophomore Katie McLaughlin improved her finish in each successive event during the meet and concluded with a runner-up showing in the 200 fly. Her time of 1:52.37 ties her with Dana Vollmer for the second-fastest ever at Cal. In addition, junior Noemie Thomas was 10th in 1:54.54.
Senior Marina Garcia, in her final race as a Golden Bear, came through with the highest finish of her career by taking 12th in the 200 breast in 2:08.80.
In the 1650 free, freshman Chenoa Devine lowered her personal best by four seconds and finished 19th in 16:04.34, which keeps her as the No. 3 performer in school history.
In the final event of the championships, the quartet of Bilquist, Baker, Weitzeil and Osman set a school record, touching the wall in 3:09.08, to capture third place.