Midsemester Awards

Photo: Male MVP: Nathan Adrian
Matthew Miller/File
Male MVP: Nathan Adrian

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Photo: Best Coach: Mike Montgomery   Photo: Female MVP: Caitlin Leverenz   Photo: Best Newcomer: Allen Crabbe

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Male MVP: Nathan Adrian

There are few swimmers in the history of college swimming that have been as dominant as Cal's Nathan Adrian. The Bremerton, Wash., native is a six-time national champion, holds American records in the 100-yard freestyle (41.08) and 50 freestyle (18.71) and won a silver and a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

After leading the Bears to a second place finish at the NCAAs in 2010, Adrian chose to return to Cal for his senior season with hopes of carrying his team to its first national title since 1980. The Bears are currently ranked No. 1 and are a favorite to take the national title in two weeks, largely due to yet another sterling season from their top sprinter. Adrian has yet to lose a sprint freestyle event in 2011, and recently won the Pac-10 crown in both the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle - for the third year in a row.

There is still one accolade that Adrian has yet to accomplish: winning an NCAA team title. If Cal does manage to take home the NCAA crown in two weeks, Adrian will likely go down as one of the most decorated swimmers in NCAA swimming history.

-Connor Byrne

Best Coach: Mike Montgomery

In a world full of coach-speak, Mike Montgomery consistently delivers thoughtful analysis in his press conferences. So when the veteran coach addressed the media after his team's 14-point loss in its first game of the Pac-10 Tournament, it felt different when Montgomery infused a bit of emotion.

"I told the guys we had one hell of a year given the circumstances that we dealt with," Montgomery said. "These guys battled through a lot and they have grown tremendously as a group and as a team. I want them to start thinking about where we should be next year and when the NIT comes along we want to jump on that and use it as a springboard."

Montgomery orchestrated an identity transformation through resilience and toughness. A team that "won't win any beauty contests" according to the coach, Cal won games by execution and lost games with unbelievable grit - all with a squad that had lost nine players in less than one year.

After the Bears' Dec. 22 battle with Kansas, Cal's play got coach Bill Self to smile and say, "That was the most fun game that we have played." Opposing coaches offered far more than the standard "you have to give credit to," opening line. They raved about execution, physicality and hustle.

It's merely another tremendous effort in Montgomery's career, and the upcoming years look promising at Haas. This was the starting effort for a Cal program that cannot be described in coach-speak.

-Gabriel Baumgaertner

Best Newcomer: Allen Crabbe

This one's a no-brainer. Though Crabbe already has official hardware, his Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award only confirmed what most Cal observers have known since January: that he will be very, very special.

After a nondescript performance during the non-conference schedule, the Los Angeles native has blossomed into a go-to scorer for the Bears. He poured in a team-high 16.4 points per game during conference play. Once a timid and overly unselfish player, Crabbe has shown the ability to score in bunches: he racked up a career-high 30 points against Washington State and scored 21 in a single half during the regular season finale.

Crabbe gives Cal a much-needed outside shooting threat - his 59 3-pointers are just one short of the school's freshman record - but he is far from a catch-and-shoot player. He has become more adept at driving to the basket, and is currently the team's third-leading rebounder.

Bears coach Mike Montgomery said at the beginning of the season that freshmen can "do some funny things." One thing is for sure: no one will want to miss Crabbe's next act.

-Ed Yevelev

Female MVP: Caitlin Leverenz

In her first swim collegiate swim meet, Caitlin Leverenz was crowned Queen of the Pool against Cal Poly. She went on to become the Pac-10's Freshman of the Year.

That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Leverenz has had a monster sophomore season for the Cal women's swim team. The Tucson, Ariz., native was named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Month for January. In that month the No. 4 Bears won all four of their dual meets and Leverenz won a combined 15 events.

On Feb. 12, Leverenz led Cal to just its fifth victory over No. 1 Stanford in programs history. She set two pool records en route to three individual first place finishes - in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley. She was also part of the Bears' winning 200-yard medley relay team.

A week and a half later, at the Pac-10 Championships, Leverenz was part of two winning relay teams - the 200 an 400-yard medleys - and took first in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Leverenz dives back into the pool today at the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas.

-Jonathan Kuperberg


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