Missy Franklin ends NCAA career with another individual title

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A teary Missy Franklin won the final individual race of her NCAA career, taking the 200-yard backstroke for her third individual title in as many nights at the NCAA Championships in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday.

She clocked 1 minute, 47.91 seconds, missing the American record by .07, and won by 1.44 seconds, helping California to capture its first women’s team title since 2012.

Franklin, a five-time 2012 Olympic medalist and California sophomore, is expected to turn professional after this weekend’s meet, making her ineligible for future NCAA competition.

“I’m so grateful for the experience that I’ve had,” Franklin, who had a Cal stick-on tattoo on her right cheek and her nails painted in the school colors gold and blue, said on ESPN3. “It’s been a very emotional couple of days, and I am just so proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished here. This is honestly the perfect way to end it. This is what I gave things up for, and the best part is it doesn’t even feel like I gave anything up, because I gained so much.”

Earlier in the meet, Franklin won the 200-yard individual medley on Thursday and the 200-yard freestyle in an American record time on Friday.

Franklin finished first, second and third in three individual swims as a freshman at the 2014 NCAA Championships.

She passed up an estimated $5 million in endorsements to keep amateur eligibility for two seasons to compete for the California Bears.

“The experience that I’ve had, even just the two years, is worth so much more than anything I could’ve got, giving some opportunities that I had after the [2012] Olympics,” Franklin said. “Just being able to be a normal college athlete and student, for me that’s completely priceless. I would make that decision 100 times over again.”

Franklin and Cal coach Teri McKeever joked that the team will most miss Franklin’s dance moves.

“The day after London, when I walked into her home to recruit her, I was standing in her kitchen and said, ‘What do you want in this experience?'” McKeever told media in Greensboro, sitting next to Franklin, the swimmer still wet from jumping in the pool while wearing a national championship hat and T-shirt. “We talked about how it needed to be two years, and that she had an opportunity leading into the [2016] Olympics because of what she did in London. In this scenario, she can have the best of both.

“She looks at life with rainbows and unicorns. Teri looks at life as the sky is falling a lot of times.”

Her next major meet is the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

NCAA competition is held in 25-yard pools. Olympic and World Championships meets are in 50-meter pools.

“They’re not goodbyes,” McKeever. “They’re transition moments.”

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