INDIANAPOLIS -- Georgia pulled out all the trimmings for its long-awaited coronation Saturday night.
Its fans danced in a pre-race competition. Its swimmers stood at poolside cheering on teammates and in the pool, the Bulldogs refused to fall to California again.
Instead, Georgia ended its long national championship drought with a record-setting splash in the final event and dethroned two-time defending national champion Golden Bears at the NCAA women's swimming and diving championships. The Bulldogs finished with 477 points, followed by Cal with 393, and Tennessee with 325.5.
"It feels great," coach Jack Bauerle said even before the meet was complete but the overall result was clear. "We had a good feeling after this morning because we swam up. You know here you make your own luck, and I think we got some luck, too."
The Bulldogs didn't need much luck to win their first national title since 2005.
These swimmers were tired of seeing California atop the standings each time they got close, and it was particularly meaningful to Allison Schmitt who turned down the opportunity to strike it rich after winning five medals, three of them gold, at the London Olympics to chase that elusive championship.
Cal had won three of the last four national titles and each time Georgia finished second. Not this year, even with Schmitt admittedly not swimming her best.
She finished sixth in the 500-yard freestyle and in the 400 medley relay Thursday night. After rebounding Friday to win her sixth and seventh career NCAA individual titles, in the 200 free and the 800 free relay, she wound up fifth in Saturday's 100 free. But after touching surging to the lead on the third leg of the record-setting 400 free relay, the always bubbly Schmitt couldn't hide her satisfaction. The 400 relay team finished in a 3 minutes, 9.40 seconds, breaking the NCAA, meet and U.S. Open records that were all set in 2009 in the faster swimsuits.
"This is exactly what I came back for," Schmitt said. "I don't know that I can describe what it felt like today, there were tears in my eyes this afternoon."
Smiles, hugs and wet bodies all around after the team went for the traditional dip in the diving well afterward.
Bauerle had actually been around a similar scenario one other time, when Auburn left Georgia in its wake following three consecutive titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The fourth year, Georgia rebounded and walked away national champs.
On Saturday, for the first time since that meet, Bauerle got to celebrate again -- and walked with the coach of the year award, too.
He expected to be it a lost closer, though.
When the Bulldogs took a 60-point lead after the first day, Bauerle predicted Cal would "blow past" the Bulldogs on Friday. That didn't happen. Georgia clung to a 15-point lead heading into the final day, and its stronger-than-expected morning swim all but sealed Cal's fate.
"I'm completely satisfied and pleased, especially with our young group," Cal coach Teri McKeever said. "We were hoping to score 400 points and we were just shy of that, so we were really solid."
A slow start to Saturday's final evening session left Cal in a bigger hole than it started the day with.
But freshman Elizabeth Pelton pulled off the swim of the meet by breaking four records, including the American record she set three weeks ago, in the 200 backstroke to get Cal within 18 points. Pelton finished in 1 minute, 47.84 seconds and broke the NCAA, meet and U.S. Open records that were all set by Gemma Spofforth in 2009. Dominique Bouchard of Missouri was second in 1:50.06, with Olympian Elizabeth Beisel finishing third for Florida in 1:51.17.
"It's bittersweet," she said after being named swimmer of the year. "Our team wanted to win, but there was else I could have done. I am satisfied, but it leaves a lot for us to work toward next year."
Georgia wasted no time in answering the challenge.
In the 100 freestyle, Megan Romano finished second in 47.37, Schmitt was fifth in 48.04 and Olympic gold medalist Shannon Vreeland was seventh in 48.41. The only Cal finisher in the final heat, freshman Rachael Acker was sixth, and with three Georgia swimmers finishing in the top eight, Georgia extended its lead to 57 in an event won by Arizona's Margo Geer in 47.19.
The suspense in the third-to-last event of the three-day meet. That's when Georgia's Lauren Harrington finished a surprising second in the 200 butterfly (1:53.49) and Cal's Rachel Bootsma wound up sixth. Harrington's teammates immediately raised their hands and rushed over to hug their teammate behind the starting blocks. Texas A&M's Cammile Adams won the race in 1:52.61.
Georgia didn't have to do anything else.
"We knew we had it, even if we disqualified, so that was just a fun swim," Schmitt said of the 400 free relay.
Arizona finished second in the 400 free relay (3:10.63), breaking Stanford's American record of 3:10.77 set in 2009.
Southern California's Haley Anderson won her second distant event of the weekend, leading from wire-to-wire in the 1,650 free. The Olympic open water silver medalist finished in 15:45.98 and held off a late charge from Sarah Henry of Texas A&M (15:46.41). Indiana's Lindsay Vrooman was third in 15:50.73.
Anderson's teammate at USC, sophomore Haley Ishimatsu, dominated the platform diving competition, winning with a meet record 396.75 points. Tennessee's Tori Lamp, who was named diver of the year, finished second with 328.6 points.
Texas' Laura Sogar held off American record-holder Breeja Larson in the 200 breaststroke, winning in 2:05.41. Larson, who was on pace to break her own record at 100 yards, faded to third in 2:06.24. Haley Spencer of Minnesota was second (2:06.15).
Tennessee's Dave Parrington was named diving coach of the year.