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Mykolas Alekna's Freshman Season Takes Its Place Among the Best in Cal History

We look back at some of the greatest freshman performances in Cal annals.

Cal’s Mykolas Alekna came up one inch shy of assembling a perfect freshman season throwing the discus.

Unbeaten all season — including twice breaking the collegiate record — Alekna finished second at the NCAA Track and Field Championships on Friday. Virginia’s Claudia Romero beat him by an inch.

His senior teammate, Iffy Joyner (on the left in the cover photo), added a fourth-place finish Friday.

Alekna's collegiate record mark of 225 feet, 6 inches (68.73 meters) places him No. 5 on the 2022 world list.

While Friday wasn’t the ending he wanted, an All-America finish at his first NCAA meet capped what nonetheless was a superb freshman season for the 19-year-old from Lithuania.

His performance got us to thinking about other elite freshman seasons delivered by Cal athletes over the years. Here are a few worth celebrating:

— COLLEEN GALLOWAY, Basketball (1977-78): Cal’s first women’s basketball star, Galloway averaged 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds and shot 51 percent as a freshman. She earned first-team All-NorCal Conference honors for an 18-12 team. Galloway led the Bears in scoring four straight seasons, twice landed All-America honors and became the program’s first 2,000-point scorer.

— MICHELE GRANGER, Softball (1990): Cal’s greatest softball pitcher, Granger won 24 games as a freshman (including five no-hitters), compiling an earned run average of 0.35 with 327 strikeouts in 277.6 innings for a team that advanced to the NCAA tournament. She earned first-team All-America honors for the first of four straight seasons. Granger went on to win 119 career games with an 0.46 ERA and 1,640 strikeouts. She later helped pitch Team USA to a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd

— JASON KIDD, Basketball (1992-93): Kidd was named national Freshman of the Year after averaging 13.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 7.7 assists and an NCAA-leading 3.8 steals for a Cal team that upset two-time defending national champion Duke to reach the Sweet 16. In three NCAA games that season, he averaged 13.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 10.3 assists and 4.3 steals. Kidd went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, won two Olympic gold medals and currently is head coach of the Dallas Mavericks.

— SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM, Basketball (1995-96): Abdur-Raghim averaged 21.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals and shot 52% from the field as a freshman. He scored 33 points in his college debut against Northern Arizona, 29 vs. Texas Southern and 32 vs. USF in his third game. He averaged 31.3 points and shot 74 percent (34-for-46) from the field in those games. He led Cal to an NCAA tournament bid and was voted Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and Pac-10 Player of the Year. The No 3 pick in the 1996 NBA draft, Abdur-Rahim won an Olympic gold medal and averaged 18.1 points in 12 NBA seasons.

— XAVIER NADY, Baseball (1998): Nady earned freshman All-America honors after batting .404 — still the second-highest single-season mark in program history. Nady went on to hit 57 home runs and drive in 191, both still-standing Cal career records. He went on to play 12 major league seasons.

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— NATALIE COUGHLIN, Swimming (2001): Coughlin won the 100 back, 200 back and 100 butterfly as a freshman at the NCAA Championships and was part of three relays that finished second at the NCAAs. She was named Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year and NCAA Swimmer of the Year for the first of three times. Coughlin went on to win 12 Olympic medals, including a record six at the 2008 Beijing Games.

— DeSEAN JACKSON, Football (2005): One of Cal’s most elusive receivers, Jackson had 38 receptions and 601 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman and took his only punt return for 49 yards and a TD. The Bears were 8-4 and beat BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl with Jackson catching six passes for 130 yards and 2 TDs in the victory. He scored 31 touchdowns in his Cal career, including six on punt returns, and has caught 632 passes with 58 touchdowns in his 14-year pro career.

Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan

— ALEX MORGAN, Soccer (2007): Morgan led the Bears in scoring for the first of four consecutive seasons, scoring eight goals as a freshman. She also scored a team-best 18 total points for a team that went 15-5-1 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. She went on to become one of America’s greatest female players, scoring 115 goals for the U.S. national team while helping the squad to two World Cup triumphs and gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

— JARED GOFF, Football (2013): As a freshman on a gruesome team, Goff passed for 3,506 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He passed for 450 yards in his college debut vs. Northwestern, then had games of 485 yards in a win over Portland State and 504 yards in a loss to Washington State. Goff finished as Cal’s career passing leader in virtually every category. He helped the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl appearance and is preparing to begin his second season with the Detroit Lions.

— RYAN MURPHY, Swimming (2014): Murphy won the 100 and 200 backstroke and swam on three winning relays as a freshman at the NCAA Championships. He set NCAA records in the 200 back and the 200 medley relay. At the Pac-12 meet, won the 100 and 200 back and was part of the winning 200 free relay. Murphy went on to set a world record in the 100 backstroke and won four Olympic gold medals.

Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin

— MISSY FRANKLIN, Swimming (2014): Franklin won the 200 freestyle in an American record time and anchored the 800 freestyle relay to a victory as a freshman at the NCAA meet. She won three individual events and three relays at the Pac-12 meet to earn Swimmer of the Meet honors. By the time she swam her freshman season at Cal, Franklin already had won four gold medals as a 17-year-old at the 2012 London Olympics and a record six golds at the 2013 World Championships. She finished her career with a total of 60 medals at major international competitions.

— KRISTINE ANIGWE, Basketball (2015-16): She averaged 20.5 points and 9.3 rebounds and shot 57 percent, earning first-team All-Pac-12 for the first of four straight seasons. Anigwe also was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. She finished her career as Cal’s scoring and rebounding leader and plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

— ANDREW VAUGHN, Baseball (2017): Beginning his second season in the majors with the Chicago White Sox, Vaughn batted .349 as a freshman with Cal, collecting freshman All-America honors. He was the Golden Spikes Award winner as the national player of the year in 2018 and finished his Cal career with 50 home runs and a .374 batting average.

Cover photo of Mykolas Alekna, right, with teammate Iffy Joyner by Al Sermeno, KLC fotos

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo