BERKELEY -- Swim star Missy Franklin chose Cal to expand her horizons.
She's also learning about her sport as evidenced Friday in her home debut at Spieker Aquatics Complex in a dual meet against Washington State.
Franklin entered uncharted waters when coach Teri McKeever put the four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 400-yard individual medley, an event featuring the four competitive strokes.
The star of last summer's world championships found out about the race 10 minutes before it started.
"How do I swim this?" she asked McKeever.
Being a quick study wasn't enough to stop freshman Celina Li of Foothill High-Pleasanton from chasing down Franklin in the final leg to win in 4 minutes 13.42 seconds. Franklin touched the wall 0.41 second behind.
"It's always so fun to race her," said Li, adding she wouldn't have imagined Friday's scenario when watching the London Olympics last year.
McKeever wants to find new ways to challenge Franklin, who plans to compete collegiately for two seasons before turning professional and focusing on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"One thing that is important is not to pigeonhole her into things," McKeever said. "Just let her race."
Last weekend, the lanky Franklin swam the 1,000-yard freestyle, a bit out of the range for the sprinter.
"I would have made this decision a million times over again," Franklin said. "This is the best decision I've ever made to swim with this team."
Franklin, from Colorado, won the 100 backstroke and anchored the victorious 400 medley relay as the fifth-ranked Golden Bears took all 14 events for a 164-89 victory. The intensity will increase when Cal plays host to top-ranked Florida on Oct. 19.
As much as Franklin tries to blend in, the woman known as "the Missile" turns heads at such early season meets.
Just ask Cougars freshman Elise Locke, who competed for Presentation High-San Jose in the spring. When Locke saw Franklin among those on the blocks for the 400 IM she exclaimed, "Oh my god, I'm racing her."
Locke finished more than 14 seconds behind Franklin and Li but sounded excited afterward.
"It's fun to race the big dogs," Locke said. "They really push me."
Franklin is starting to get familiar with the feeling of being pushed. She had to anchor a 200 freestyle relay moments after finishing the 400 IM. Franklin has executed some tough doubles at the Olympics and world championships, but she never has had consecutive races like this.
"It was probably the most painful 50 free of my life," Franklin said of the relay leg. Then she offered her trademark laugh. "That's what this is all about, racing."