A Pair of Swimmers Makes Big Splashes

Going into the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships on March 14 to March 17 in Canton, Ohio, neither sophomore Jennifer Watanabe nor junior Sandra Lopez had much trepidation about going head to head against the other top Division II swimmers from around the nation.

Courtesy UCSD Athletics

“”I was [nervous] a little bit,”” Lopez said. “”But I think the support of my team helped me calm my nerves.””

Neither had many expectations for the championships.

“”I didn’t really have expectations,”” Watanabe said. “”I just wanted to go out and have fun.””

Clear minds helped them in the competition.

“”Going into the meet, I tried to not think about me being ranked first because it’s a different meet and anything could happen,”” Lopez said. “”I knew I’d be facing some tough competition.””

UCSD swimming head coach Scott McGihon had other ideas.

“”I expected them to swim fast,”” he said. “”I didn’t plan on anybody winning a championship.””

Watanabe had other ideas. On the first day of competition, she set a school record in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:04.41. Her first-place finish added to the four national titles she won last year.

On day two, Watanabe came back to win the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:22.68, which is also a school record.

Day three belonged to Lopez, as she set both a Division II and a school record en route to winning the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:03.20.

On the final day of competition, Lopez set another NCAA record and school record in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:16.74. Watanabe captured her third title of the competition in the 200-yard backstroke event with a time of 2:00.61, which is yet another school record.

All in all, Watanabe and Lopez set five of the six school records set by the women’s swim team in the championships. This effort pleased McGihon.

“”You can’t plan on winning events,”” he said. “”I was still going to be happy with anybody. [Watanabe and Lopez] train hard and have a will to win. They’ve both come a long way.””

The individual accomplishments just add to the team.

“”Every individual title is like a team win,”” McGihon added. “”They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have their teammates to push them.””

With both these top-notch swimmers returning next year, and a third overall finish in this year’s NCAA Division II championships, next year’s swim team is poised to make some big waves.