No. 3 women’s swimming crowned PCSC Champs

    Coming off monumental success at the Pacific Coast Swim Conference Championships held from Feb. 16 through Feb. 19 in Long Beach, Calif., the Tritons women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams are braced for the NCAA Division II Championships, which begins March 9 in Orlando, Fla.

    The No. 3 UCSD women’s team was crowned PCSC champion following its comfortable win over second-place Cal Baptist, 1449-1131. Senior captain Rosana Delurgio led the Tritons as a member of the winning 800-meter freestyle relay, before breaking her old NCAA record in the 200 breaststroke, beating the event’s second-place finisher by almost seven seconds in a time of two minutes, 15.31 seconds. Junior Sophie Levy and sophomores Susan Bell and Emily Harlan each won events and broke school records as the Tritons captured first-place finishes in 10 of the meet’s 20 events.

    The No. 3 Triton men took a narrow second to defending national champion Cal State Bakersfield, 1612-1522, despite outstanding all-around showings by senior PCSC Swimmer of the Year Kurt Boehm and sensational distance performances by freshman Joel Tourtellotte and senior Devin Spicer.

    “I think that the results speak for themselves,” head coach Scott McGihon said. “We swam really fast — especially those swimmers who are going to nationals and who weren’t rested for this meet. They came out and had some of their fastest races of the season.”

    From the womens’ team, 15 athletes will be making the trip to the NCAA Championships, while the men’s team will send 13. While other teams started to taper for the PCSC Championships, these 28 individuals had to maintain a more rigorous practice regimen in order to stay in prime condition for their final meet.

    The final day of races, Feb. 19, was arguably the strongest day for the UCSD women’s team, as the Tritons secured first-place finishes in five of six events. Levy started the rally in the 1,650-meter freestyle, touching the wall in 16:59.74, just three seconds before sophomore teammate Andrea Lippin. The third-place finisher, Lauren Smith of UC Santa Cruz, was a full 50 seconds behind Lippin.

    In the subsequent event, the 200-meter backstroke, Bell and senior Frances Tran finished two seconds apart and two seconds ahead of the third-place Loyola Marymount racer. Bell’s time was an NCAA Division II “A” qualifier, while Tran missed the cutoff by less than half a second, qualifying her for a “B” time. Both women had already qualified for the NCAA Championship earlier in the season.

    Harlan took control in the 100 freestyle event, improving on her second-seed preliminary time to win the event in 51.14 seconds, touching out the second-place Cal State Bakersfield swimmer by 0.16 seconds.

    Delurgio’s superstar 200 breaststroke race followed, as she opened the event by taking a two-second lead on the rest of the field in the first 50 yards. The gap widened visibly with each passing lap, until she completed the race 6.69 seconds in front of the next finisher, and surpassed her own NCAA record by 0.61 seconds.

    “[Delurgio] has been saving something,” McGihon said. “She beat her own NCAA record by a little bit, and I expect that we’ll see her build on that.”

    Despite her obvious advantage going into the NCAA Division II Championships, Delurgio will find herself in the difficult position of being the top seed from a defensive standpoint in the respect that every swimmer in the event will be aiming to beat her while she tries to maintain her edge.

    “There is a swimmer from Truman State who is very good,” McGihon said. “There is some pretty fast competition in the country [for the 200 breaststroke event]. Our own Susan Bell is in that mix, too. They’re not exactly going to give [the title] to her before she races.”

    Bell was not entered in the 200 breaststroke at the PCSC Championships; however, senior teammate Katie Miller finished the event in seventh-place in a time of 2:25.6.

    The women’s team finished on Feb. 19, the fourth day of the conference championships, as the 400 freestyle relay composed of Delurgio, Harlan, sophomore Monica Becks and freshman Katie Baier took a one-second advantage on the Cal State Bakersfield relay to win the final event and solidify the already secure victory.

    “We expected our women’s team to finish far out front of the rest of the conference,” McGihon said.

    The coach’s confidence in his women’s team was balanced equally in the men’s side, but the high degree of competition there made certain victory more dubious.

    “We knew the men’s team would do well, but Bakersfield is the defending national champion and had something to prove after we beat them in a dual meet earlier in the season,” McGihon said. “It was my expectation that they would be trying to get that one back.”

    Although it would be difficult to identify a specific day on which the Tritons men’s team performed better than another, the high level of intensity that was exhibited in its races was noteworthy.

    Boehm was awarded the PCSC male Swimmer of the Year for his performance at the meet and throughout the rest of the season.

    “[Boehm] has been a tremendous asset to the team this year,” senior captain Mark Tate said. “He’s done so well till now, and he’s the top seed in several events at NCAA’s.”

    In the 200 freestyle event on Feb. 18, Boehm led as three Tritons took three of the top four places. Touching in at 1:38.81, well within the Division II “A” qualifying time, Boehm beat Cal State Bakersfield’s Piotr Gegotek before sophomore Tim Fuller and Spicer came in for third and fourth places, respectively. Rounding out the event for UCSD, Brady Gosling finished seventh and George Leicht completed the race in eighth place.

    For one team to earn five of the top-10 places in a main event at a conference meet is an unprecedented accomplishment, especially considering that 35 swimmers were entered in the event.

    The team’s individual power in the 200 freestyle was also evident in one of the meet’s first events, the 800 freestyle relay. The Tritons men’s team had an “A” team entered (meaning that this was the only relay team eligible to earn points), as well as a “B” team, which was permitted to race despite being ineffectual in scoring. The “A” team finished the race in second place, two seconds behind Cal State Bakersfield. Had the time for the “B” team been eligible, the Tritons would have cut a substantial part of the Cal State Bakersfield lead with two teams in the top-five.

    “The team that was disqualified was our “B” relay, so their points wouldn’t have counted either way,” McGihon said. “But that unofficial time shows how much strength and depth we have. The interesting thing about that is that we could have entered a “C” relay and had all three teams be in the top 10.”

    Spicer played a key supporting role again on Feb. 19 in the 1,650 freestyle. Tourtellotte won the event in 15:50.44 to beat the second-place racer, and was followed by Spicer, who captured third-place out of 21 swimmers in 16:09.51.

    “[Our strength is] definitely in the fact that we are a pretty complete team,” McGihon said. “A lot of other programs either have split teams or don’t have the same kind of unity that we do.”

    Looking ahead to the NCAA Division II Championships, the Tritons are looking for nothing less than perfection.

    “We’ve been looking at a national championship as our biggest goal this season,” Tate said.

    Other top contenders on the men’s side include defending title holder Cal State Bakersfield, North Dakota and Drury University of Springfield, Missouri.

    “We’d like for both teams to be top-one or top-two, but I definitely think it’s safe to say we are looking for a top-three finish [at the NCAA meet], which is something that has never been done by this team at the Division II level.”

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