Swimmers Crowned Conference Champs

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

SWIMMING & DIVING — After four days of intense competition against some of the West Coast’s premier universities, the UCSD men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams emerged as repeat winners of the Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference Championships, held in Long Beach from Feb. 10 through Feb. 13.

“It feels amazing to be a part of a championship team,” freshman sprint Amber Tan said. “The competition was fierce, but this team is great for sure.”

The Tritons swept teams from California, Arizona, Washington and Alaska on the climb to their third conference title in four years.

After their dominating performance last weekend, the Tritons will rest and prepare for the NCAA Division-II Championships in Canton, OH — the biggest meet of the year — where they will compete against the best teams in the country.

“We’re looking for competition and trying to race well against strong competitors,” senior captain Cari Cunningham said. “But you have times to make every meet, and we try to improve on past meets.”

Going into the weekend, 22 Triton athletes had already qualified for nationals — four fewer than they sent to last year’s competition. However, due in large part to several outstanding freshmen performances, they emerged from the weekend with 28 national qualifiers.

While the men’s team won its conference by the third day — finishing with 1,535 points and bettering nearest competitor Seattle University by 172.5 points — the women’s team went down to the wire with Loyola Marymount University.

The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Tan, junior Anju Shimura, freshman Jessica Ferguson and sophomore Alex Henley finished in second place with a time of 3:27.04, sealing the first place overall victory for the Tritons.

The win was even more surprising considering the Triton women were only in third place after the first day, 60 points beneath Pepperdine University.

Undeterred, the Tritons jumped into first place on the second day, and barely held off an aggressive Loyola Marymount team on the final day.

The women sealed their victory with 1,379 points — a mere 6.5 points ahead of Loyola Marymount University.

Tan, one of the freshmen bound for nationals, said she was elated at having qualified in the final race of the competition: the women’s 400-yard freestyle relay.

“It is unbelievable making nationals, because I just barely missed the cut on my races,” Tan said. “But I got a last chance with the relay, and my coaches were ecstatic. We won by six points … and were going back and forth all day.”

Head coach Scott McGihon said the team’s last-day heroics were a testament to both their mental strength and wealth of talent.

“We didn’t actually have the race won after the third day,” McGihon said. “Seattle still had a strong chance. But our performance on the last day just shows our great depth, and that we have a much better competitive atmosphere than anyone else.”

Henley was UCSD’s top female performer. She won four individual events: the 500-yard freestyle, the 200-yard individual medley, the 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard backstroke (in which she broke the meet record with a time of 2:00.52). Henley also finished second in the 400-yard individual medley and third in the 100-yard butterfly, behind winner and teammate senior Karla Holman — who took the event with a time of 56.78.

Other top performances for the women’s team were sophomore Shea Kopp’s 100-yard backstroke, Shimura’s second-place finish in the same event and freshman Beth Dong’s victory in the 1,650-yard freestyle race.

On the men’s side, senior Daniel Perdew won the meet’s first event — the 50-yard freestyle — in typical lightning fashion, and later won the 100-yard butterfly. Senior Juan Pablo Carrillo won the 100-yard breaststroke and senior Jereme Barnett-Woods won the 1,650-yard freestyle event. Freshman Shaun Stringer finished up the domination for the Tritons as he won the 200-yard butterfly.

For the divers, senior Danielle Niculescu took first in the women’s one-meter diving event with a total score of 235.70 — only 1.65 points ahead of the second place finisher. Freshman Tyler Runsten grabbed first place in the three-meter event and second in the one-meter event.

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected].

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