Uncharted Waters

Erik Jepsen/Guardian
Erik Jepsen/Guardian

SWIMMING & DIVING — The UCSD men and women finished their seasons with a splash, competing admirably against top teams from across the nation at the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship meets from Mar. 10 through Mar. 13. The women claimed a third-place finish, while the men finished seventh in the final team standings.

The swimmers arrived in Canton, Ohio with little indication of how they’d fare in the most difficult field of competition all season — and, of course the imposing set of final exams that awaited them after the tournament.

In preparation, the team dedicated the entirety of week 10 to tackling potential challenges at the NCCA tournament. However, many members could not help but be distracted by their schoolwork.

“We knew we would miss a whole week, so we had a couple of days where we had to practice in the morning and then study when we got back to the hotel,” said senior captain Cari Cunningham. “When we were flying back, we were all studying pretty hard.”

Amid the added pressure of academic obligations, head coach Scott McGihon said he was proud of the swimmers’ strong season finish, though they had the potential to finish higher.

“We were somewhat happy with the results,” McGihon said. “We felt like we should have done better — the first two days were not standout days. But we all got together and finished outstandingly.”

The competition began on the morning of Wednesday, Mar. 10 with a gambit of preliminary races to determine racing seeds.

Cunningham said UCSD struggled through the first few days of the competition — and their seedings heading into the races reflected their troubles.

“It was pretty tough competition,” Cunningham said. “We were down the first two days, so we had to swim a lot harder in the next two days to place higher.”

On the women’s side, sophomore Alex Henley set a UCSD record in the 200-yard backstroke, posting a time of 1:58.79 for a second-place finish. She also posted a record time of 2:00.30 to win the 200-yard butterfly, then recorded the national championship winning time in the 400-yard individual medley: 4:18.71.

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

Henley also took second place in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:02.04, just short of her personal best.

On the men’s side, senior Daniel Perdew continued to elbow out the nation’s best D-II swimmers, winning the 50-yard freestyle for the third time as a Triton. He finished the finals heat with a time of 20.07 — barely edging out the second-place finisher by .03 seconds.

On the last day of the tournament — and Perdew’s last night as a collegiate swimmer — he finished with a glistening performance in the 100 freestyle, turning a time of 44.10 seconds. Perdew sealed his place among tournament greats by winning his fifth overall career NCAA championship.

“It’s gratifying to see them swim,” McGihon said. “It’s a great example of what happens when you put so much work and effort into training, and what you can get back from that much work.”

Henley and Perdew were not the only Triton winners. The meet ended with an inspired performance from the 400-yard freestyle relay teams on both the men’s and women’s sides.

The men’s team — Perdew, sophomore Sam Stromberg, sophomore Blake Langland and senior Todd Langland — capped off the meet with a second-place finish in the last race, falling behind first-place Wingate University by .22 seconds.

The women then saw their 400-yard freestyle team — Henley, freshman Amber Tan, junior Anju Shimura and junior Jessica Ferguson — score just enough points to edge out West Chester for third place overall at the meet.

“It was exciting, but [we were] also anxious,” Cunningham said. “It was a really close race, and it really came down to the last lap. We were just trying to get our swimmers pumped up to swim and do their best.”

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected].

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