It’s not quite time for spring cleaning, but the UCSB men’s and women’s swim team decided to start sweeping up a little early this year, while both teams completely cleaned house in the Big West championship meet at Long Beach this past weekend.
The meet was an unprecedented success for the Gauchos. The women’s team not only beat its Big West rival, Pacific, but also captured first place and the Big West title for the first time since 1995.
The men’s team put another first place notch in its belt – earning the right to be called Big West Champions for the 23rd consecutive year. It is the only team on campus that can boast of such an impressive record, and 2001 Big West Coach of the Year Gregg Wilson has seen the team through each and every conference crown.
On the women’s side especially, the team attributes its victory to a full-fledged effort put forth by each team member.
"This was a total team effort on the women’s side," Assistant Coach Andy Bashor said. "We had a lot of depth and that’s how we won the meet. It wasn’t just a few standout swimmers, it was all 18 of the swimmers that pitched in."
The UCSB women’s squad did not trail after any of the three days of the event, and finished off its four opponents on Saturday with a grand total of 899 points. Pacific was the only team in the same scoring range as the Gauchos, but even the Tigers couldn’t manage to scare them away. The Gauchos managed to smoke the team that handed them a defeat earlier in the season.
"We didn’t expect to beat Pacific," sophomore distance swimmer Romina Mosquera said. "We knew it was going to be a battle. It took a lot of teamwork, and there was a lot of stress involved."
Mosquera helped put critically needed points on the board for Santa Barbara during the third day of the event with a remarkable first place finish in the 1650-yard freestyle event, touching for a finish in 17 minutes and 12.69 seconds. Two teammates, senior Maggie Hogan and freshman Colleen Barnett, were right on Mosquera’s heels, and the athletes marked a 1-2-3 finish in the same event.
"The last day it was dead even," said Mosquera. "Everything rode on the last day, because at the end of the second day we were only up by seven points."
There were quite a few other notable performances by the women’s team, including a second through fifth place finish in the 100-yard free, with sophomore Danielle Steadman leading the other three Gauchos – senior co-captain Suzy Bagg, junior Karin Finger, and sophomore Brenna Wilkinson.
The Koch brothers, freshman distance swimmer Eric and senior Ryan, set the tune of the men’s meet for Santa Barbara. Eric notched first in the 1650-free with a time of 15:27.81, and Ryan took first in the 200-meter butterfly by crossing the finish in 1:48.88.
Sophomore Matt Wheeler could be called the superstar of the meet for UCSB and even for representing the Big West. Wheeler was named co-Big West swimmer of the year for the second year in a row. The sophomore captured gold in both the 200 and 400 individual medley and took silver in the 200 back event. Wheeler may have qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, but will not know for sure until next week.
"It feels real good [to take the championship for the 23rd year in a row]," Wheeler said. "There’s a lot of pressure on us every year, but we always pull through."