After leading the first two days of the MPSF Swimming Championships held in East Los Angeles College, the UCSB women’s swim and dive season came to a disappointing end Saturday night, falling just short of taking home what would have been their first MPSF title and placing second behind BYU, 732-699.
Santa Barbara was not able to improve on its second place finish from last year, winning 10 events in total and coming away with five MPSF records and six school records. Head Coach Gregg Wilson was voted Coach of the Year while sophomore Andrea Ward and freshman Katie Records were awarded swimmer of the year and freshman of the year, respectively.
“I was so impressed with everyone’s performance,” senior Kendall Neely said. “Everyone swam with a lot of inspiration and a ton of heart; it was really exciting to be a part of it.”
The long layoff had no affect on the Gaucho swimmers, who carried momentum from their last four dual meet victories into the first day of competition, setting two school records in both events held on that evening.
The “A” relay team of sophomores Allie Knight, Sophia Yamauchi, Ward and Neely got things rolling for the Gauchos, winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1:39.63, breaking the previous MPSF record set. The Gauchos capped off the night edging out UC Davis in the 800-yard free relay on the back of junior Emma Hunt’s final lap, touching the wall with a time of 7:17.82, 0.23 seconds ahead of Davis.
“The highlight of the championships was by far the first night, winning both relays back to back,” Records said. “It was such an accomplishment … we were just so ready to go and our spirits were so high; there was no way to describe how happy everyone was.”
The Gaucho lead dwindled after the second day of competition as BYU finished strong in the 3-meter diving final held in Colorado Springs. BYU claimed the top three spots in the event and earned 53 points, compared to five for Santa Barbara.
“It was frustrating not being able to cheer our divers on,” Wilson said. “And knowing that it’s going to be this big avalanche of points going towards [BYU], it was tough to deal with.”
UCSB managed to earn three event victories; Ward won the 500-yard freestyle (4:50.41) for a second year in a row and Yamauchi broke her own MPSF record in the 200-yard IM (1:58.56). The “A” relay team closed out the night, capturing the 400-yard relay in 3:39.89 and giving the team a 13.5 point advantage heading into the third day of competition.
Knight built on the lead in the first event on Friday, winning the 400-yard IM and setting a MPSF record in the process (4:14.48). However, the lead was short lived as BYU’s strength on the diving board again proved to be the deciding factor of the meet. The Cougars rounded out the top three divers in the 1-meter diving competition and jumped ahead of the Gauchos going into the last day of competition.
Trailing by 8.5 points in the final day, the Gauchos relied on their underclassmen. Records came first in the 200-yard breaststroke and Ward won her third individual event (200-yard fly) in as many days, giving UCSB a slight lead before the Cougars’ diving gave the lead back to BYU.
A runner-up slot in the 400-yard freestyle relay sealed a second-place finish for the Gauchos and a championship for BYU.
“They didn’t give up at all, so on the last day — faced with a certain defeat — they still raced; they still competed in their event,” Wilson said. “We walk away knowing that we gave our best, these women fought a good fight and they came a little short.”
The swim and dive team now change their focus to the men, who compete in the Pac-12 Championships starting Feb. 29 in Long Beach.