Two weeks removed from one of its best performances of the year, the UCSB swim team will get a mid-season test as it travels to Long Beach for the Arena Invitational.
The three-day event, which began yesterday, is hosted by UC San Diego and brings the top competition from the nation, providing the Gauchos with an opportunity to acclimate themselves to a conference championship environment.
“[This meet is] a testing ground for the [conference championship] meet that comes here in a few months,” senior co-captain Andrew Latimer said. “It’s good experience for the new guys and it’s a refresher for the rest of the guys that have been here to get back into the real competitive race mode.”
The women’s team enters the Arena Invitational at 4-1 on the season while the men come in with a 2-1 record. In their last dual meets, both the men and women delivered convincing wins over Cal Poly and UC San Diego and will now try to carry that momentum into this competition, despite the long layoff.
“Two weeks is a long time to maintain momentum, so that’s going to be a problem,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “They will have to kick it up a notch. They have to really get after it; I’m hoping that momentum will last.”
On the women’s side, No. 2 Cal enters as the heavy favorite to win the 13-team field. Last year at Arena, the Golden Bears finished first with 989 points en route to winning the NCAA Championship for the second straight year. Santa Barbara will also have a tough time against UCLA, who defeated the Gauchos in its season opener 185-110.
Nine teams will compete in the men’s field, including defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, who also won this meet last year. In that event, Stanford beat its nearest competitor (UCSB) by 1,233 points.
Despite the tough competition, UCSB will also be left without some of its best swimmers as many have chosen to skip the event for the U.S. Swimming Winter Nationals in Austin, Texas on Nov. 29. Santa Barbara will not have Randy Aakhus, Tim Freeman, Emma Hunt, Sophia Yamauchi or Andrea Ward. Left with a huge void to fill, the Gauchos will rely heavily on their freshmen to step up and deliver.
“We’ll be going to this meet without the sole compliment of our swimmers,” Wilson said. “That takes a little bit of an edge off of us. [The freshman have] to hurry up and find out what it means to be intense and get up and race fast right now.”
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of November 16, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.