Hard work, sacrifice, and ambition do pay off. At least, they did for the UCSB men’s swimming team.
For four days, the UCSB men’s and women’s swimming teams competed in the Big West Swimming Championships in Long Beach. The men won their 25th conference title, beating out two-year former champion rival University of the Pacific. The women competed well, but took third behind UOP and UC Irvine.
“It’s good to have our goal realized. We worked hard for it for two years,” senior team captain David Robinson said. “It was hard work by the coach and the swimmers. For the past two years, we have reshaped the entire structure of the team – the way we practice, the way we recruit – and it paid off.”
The men’s 200 medley relay started the Gauchos off strong with a first place finish. The men’s 800 freestyle relay took second shortly after, heightening the team’s spirits early on. Over the four-day competition, UCSB saw great swims from all the men, including freshman Brent Nolan, sophomore Patrick Ota, junior Scott Baer, and seniors Shaun Crossman and Eric Koch.
Senior Brian Mirkovich took first in the 200 freestyle. Ota, sophomore TK Erwin, and sophomore Ben Fisher finished one, two and three, respectively, in the 100 backstroke. For the first time in Santa Barbara history, the men finished one through five in the 500 freestyle with freshman Myles Peck clocking in the fastest time. Freshman Pat Cary finished second in both the 100 and 200 butterfly behind a UOP swimmer.
“The men were bound and determined to reclaim the conference title. Through highs and lows this season, the men were not denied,” UCSB Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “On Friday evening, we had so much momentum, no one could outdo us.”
Wilson received the Big West Coach of the Year honor for the 12th time in his coaching career.
“He earned it,” Robinson said. “He played a huge part in changing the style of this team. He made a lot of sacrifices, so he definitely deserves it.”
Wilson however, believes the award should have gone to his assistant coaches, Jeremy Kipp and Brandon Seider, saying that they play a major role in everything the team does.
“My assistant coaches do enormous amounts of work. It’s really their award,” Wilson said. “I’m just a part of the team, part of the program.”
The women had hoped to jump in the pool and celebrate with the men’s team, but instead had to settle with a disappointing third place standing.
“We had a hard time. We had a couple of obstacles and after that it was hard to get the team going to make up the points,” junior team captain Jen Moeckel said.
Going into the meet, the women already had the loss of their only senior, team captain Colleen Barnett, due to illness. Then, the 200-medley relay team was disqualified after junior Jennifer Lyes left early on the start. Yet the women saw some successes. Lyes won the 50 freestyle, setting a new school record and was the only Gaucho to automatically qualify for the NCAA competition. She was named Big West Female Athlete of the Year and placed second in the 100 freestyle. Junior Lindsay Dalonzo came in third in both the 100 and 200 backstroke and freshman Jennifer Schwalb gave a good show, taking third in the 200 butterfly as usual.
The lack of a UCSB diving team further hurt the Gauchos since points from diving are awarded to the schools in the tournament. UC Irvine benefited from 90 diving points alone. However, the women look forward to taking the top spot with the men next year.
“It’s gratifying to be back on top,” Wilson said. “But we’re not over. We’re preparing for the next situation. We want the men and women holding the trophy above their heads together.”