The Santa Barbara men’s swimming team was determined to hold on to its conference title, but Pacific was too much to hold back in the Big West Conference swimming championships, which were held in Long Beach and concluded Saturday.
Pacific edged out the reigning champion Gaucho men 881 to 864, and the Irvine Anteaters picked up their first-ever Big West swimming title with 821 points on the women’s side. Defending women’s champion Pacific finished second with 717.5, while the Santa Barbara women finished in fourth with 606.
“It was a really fast meet this year,” junior Jennifer Cook said. “Overall, we did really well; we had fast times, but every other team had fast times too.”
Cook broke the school record she set last year in the 100-yard breaststroke with her first-place time of 1:03.45, good enough for NCAA postseason consideration. Also breaking her own school record was sophomore Jen Schwalb, who took second in the 100 butterfly with a time of 53.91, also good enough to earn NCAA consideration.
“A lot of other teams are getting a lot better,” Schwalb said. “Competition in the Big West is getting a lot tougher.”
Schwalb was also a member of the 800 freestyle relay that took first place on the first day of competition.
“We were feeling pretty good at the end of the first day after that relay,” Schwalb said.
Both Santa Barbara and Pacific were hurt by Irvine’s diving scores. Irvine collected a total of 98 points in diving, giving them an edge over the Gauchos and Tigers, who do not compete in diving. Finishing in third place was Davis, which also benefited from diving, scoring 135 points, 47.5 more than the difference between Davis and Santa Barbara.
“[Diving] was a huge factor,” Cook said. “We swam our hearts out and we still had to sit back and watch them get free points. It was difficult to look up at the scoreboard and see them ahead of us.”
While the Gaucho men were able to overcome the diving scores, they weren’t able to overcome the strength of Pacific.
“We had some fast times,” sophomore Pat Cary said. “But UOP was just faster than us. They were able to get more guys into the finals than we were.”
Cary broke the oldest conference record in the 100 and 200 fly with times of 47.69 and 1:45.32, respectively.
Santa Barbara ended the first day of competition in first place and battled back and forth with Pacific throughout the entire competition. Despite fast times from the Gaucho swimmers, the Tigers were able to keep a narrow lead going into the final event, the 400 freestyle relay.
“For us to win they had to get third,” Cary said. “They got first and we got second, and they won it all.”
Although they expressed the obvious disappointment that comes from not winning, the Gaucho swimmers remained positive about their performance at the championships.
“We’re upset that we got second,” Cary said. “But we swam our hearts out and we did everything we possibly could – everything that the coaches could expect us to do.”