Not all UCSB students are bracing for another crazy Isla Vista Halloween weekend. The UCSB men’s and women’s swim teams are heading to Arizona on Friday, where the men will face Arizona State (1-0 overall) and the women will take on both the Sun Devils (0-1) and Penn State (1-0 overall).
The trip marks the first time the Gauchos have ever faced Arizona State in a dual meet. Gaucho Head Coach Gregg Wilson expects the teams to be challenged by a quick Sun Devil squad.
“This is going to be a test,” Wilson said. “Arizona is a fully funded program. It has very good American and foreign athletes on the men and women’s teams.”
Both the men’s and women’s squads upgraded their schedules this season, facing more Pac-10 schools and perennial powerhouses. With 13 new women and 10 new men on the teams, UCSB is looking to develop the young talent by putting them up against the best.
“We’re going to see how we go up against some top-ranked teams in the country,” Wilson said. “I have a lot of confidence in this group, men and women. We’re going to learn how to compete on the road.”
Besides facing stronger competition, the Gauchos will also deal with other problems this weekend.
“We have a ton of midterms. We’ve got a couple kids with some pretty serious coughs and bronchial problems. We have to deal with a nine-hour bus ride,” Wilson said. But that’s okay. If we can swim well under some adverse conditions, then we can swim well under the best conditions.”
Both Gaucho teams seem ready to overcome the challenges. Coming off a strong performance Oct. 15 in its first dual meet of the season, the women’s team has already proven its depth. Santa Barbara beat Oregon State by a wide margin, 183 to 79, and narrowly lost to UCLA, 150.5 to 109.5.
Junior Jen Schwalb won both the 200-meter butterfly and the 200 individual medley, along with a second place finish in the 100 butterfly. Wilson believes Schwalb is one of the key UCSB swimmers this season.
“She was an Olympic trials qualifier and participant. She is the Big West Conference champion, school record holder in five events, NCAA qualifier last year, most valuable her freshman and sophomore years,” Wilson said. “Her greatest strength is that she can race – anytime, anywhere, any event and go fast.”
Other women are also expected to perform well for the Gauchos this season. Freshman sprinter Jamie Lathers walked onto the UCSB team only two months ago. She surprised the field by taking the 50-meter freestyle with a 24.16 swim in her first collegiate dual meet.
Freshman Liz Wagner swam her lifetime best in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:50.36, setting a team record for the fastest in-season time during her first meet as a Gaucho. Freshman Jessica Cruzat performed well last week as well, easily taking a victory in the 200 backstroke with a 2:01.1 swim.
Senior team captains Shannon Avison and Jennifer Cook will also play a huge role for the Gauchos this season and will provide leadership to the many new swimmers on the team.
This weekend’s dual meet will be the first of the season for the men’s team. Coach Wilson believes the veteran team is primed for the challenging season.
“It’s like when you bring a thoroughbred racehorse into a gate and it’s ready to go,” Wilson said. “These guys want to race,” Wilson said.
The Gaucho teams will return home to face UCSD at 10 a.m. Nov. 5 at Campus Pool.