Beginning his 31st year in coaching, Head Coach Gregg Wilson of the UCSB swim team takes aim at repeating last year’s stellar season when both his men and women’s teams took home the Big West Championship.
“We just have a lot of weapons in our arsenal,” Wilson said. “It’s just about getting them ready to fire and being accurate with them.”
The teams are “getting ready to fire” with a three-week training camp that began Sept. 7 involving twice-a-day practices six days a week. Morning routines are performed entirely out of the pool where the teams take four- to six-mile runs and other conditioning activities, row 13,000 meters on machines in the gym and finish with abdominal workouts and stretching. Afternoon practices on the other hand are conducted entirely in the pool.
The men’s team is led by senior Pat Cary, who has recently qualified to represent the United States in the Pan American Games next July. Cary is the team’s only returning All-American athlete. He currently holds conference records in the 200-yard butterfly and 100-yard butterfly and hopes to improve his times this season and win the NCAA Championship in the former.
“We are really excited with what Pat can do for us this year,” Wilson said. “He is our only returning All-American and is a wonderful teammate and athlete and obviously incredibly competitive.”
According to Wilson, the men’s team looks promising as of late despite losing several key swimmers to graduation last year. The best news comes with the new freshmen swimmers, two of which have made Olympic trial cuts. Freshmen talent was a big contribution last year for the women’s team, but according to Wilson and Cary, the same is true for the up-and-coming men’s team.
“We have a good new freshman class which is important since we lost a lot of seniors last year,” Cary said. “Hopefully they can step up and do something but I think this year is going to be as good, if not better, than last year.”
The women are led by senior Jen Schwalb, last year’s team MVP. Schwalb said she hopes to make it back to the NCAA Championships again and to improve and earn All-American standing this season.
“Personally, I would like to take a women’s relay team to the NCAA Championships this year because we almost made the cut last season,” Schwalb said. “If we work hard at it and have that goal in the back of our minds I think we can do it.”
Wilson is optimistic about his women’s team this year because last year’s freshman class was so strong in the Big West Championships.
“This is just a real exciting group,” Wilson said. “Last year freshmen women scored 50 percent of our conference championship points and this year they are sophomores so that is going to bode well for us.”
Wilson said he looks to Schwalb as both a great athlete and leader who can help the women continue their tradition of winning. As the season approaches, Schwalb said she hopes to ensure that her women’s team gets closer and more unified in order to succeed both individually and as a team.
“This group of women is very different from last year’s,” Schwalb said. “We have to have that team unity before we can come together and start winning championships.”
Wilson cites Irvine as the Gauchos’ biggest threat in 2006, but is optimistic about UCSB’s chances this year due to its roster depth. Wilson’s goals for the upcoming season are to win the Big West Championships again and to get more athletes to the NCAA Championships, where he sent two men and one female athlete last season.