Sixteen Gaucho swimmers from the men’s and women’s teams headed to Austin, Tex., yesterday for the Texas Invitational to be held today through Saturday, with the top teams in the country attending.

UCSB is the only team from the Big West Conference that will be competing, but will face off with several of the nation’s top-25 in both the men’s and women’s divisions, including Arizona State, Texas, Stanford and Florida.

“It’s a pretty big meet and is kind of a halfway meet for a lot of teams, to see how they are doing,” senior Myles Peck said. “It’s not really about winning, it is just a chance to race against some of the top swimmers and teams in the country. It will be really good competition and will show us how we are doing.”

Eight men and eight women from Santa Barbara’s swim team flew Wednesday morning to join more than 350 of the nation’s top swimmers and divers in the annual meet that will be one of the biggest competitions of the season before the conference and NCAA championships. The men will compete with #2 Texas, #3 Stanford, #10 Florida, #21 Arizona State, #23 University of Nevada, Las Vegas, UCLA, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Texas Christian University and Hawaii.

The Gaucho women will face #1 Stanford, # 6 Florida, # 9 USC, #14 UCLA, #18 Wisconsin, #24 Arizona State, UNLV, Wyoming, TCU, Hawaii and Washington State. The women fell earlier in the season to Hawaii and UCLA, and look to seek revenge and upset at least one of the two rival schools.

The invitational could prove difficult for the Gauchos if they wish to place high among the teams competing, since the invitational includes diving events and UCSB lacks a diving team.

Last year Arizona beat Texas to win the Invitational in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

The University of Texas is hosting this year’s meet and events will be held in the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, running from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The invitational will mark a temporary end to the dual meets UCSB has been competing in recently and the beginning of much larger invitational meets. The Gauchos’ next dual meet is not until Jan. 6 at USC. Following the Texas Invitational, Santa Barbara will head to Sin City for the UNLV Winter Invitational held Dec. 16 to 18, which will host some of the top schools from the West.

According to Peck, the team’s showing last season was less impressive than the Gauchos hoped for, as they look to rebound from last year’s disappointing performance.

“We didn’t do as well as we hoped last season in Vegas,” Peck said. “We’re all getting pretty fired up for this meet, because we really want to win it.”

Peck said the Gauchos, with a two-week period in between the two invitational meets, will have a chance to rest up and prepare better than they did last year.

“We’re going to really rest up for it and I think we have a good chance at winning that meet this year,” Peck said.

If the Gauchos can take first in the UNLV invitational, it would give them the bragging rights as one of the top teams in the West. A win in Vegas would also give UCSB a confidence boost before heading to the Big West Conference meet held in February and the NCAA Championships in early March.