After a long and successful season, the top 18 swimmers from the UCSB men and women’s swim teams are headed to Long Beach to defend their title this week at the Big West Championships.

“We feel very good going into the meet based on our performance throughout the season. We have to take advantage of our strength, which is depth,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “We have two goals. Our first goal is to win the meet. Our second goal is to qualify people for the NCAA Nationals. Everyone has to do their best. We have a very young and exciting team. We have a fantastic freshman class and a strong senior class.”

The Gauchos will have to swim their very best as all Big West teams will be gunning for the title, and the Gauchos will have to be on the lookout for UC Davis, who placed second last year with total scores of 733 for the men and 756 for the women. Santa Barbara will also have to watch UC Irvine, a team that the Gauchos did not compete with during this season and who placed third last year with total scores of 644.5 for the men and 722.5 for the women. The Gauchos captured the victory with combined totals of 821 for the men and 785 for the women. University of the Pacific is also a team that the Gauchos will keep their eye on since they showed a strong performance during the Gauchos’ last home meet, defeating the women’s team but losing to the men’s team.

Despite these circumstances, Wilson said he is confident that the Gauchos will do well.

“[UOP] is a good team and they have great swimmers on both teams, and Irvine also has a good team, but their depth is not good enough. We have the depth, and that helps during this type of event,” Wilson said. “During the season, I created a schedule to toughen us up. We’ve competed against UCLA, USC, Hawaii and Cal Berkeley. I’ve tried to test our men and women to get them ready for this challenge. We’ve got to be careful not to get bigheaded. We have to go and get it. I feel good, but we have to make it happen. Nobody is going to step down and give us the title.”

The Gauchos’ last meet was at Campus Pool against Pacific on Feb. 3. The men defeated UOP 153-109, while the women lost 138.5-121.5. Great performances by the women’s team were seen by senior co-captains Katie Moeckel and Jennifer Schwalb, freshman Anne Marie May, and the women’s 200 relay team, which received a time of 1:34:71. The relay team consists of May, freshman Naomi Javanifard and sophomores Jamie Lathers and Nadia Dwidar. The men’s team saw great performances by senior captain Pat Cary, who easily out-swam the competition by wining the 100 and 200 fly. Freshman Scott Vogelgesang won two individual events, and the men’s 200 medley relay team won with a time of 1:34:09. The relay team consisted of Cary, sophomore Bradley Matsumoto and freshmen Daniel McClary and Daniel Nyaradi.

“I think the team is very confident. It’s going to be harder, and we need to step it up and race faster. Everyone is self motivated and excited,” Cary said. “The whole year we are working for this meet. We’ve swam countless yards, and all our hard work is for this meet. We’ve swam with top teams in the nation, and we work just as hard as they do. We boosted our confidence by swimming with tougher teams.”