For the UCSB men’s and women’s swim teams, it’s time to switch in gear, battle through gruesome competitions and feel the heat of the Big West Championships beginning today and ending Saturday. The Gauchos are seeded first on both sides, and the women are determined to defend their title as last year’s champion at all costs, while the men are hungry for the action.

Throughout the entire season, the Gauchos proved their talent and strength within the pool. The men had a fantastic season with an 8-1 record and amazing individual performances from veteran junior Jeff Sudbury in the 100-yard breaststroke and Big West Athlete of the Week recipient junior Travis Jepson in the 200 breast. Early in the season, the Gauchos established themselves as relay masters, earning relay wins in the 200 medley with the stellar performances from sophomore Matt Bartlett, Sudbury, sophomore Danny McClary, senior co-captain Mason Edwards and junior Bradley Matsumoto. Despite the knowledge that the Gaucho men will carry target marks in the eyes of their opponents, Head Coach Gregg Wilson is confident his team will get the job done.

“The meet will be closer for the men, and for now, [Davis] is the team we will have to look out for, but I am confident we have the depth and strength to take this all the way,” Wilson said. “Diving will hurt both teams, but last year there were many teams that gained hundreds of points through diving, but we still managed to get second for the men, because we can win relays and individual meets. We have to go out there and race until we hit the wall.”

As for the defending champions, the women come into the meet with a solid 8-3 record, fast veterans and eager rookies. Last year’s Freshman of the Year Anne Marie May made a huge impression with her performances in the 50 and 100 free, and she is pulling to swim faster than her 22.61 and 50.71 times for the events. Junior Katy Freeman is eager to qualify for the NCAA Championship meet in the 200 breast, so her competition will have to be on their A-games. For the rookies, freshmen Sara Nicponski and Brittany Borowitz have shown their versatility by competing in relays, individual medleys and breaststroke events in record times. Nicponski has already qualified for the NCAA in the 100 breast.

“We are using this meet to qualify as many kids into the NCAA as possible,” Wilson said. “We want to start off the meet really strong, but our main strength will come out on the last day, because all of the events taking place that day, we have a Gaucho that can dominate and bring the gold home. As of right now, both men and women look extremely good on paper, and it is a great feeling to see all of the kids’ hard work pay off.”