They came. They swam. They conquered. The UCSB men’s and women’s swim teams showed total domination at the 2008 Big West Swimming and Diving Championships by winning dual titles. The men won the league title with 856 points while the next closest team, UC Davis, took second with 674. For the men, this was their 26th title and third in the past five years. The women easily captured their third straight win, and 11th overall, with 926 points.

“It was such a powerful statement that we made at this meet, and it shows how strong our program has become,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “I was extremely pleased with the kids because of all of the improvements the kids made, the way they approached each event, and the support they gave to each other. It was the best combined meet I have ever seen. [Junior Katy Freeman] had the meet that athletes dream of, and [senior Brooks Felton] had the best meet of his life. It was very rewarding. I felt sorry for the other teams because it was a big blowout.”

The Gauchos truly showed the power of teamwork as they crushed their opponents in relay events, and individual leaders shined when their team needed them the most. For the men, co-captain Felton did a phenomenal job, winning both the 500 and 1000 yard freestyles, despite being ceded fourth in both events. In the 500 free, Felton beat Davis junior Alex Arbios by one full second. In addition, junior Chris Good easily claimed the 200 yard backstroke with his time of 1:47.13, while the 400 medley relay team of juniors Bradley Matsumoto and Jeff Sudbury and sophomores Matt Bartlett and Daniel McClary broke the school record of 3:16.91 by taking first with their time of 3:16.03.

“I couldn’t be happier, and to spend the last four days of my college career with such amazing people was the best thing I could ask for,” Felton said. “For my races, I tried to have some fun, and I love racing. I didn’t feel as much pressure because I went there and I swam because I love it. I saw all of our men work as a team and get excited for one another. For this meet, we proved that Gauchos could only beat Gauchos.”

The Gaucho women propelled the same energy as the men, and Freeman was the surprise of the meet. Not only did she break a UCSB record in the 200 yard breaststroke, but she also qualified for the 100 and 200 breast events at the NCAA Championships. In the 200 breast, her time of 2:10.89 shattered UCSB’s previous best of 2:13.63 and granted her an automatic bid to the NCAA. In the 100 breast, her time of 1:00.75 was a meet record, and in both events, freshman Sara Nicponski followed close behind with a pair of second place finishes. In the finale, the 400 free relay – consisting of sophomores Courtney Bauer and Anne Marie May and juniors Nadia Dwidar and Erin Yamamoto – combined strengths to take the event in 3:20.56. May broke her own record in the 50 yard free by winning in 22.21, beating last year’s record of 22.60. May swept the sprint events by taking first in the 100 free for the second year in a row with her time of 49.71.

“It was so much fun, and I can’t think of anyone who did not do amazing this weekend,” Freeman said. “For me, it was surprising to see myself do better and better, and I am so happy I qualified and can go with the other girls to the NCAA. As a team, we wanted to go out there and show our talent and get the recognition we deserve. People can’t ignore us anymore.”

After a much-deserved rest, the Gaucho women will be back in action as they compete in the Pac-10 Invitational on March 2.