The UCSB men’s swim and dive team begin their run at stopping Stanford’s 30 year reign as conference champions this Thursday, as the men’s diving competition gets underway at the Weyerhaeuser King Co. Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash. In only their second year of existence after an 11-year absence, the UCSB diving program will send two divers to the Pac-12 Diving Championships.

“The numbers won’t be the problem, it will be the experience; our divers are relatively new,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “It’s not the number we’re taking; it’s the experience that they have compared to some of the other divers in the Pac-12.”

The Gauchos will be without their third diver, freshman Erich Brodbeck, who suffered an injury prior to the championships. Freshmen Ryan Gerard and junior Nic Grantham will represent the Gauchos in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform diving finals and will look to put the swim team within striking distance to improve on last year’s sixth place finish.

“Ryan and Nic have strengths and weaknesses in all the events,” Wilson said. “Ryan is probably a little more experienced in the platform events, but Nic pushes himself hard so his degree of difficulty has increased substantially in the last four months because of the dives he’s been learning in practice.”

With a fairly new diving program, Santa Barbara looks to get any points they can in each of the three events, going in with the goal of trying to place in the consolation finals. Last year, the Gauchos were unable to come away with any points on the diving board.

“It would be great to see them in the top, but I think we’re probably going to be looking at consolation finals which are places nine to 16,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping they will come away with some points in this competition; our expectations are to get on the scoreboard and get as many points as we can.”

Besides not being cheered on from their swimmers who compete Feb. 29 in Monterey Park, UCSB will also have to battle tough competition from their opponents.

No. 3 Stanford will be led by senior Taylor Sishc and No. 6 Cal will bring in sophomore Tyler Pullen, who has competed well the entire season. Arizona State enters with the best divers in the competition and will try to repeat last year’s performance in the championships, where they earned the most diving points out of any of the teams entered.

“[Gerard and Grantham] improved dramatically this year; we’re very excited to see what they can do,” Wilson said. “I want us to get on the board this year and start making a move toward the best divers in the conference.”

The Gauchos will begin the diving championships with the 3-meter preliminaries Thursday morning.