After an undefeated regular season in dual meets, the UCSB men’s swim team now heads into the Pac-12 Swimming Championships today at the East Los Angeles College Swim Center in Monterey Park. Coming in with 10 points earned by the diving team in last weekend’s diving championships, the swim team now seeks to capitalize on the experience brought in by their senior swimmers to improve on last year’s sixth place finish.
“Our senior men are going to have to step up and take the leadership role in and out of the pool,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “These guys are going to do a really good job … they’ve been through the trenches so they can handle that kind of pressure and expectations.”
Last year’s NCAA qualifier senior Chris Peterson has been the fastest swimmer for the Gauchos and has been the leader in the pool all year long. Alongside Peterson, senior captain Kevin Ferguson will also help anchor the team in the sprint freestyle events. Ferguson and senior Garrett Thompson set a school record in last year’s 400-yard relay.
The sophomores will also look to leave an imprint on the championship meet, coming into the competition more seasoned, experienced and stronger than last year. Sophomore Randy Aakhus will be a key swimmer for the Gauchos in the individual medleys and in the 4 x 100 relay.
“For me personally, I swim a lot slower in the regular season than I do at the championship meet,” Aakhus said. “In the championship meet everyone is way faster. I’m expecting our entire team to do well, on top of everybody in the meet to swim fast.”
Santa Barbara will be up against its toughest competition as four of the seven teams they will be competing against are ranked in the top 10 in the nation, including No. 1 Arizona, No. 5 USC, No. 6 Cal and No. 3 Stanford, which has won the conference title for the past 30 years. Earlier in the season the Gauchos went head-to-head against Stanford and then USC and Arizona in two separate invitationals.
“We’ve gone against Arizona, USC and Stanford; we bear that sort of like we’ve been looking at the top of the mountain and some of the guys want to be there,” Wilson said. “I think we’re going to use those two experiences to help us springboard as high as we go.”
For the Gauchos to meet their expectations of improving on last year’s result, they will have to come out strong in the 400-yard IM where they have three swimmers entered. Sprint freestyle events will be the Gauchos strong suit coming into the meet and will focus on winning the 200-yard freestyle relay.
“This is the point in which all our training comes to fruition,” Ferguson said. “Mentally, it’s a lot different going into this swim meet knowing that you’ve been leading up to this the entire time; this meet is everything we’ve been working towards for the past year.”
The Gauchos will begin the swim meet starting with the 200-yard medley relay scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.