UCI Women Capture Historic Championship
History was made at the Belmont Plaza pool on Feb. 26. The UC Irvine Women’s Swimming and Diving team captured its first team title at the 2005 Big West Conference Championships.
The UCI Men’s Swimming and Diving team secured a third-place finish at the event, which started on Feb. 23 and ended this past Saturday.
Hosted by UCI, the championship meet included fellow Big West teams Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Northridge, University of Pacific, University of Idaho, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis.
The diving finals were first to go on Feb. 26 and UCI wasted no time getting on the board.
Junior Franny Brittle picked up where she left off last year by defending her 1-meter diving event with a total of 489.65 points.
Two nights earlier Brittle placed second in the 3-meter diving event while fellow Anteater and freshman Jackie Jones took the title with 473 points.
The UCI women divers and swimmers, already holding onto first place with 55 points coming into Saturday’s competition, extended their lead to over 100 points by the time the competition was over against second-place Pacific.
The UCI women finished with a team total of 821 for the night and meet.
Standout performances were made in the women’s 200 breaststroke finals heat where UCI sophomore Aubrie Smallwood won the event and took the individual title at 2:17.45.
Smallwood said she was satisfied with her performance for the day.
‘I did pretty much what I expected,’ Smallwood said. ‘Collectively, we did amazing. It was a team effort.’
Smallwood finished just ahead of teammate and junior Lara Bjargardottir, who came in an extremely close second with a time of 2:17.79.
Another worthy win for the women’s team took place the night before as freshman Chelsea Nagata took the individual title in the women’s 100 fly in 53.54 seconds, which stands as the sixth fastest time in the nation.
Senior Alexis Sheridan, who came in second in the women’s 1650 freestyle finals heat, believes ‘the team gave everything and you can’t ask for anything more.’
To be awarded the team title for the women’s side is ‘really exciting, especially being a senior. I want to go out on a good note,’ Sheridan said. ‘No one really thought we could do it, so it makes it that much better. I think we knew we had a chance. We just had to show everyone else what we could do.’
Smallwood added, ‘It’s amazing. Both the boys and girls are completely stoked,’ for the women’s Championship team title.
UCI Head Swimming Coach Brian Pajer, who was named Female Coach of the Year that night, felt great about the win.
‘It feels good. I always knew we could be competitive at the Big West,’ Pajer said. ‘It’s a really talented team who pulled together. Our goal all year [has been] to come here and qualify for the NCAA.’
Pajer credits UCI’s facility, the number of scholarships offered to student athletes and the five-person coaching staff, for contributing to the championship win.
‘[They have] done a great job and it shows in how the kids swam,’ Pajer said.
The UCI women’s team swam a little better overall than Pacific, which made all the difference in achieving their ultimate goal of a title. The UCI men held onto their four-day third-place standing until the end, finishing with a team total of 684.5 points.
Junior Anton Slobounov took home his third straight title in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events at the BWC Championships.
Slobounov now holds the record in Big West diving history, with an astounding six individual titles. Sophomore Dan Simonsen won his second individual title of the meet in the men’s 200 breaststroke finals with a time of 2:00.42. Simonsen won the 100 breaststroke title the night before by clocking in at a time of 54.77.
Many UCI records were broken throughout the meet and several UCI athletes also took home second and third-place plaques, like sophomore Eric Reilly, who finished third in the men’s 100 freestyle finals with a time of 45.61.
Reilly said he did pretty well in his heat as he ‘dropped a lot of time from last year.’
Reilly thought that the UCI men’s team had a chance of taking home a team title but thinks the team is ‘not as deep as we need to be. Good chance of that next year.’
Pajer also mentioned that the men’s team had many solid swims in the heats by freshmen Randall Tom and Eddie Erazo.
‘We have a pretty young group in the guys side,’ Pajer said. ‘The experience here is going to help next year.’
With so many pages of UCI’s swimming and diving history books being rewritten, both teams have worked hard to get to where they stand right now.
This BWC Championship title is the 48th in UCI history.