The Big West Conference Swimming and Diving Championships, which concluded in Long Beach this past weekend, featured some inspiring performances.
After junior Ashley DePaul leaped into the 200-meter butterfly, she scrambled off to a solid start, moving into second place. A minute into the race, she was down to fourth place, having lost significant ground. However, she was able to bounce back as the next moment found her on the wall, ground to ‘indescribable’ exhaustion, with a personal record to show for it.
‘Halfway through the race you’re so broken it’s really tough to finish it out,’ DePaul said. ‘You have to get really mean and really mad and you’ve got to stop feeling sorry for yourself about how much pain you’re going through.’
DePaul, who placed fifth in the preliminaries for the butterfly, smashed her own school record for the event with a time of 2:01.32.
The defending Big West champion UC Irvine Women’s Swimming and Diving team placed third overall in the competition, while the men also grabbed third place.
UCI Head Coach Brian Pajer was excited about the results. ‘As a team I think we stood up really well,’ Pajer said. ‘We have some great [swimmers] and they really stood up [with] great leadership of the team.’
The Anteater team showed particular grit during the night. Competing in the 1,650-meter freestyle, senior Megan Baker pulled herself from eighth place to sixth place within the last three grueling minutes of a 17:14 race.
‘I just kind of stayed in the race the whole way,’ Baker said. ‘My body finally clicked and I was able to hold on a little bit better … than the other two girls.’
Sophomore Randall Tom earned second place in the Men’s 200-meter butterfly for the night.
‘I’m pretty excited about it,’ Tom said. ‘I’ve been putting in about 3,000 to 4,000 more yards a day, so it kind of helped in the last part a lot.’
Working his best to keep up with Tom, sophomore Eddie Erazo placed second in the same event, just 0.48 seconds behind his teammate.
‘I did my best,’ Erazo said. ‘I was hoping to go a little faster, about 1:46. … It’s not a personal best, but it’s a lot better than this morning … so, I’m happy with it. I got third last year, I got third this year, so I can’t complain.’
The night rounded off four days of competition in the swimming and diving championships.
Crowds of families and fans showed up like small armies to cheer their athletes on at Belmont pool in Long Beach.
Heading into Saturday’s competition, the UCI Men’s and Women’s swimming and diving teams were ranked in second place with historical performances by several UCI players.
Sophomore Chelsea Nagata, 100-meter butterfly champion, recorded the 14th fastest butterfly in the country and acquired more Big West titles in swimming than any UCI woman ever has in Big West history. On Saturday she was recognized as the Big West Conference’s Athlete of the Year, the first UCI woman to achieve this honor.
Junior Mike Cohee earned titles in the 500-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle relay, 400-meter medley relay and 200-meter freestyle swims.
Cohee shared a laugh with his teammates as he discussed his feelings. He was ‘really stoked’ to have achieved this.
‘We’ve all worked really hard this year,’ Cohee said. ‘I can’t thank my team enough for being there, you know, and … I’m just pretty pleased with the way things turned out.’
In diving, senior Fanny Brittle and sophomore Jackie Jones both achieved first place in the one-meter dive and three-meter dive, respectively.
Although the UCI team did not win the overall competition as they did last year, the atmosphere was light-hearted because of the many individual events the Anteaters won.
With the Big West tournament now over, the Anteaters will have to bide their time until NCAA Championship selections are made in the coming weeks.