Saturday at the Anteater Aquatics Complex was the last meet for the senior class of the swimming and diving program. They left the pool for the last time after a meet on a high note.
The UC Irvine men swept California Baptist University and UC San Diego while the women beat Cal Baptist but lost to UCSD. This is the fourth year in a row that the Irvine men’s side has swept this double-dual meet against these two schools.
Senior Randal Tom led the way by winning four of the 16 events. He swam a time of 1:49.69 in the 200 fly and a 48.24 in the 200 fly along with being on both the winning relay teams. Sophomore Garrett Thompson won both the 200 free (1:42.76) and the 100 free (45.97) with Nate Rogers finishing in second in the 100 free. Sophomore diver Miles Smith won both the one-meter and three-meter contests.
The meet is the second to last competition before the team swims at the most important meet of the season. In late February, the team will compete against their Big West foes at the Big West Conference Championships. The meet on Saturday will help the team assess the areas that they need to improve on before the Conference Championships.
However, continuing their winning streak against these two second-rate teams was not the most important thing on the swimmers’ minds Saturday. It was the senior meet, and the word that each of them continually used to sum up the emotions of the day was “bittersweet.”
“We have a bunch of guys that have been here all the way through and it is a great class,” said Head Coach Brian Pajer. “It always seems like it goes by so fast. It seems like we were just recruiting them and now they are graduating. They have given four years to the program and four years to Irvine and that is a great accomplishment. We are really proud of them.”
The biggest accomplishment of this senior class was winning the 2007 Big West Conference Championship in Long Beach at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool. But considering the seniors will be going through one more Conference Championship in Long Beach, that moment could possibly be repeated. At the conclusion of the meet on Saturday it was clear that their memorable moments at the Anteater Aquatics Complex had come to an end.
“It is the last leg for us and it is starting to set in that it is all going to be over soon,” said senior Chris Nguyen. “All of us are just swimming for each other. We started this thing together and we are finishing it together and that feels good. But to be honest, we all just want to get through it.”
These are the concluding few weeks after years of intense training every day with the same group of guys, and there is an inevitable sense of relief that it is coming to an end. The swimmers are not in any way excited that their experiences in the swim program are almost finished but certain aspects, like early morning workouts, will not be sorely missed.
“It is bittersweet. We are concluding four years of swimming and to finish it up all together is special,” said senior David Lefstein. “We have had a lot of really good times here and it’s all kind of a blur. I think our best moment in this pool, however, had to be when we beat Washington,” Lefstein said.
The Irvine swimmers upset the Washington team, angering their coach so badly that he and his team did not show up for the second day of competition. This Irvine team, and the senior class in particular, has always carried themselves with confidence and were willing to battle with any team. That drive has kept them in the top tier of the Big West for the last few years and puts them in a position to surprise the league and come up with a huge performance at this year’s Conference Championship.
This weekend’s meet was the last one at the home for this senior class of Will Wollam, Randal Tom, Blaine Fletcher, Danny Giometti, Chris Nguyen and David Lefstein.