Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gauchos grab Big West swimming titles


Complete domination.
It’s the only way to sum up the performance of the UC Santa Barbara men’s and women’s swimming teams at last weekend’s Big West Conference championships.
Records fell left and right as Gauchos touched the wall first again and again. By the time the last dripping swimmer had toweled off, UCSB owned both men’s and women’s titles by point margins large enough to drive a semi through.

“We hit it,” head coach Gregg Wilson said. “We just hit it. The kids did everything we asked them to do.”
The men took the league title with 856 points, their nearest competitor being UC Davis with 674. The women upped that performance with 926 points, topping UC Irvine’s 655 points.
“It was one of those meets you’ve just got to live for,” Wilson said.
After finishing up a dual meet season that he referred to as one of the best in his career at UCSB, Wilson said the Gauchos definitely had the best conference championship meet he has ever witnessed.
“This is just one more exclamation point,” he said. “The next one will be the NCAAs.”
The women opened the meet with a new school and meet record in the 200 medley relay, nearly two seconds faster than the previous mark. By the time junior Katy Freeman scorched her way to a meet record and automatic NCAA qualifying time in the 200 breaststroke on the final day, the Gauchos had set eight championship records.
“At one point I turned to [assistant coach] Eric [Fehr] and said, I kind of feel bad for these other teams,” Wilson said. “They can’t come up for air.”
Freeman led the pack with three record-setting victories, taking the 200 individual medley in 2:01.52, the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.75, and the 200 breaststroke in 1:10.89. Describing her performance as an “out-of-body experience,” Wilson said the junior’s mark in the 200 breaststroke would have placed her third at last year’s national championships.
Junior Bradley Matsumoto and sophomore Matt Bartlett lit up the pool on the men’s side of the action. Matsumoto won league titles in the 50 and 100 freestyle with times of 19.83 and 43.89, respectively. Bartlett took the 200 IM in 1:47.88 and the 200 freestyle in 1:36.41.
Perhaps more impressive, however, was the performance of the team as a whole, Wilson said. Of the eight finalists in the men’s 100 freestyle, seven were Gauchos and they finished first through seventh. In the men’s 200 freestyle, they took first through fifth.
Of the five relay events, the UCSB men and women each won four. The men would have won the final event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay, but were disqualified after a swimmer left early on the exchange.
Other standout individual performances included senior co-captain Brooks Felton, who took home victories in the 1,000 and 500 freestyle events, as well as a second-place finish in the mile after dropping 19 seconds off his best time this season.
Sophomore Anne Marie May, the conference Freshman of the Year last year, broke her own school record with a win in the 50 freestyle. She also placed first in the 100 freestyle and anchored the 200 freestyle relay with a blistering 21.66 split.
But with several women qualified for the national championships, several men on the bubble, and a men’s relay that is only four-tenths from a qualifying time, Wilson said the time to celebrate is going to be short.
“We still have a couple more things to do to close out the year.”

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