Tuesday, October 15

UCLA swimming and diving team keeps eye on NCAA prize

After weekend wins, the team hopes to stay in the running for the championship B cuts

Senior Lauren Hall and the UCLA swimming and diving team opened competition this weekend. Hall has competed in the NCAA Championships three straight years.

Senior Lauren Hall and the UCLA swimming and diving team opened competition this weekend. Hall has competed in the NCAA Championships three straight years.

Daily Bruin file photo

As the swimmers took their marks in the last event of the day Saturday, it was clear the meet was already over. Meet records had been shattered, personal bests achieved, all in one weekend.

No one could blame the swimmers for being ready to call it a day.

But as the buzzer sounded to start the final heat, the entire team crowded along the far side of the pool, chanting and cheering with an enthusiasm that was almost tangible.

The Bruins have definitely earned the right to be excited for their 2010-2011 season. This weekend’s wins over Loyola Marymount, UC Davis, Oregon State and UC Santa Barbara were marked by several outstanding performances, including NCAA B cuts (the first step to qualifying for NCAA championships) for seniors Brittany Beauchan and Lauren Hall and junior Yasi Jahanshahi.

“The goal is always … getting a large team to (NCAAs),” Beauchan said. “I’m always checking to see who’s getting B cuts, because I want us to get on a roll and start making the cuts now, to kind of get our foot in the door, getting up on the board early. … Everything is within reach.”

With a team of 34 swimmers, a full nine more than last season, a strong showing in NCAA competition is almost certain. Between the leadership of team captains Sam Vanden Berge, Dani Milligan and Lauren Hall and a talented freshman class, UCLA looks to have the skill to be a real presence in the Pac-10 this year.

The acquisition of several standout sprinters, an area in which UCLA has struggled in the past, gives the Bruins strong relay teams, an element which should provide much-needed points in close meets throughout the season.

“You need sprinters … because the relays are worth double points,” swimming coach Cyndi Gallagher said. “We’re going to have great relays this year.”

Another key aspect of the Bruins’ aquatic supremacy this season is the Bruin diving team, which consists of both a strong veteran force and two promising new additions: high school standout Haley McNamara and Guatamalan national team member Paulina Guzman.

Led by senior captain Laura Winn and standout senior Karina Silva, the divers clinched the top four spots in the competition against UC Davis on Friday. The team isn’t content to rest on their laurels, however. Every dive, every practice, every meet is all considered just training for the team’s final objective: the NCAA championships in March.

“We use these meets to prepare us more for (NCAAs) than anything else,” diving coach Tom Stebbins said. “We don’t worry so much about the result today or tomorrow, but more about the process of getting better long-term. It’s just nice to have these meets as kind of a dress rehearsal.”

With a dress rehearsal this successful, the rest of the season is almost certain to be a hit.

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