For most students, winter break is just that: a break from the stresses of school.
For the UCLA swimming and diving team, however, it was the opposite: an opportunity for two-a-day practices, without academics or other commitments to get in the way.
“We worked really hard during winter break,” senior diver Laura Winn said. “It’s always exciting to go through that period of work and get broken down, because now it starts to be the fun part of the season.”
That “fun part” of the season, filled with invitationals and championships, begins this weekend with the Bruin Diving Invitational at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center. On Saturday, the swimmers will also be competing against Boise State and Washington State.
While performances in both the swim and dive competitions promise to reflect the work the athletes put in over winter break, the divers in particular will use the meet to see how they measure up to Pac-10 opponents Stanford and California.
“This is really more of a training meet,” diving coach Tom Stebbins said. “It’s a good opportunity to compete against Stanford and Cal, and see where they are at this point in the season.”
Although the divers look stronger than ever after the winter training season ““ Winn, in particular, has been refining an impressive three-and-a-half pike in the 10-meter event ““ several obstacles threaten to hinder their success.
Sophomore Michelle Vale’s back injury will leave her unable to compete, both in this weekend’s meet and probably the rest of the season. Senior standout Karina Silva was forced to miss out on winter training because of familial obligations, leaving her slightly less prepared than her teammates for the invitational.
“I feel like I’ve missed out, both training-wise and team-wise,” Silva said. “I’ve been injured all quarter, and then I missed winter training, so now every second really counts.”
With the most important meets of the season fast approaching, a growing sense of purpose and urgency permeates every practice.
The divers will even fit in extra practices between events at this weekend’s meet, making the most of every possible minute before the big dual meets at the end of the month.
For Silva, who will miss the Cal and Stanford meets to compete in the Spanish national championships, the stakes are even bigger.
“This is the beginning of everything,” Silva said. “Now, the clock is really ticking.”