When the UCLA swim and dive team traveled to Northern California this weekend, it did so ready to face serious competition for the first time since early December.
While standout performances by several California and Stanford athletes kept UCLA from achieving victory ““ California’s Caitlin Leverenz alone won four of the 16 events in Saturday’s meet ““ the Bruins stayed close on the tails of two of the nation’s most accomplished teams.
No. 21 UCLA fell to No. 4 Cal 168.5-131.5 on Saturday, a close margin made all the more impressive by No. 3 USC’s 64-point defeat at the hands of Cal the day before.
Key to UCLA’s success this weekend were strong performances by several veterans, who helped the swimmers to six event wins and 15 season-best times during a 169-131 loss against No. 1 Stanford on Friday.
Junior Yasi Jahanshahi won both the 100- and 200-meter butterfly at Stanford, events that she had won in every dual meet so far this season.
This streak came to an end in Saturday’s meet against Cal, where she placed second in both events.
Senior Brittany Beauchan’s undefeated dual meet streak in the 200m breaststroke also held up at Stanford, only to fall during the Cal meet.
While she may have earned second against Cal, Beauchan remains the only Bruin to have achieved an NCAA “A” cut this season, which automatically qualifies her for a spot at the NCAA Championships in March.
Other swimmers who overcame the exhaustion inherent in back-to-back meets were senior Sam Vanden Berge, who took home victories in the 1,000m freestyle both days, and freshman Anna Senko, who emerged with two straight wins in the 200m backstroke.
For divers Laura Winn and Paulina Guzman, this barrage of grueling competitions has only just begun. Winn and Guzman, who won the 1-meter and 3-meter events respectively at Cal, took a red-eye flight to the USA Diving National Championships in Iowa City, Iowa. If the divers are successful in the qualification round, which began on Sunday, they will spend the entire week in Iowa competing. Upon their return, they will have only one week to recover before the rivalry meet against USC.
The meet against USC marks the final dual competition of the year, with the duration of the season comprised of Pac-10 and NCAA championships. The Bruins will head into NCAAs having faced three of the country’s top five teams ““ Georgia and Auburn are the other two ““ and their respectable performances against two of them this weekend suggest that they will be able to hold their own against the nation’s best.
Compiled by Liz Schneider, Bruin Sports contributor.