Over the course of this weekend’s three-day Arena Invitational, the UCLA swim team mastered the art of moving forward.
According to coach Cyndi Gallagher, the key to doing well in these long meets is to take each event as it comes.
“You just have to swim one race and let it go, then swim another race and let it go,” Gallagher said.
The Bruins did just that, a strategy that helped them earn a score of 850 and a fourth-place finish.
“It’s a lot of emotional energy; this (goes) on and on and on,” Gallagher said. “You have to keep your emotions under control … and always try to figure out how to swim faster. … By the end, (the swimmers) figured it out.”
Overall, the Bruins attained seven NCAA B qualifying times, which will make those swimmers eligible to compete in those events at the NCAA championship.
This weekend, however, the lone victory came from sophomore Noelle Tarazona, who took first place in the 200-yard butterfly with a season-best time and beat Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz in the process.
“It was kind of unexpected that she was going that fast this early because she is out rested,” Gallagher said.
But the team’s usual top performers were not the only ones to shine this weekend. Several relatively unknown competitors had good showings.
At the Phill Hansel Invitational in Houston, freshman diver Maggie Denison posted a season best in the preliminary round on Friday, exceeding expectations for her first road meet.
“It was pretty nerve-racking, but I think having the team with me ““ since they’re very experienced ““ helped me get through it. I had a lot of fun,” Denison said about her first traveling experience with the team.
This maturity did not go unnoticed.
“The way she managed each event was really good and I’m really proud of her,” diving coach Tom Stebbins said.
Several other relative unknowns posted season or career bests this weekend ““ an accomplishment coach Gallagher said should not be underestimated.
“Those are kids that you don’t really hear about, but they kind of stepped up in their own way and kind of lit the fire for everybody,” Gallagher said. “Everyone else is kind of rising to the occasion.”