Thursday, July 18

UCLA swimming and diving seniors make big splash in last home meet

UCLA swim and dive sent their seniors off with a win as the Bruins defeated Utah 183-112 in their last home meet of the season. (Habeba Mostafa/Daily Bruin)

UCLA swim and dive sent their seniors off with a win as the Bruins defeated Utah 183-112 in their last home meet of the season. (Habeba Mostafa/Daily Bruin)

Posters adorned the blue walls of the Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday, supporting the UCLA swimming and diving team with messages like “Nina, just keep swimming,” “Nobody can ketchup to Savannah” and “Sandra Soe fast”.

Along with the posters, ten seniors were honored prior to the action Friday during UCLA swim and dive’s senior day.

“They’re a great group of kids, they work really hard, they’re fast … they love the sport so they’re great role models,” said swimming coach Cyndi Gallagher. “It’s been fun to watch them grow, as freshmen they were kind of kooky and crazy, but they’ve just really evolved into being unbelievable leaders on the team … (they’re) everything you could want in a senior class.”

The senior class was equally sentimental about its soon-to-end athletic career at UCLA.

“It was emotional when we did the whole senior ceremony, but if anything, it made me more excited just to leave it all in the pool,” said senior swimmer Linnea Mack.

The dual meet against Utah was held Friday and the Bruin Diving Invitational ran Friday through Sunday. The results of the invitational also applied to the dual meet against the Utes, in which the Bruins claimed victory, 183-112.

[Related: UCLA starts off the new year with a tri-meet win]

Mack finished first and set new meet records in both the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard individual medley races, clocking times of 49.83 and 56.63 respectively. Mack, along with her teammates senior Madison White, junior Sarah Kaunitz and junior Katie Grover, also clinched victory in the 200-yard medley relay.

Seniors White and Michaela Merlihan also concluded their final home ground appearance with a win.

White came out top in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke while Merlihan touched the wall first in the 500-yard freestyle and set a new meet record of 4:57.21.

“When I heard the record I was like ‘okay I can do that’, and that motivated me,” Merlihan said. “The girl next to me, I knew that if she won she probably would have got the record, I knew I had to push and beat her. My game plan in that race is to usually push the first 300 and bring it home the last 200.”

Another standout was junior diver Maria Polyakova who bettered senior Annika Lenz’s previous meet record in the 3-meter competition by attaining the best score of 339.55 on Friday despite some back problems.

“These past months I’ve been struggling because of my back… It’s been hurting,” Polyakova said. “But I ended up doing really well so I’m happy with it.”

Polyakova also went on to win the 1-meter championship by edging out USC freshman Naomi Gowlett 615.55 to 614.20.

Polyakova’s final dive garnered her a score of 55.90, and allowed her to defeat Gowlett after trailing for most of the day.

“Before my last dive I knew it was really close, so it was all on that dive,” Polyakova said. “So I was like I’m going to do it, I’m not going to give my first place away.”

Lenz, who finished third in the platform and fourth in the 1-meter and 3-meter events, believes that she still needs to work on some of her dives.

“(My) 3-meter needs a lot more work, (the) 1-meter was consistent but I feel like I can do better on each of the dives. Same with tower – the first two dives I can improve … and the other dives, I think I have room for improvement as well,” Lenz said.

[Related: Lenz takes eighth at winter national championships]

Pac-12 Diver of the Month and sophomore Eloise Belanger did not compete at this invitational as she arrived late on Thursday after attending a training camp in Cuba. Belanger was with the Canadian national team when the decision to opt her out of this invitational was made.

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