UCLA returned to the pool last weekend for the first time in more than six weeks. That recess included winter break from classes, a trip to Hawaii for some of the Bruins and time at home to train independently.
UCLA swimming (5-3, 2-2 Pac-12) traveled north to face off against Oregon State (0-5, 0-3) on Friday, while diving hosted the Bruin Diving Invitational at Spieker Aquatic Center.
For some of the swimmers and divers, it was their first time competing since the Pink Meet against UC Davis, University of Arkansas and Washington State at the end of October.
For the Bruins, a break from school and competitions did not mean a break from training. Once winter break began at UCLA, the team members stayed on campus to train before going home to celebrate the holidays and train with their club teams. The athletes left on a weeklong training trip to Hawaii at the beginning of the year.
“It was just really good for the team just to be away and have nothing to do but swim and take naps on the beach and eat breakfast together,” said coach Cyndi Gallagher. “(In Hawaii) there’s nothing else to do but swim.”
Despite their extended break from action, the Bruins’ return to competition was marked by both a dual meet win in Oregon and many successful dives at home, including two first-place finishes for junior diver Eloise Belanger, securing her the title of Pac-12 Diver of the Week.
“(Belanger) had struggled in her return prior to coming back from Canada, and has been a little bit sick,” said diving coach Tom Stebbins. “Getting her focus back and then finding a way to kind of overcome the physical part that she was a little bit behind on was really important.”
Compared to the scores posted by the divers at the Georgia Fall Invitational, the diving team’s last meet before its hiatus, UCLA’s performances at the Bruin Diving Invitational showed improvement. Every diver who competed recorded stronger scores in at least one event.
“I think that the whole weekend in general was pretty consistent, especially on one-meter and on three-meter,” Belanger said. “There were some mistakes, but I think that coming from Christmas break, it was pretty good and it gives me a good idea of what I have to work on for the following weeks.”
UCLA will resume Pac-12 competition at Spieker Aquatic Center on Jan. 26 and 27 to face Stanford and California, respectively.