Junior diver Eloise Belanger competed in three events at the Pac-12 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships and left with two first-place finishes.
Belanger took the top spot in both the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions, making her the second ever UCLA diver to do so. She also took fourth in the platform and was the only Bruin to achieve a first-place finish of any kind. These such accolades earned her the Diver of the Meet title.
Overall, the No. 21 Bruins (5-5-1, 2-4-1 Pac-12) left the Pac-12 Championships, which ran Wednesday through Saturday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Washington, with a sixth-place finish and three new school records.
“I did some dives that I’ve been struggling with in my 3-meter final that went really well,” Belanger said. “I’m really happy about that and that’s something that I’m going to take out of this meet.”
This is the first time in the history of the Pac-12 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships that UCLA has not finished in the top five.
“Obviously I think we’d like to be a little bit better, but that’s where we were this year,” said diving coach Tom Stebbins. “We’ll kind of evaluate at the end of the year like we always do and make whatever adjustments we need to make.”
Senior diver Ciara Monahan placed fifth in the 1-meter competition. She was the only other UCLA diver to compete in a final.
Senior swimmer Katie Grover and junior swimmer Emma Schanz each set new school records over the course of the meet.
Schanz broke her own school record in the 200-yard individual medley by almost a half a second, while Grover set new school record in both the 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard butterfly.
“When I finished, I didn’t even really know that I broke the record at first,” Schanz said. “It was a really good feeling, but it was even more rewarding to be able to see myself get better.”
There were a few close calls in the meet for UCLA. The Bruins finished the 800-yard freestyle relay with a time of 7:04.64, coming just five hundredths of a second short of the school record, 7:04.59. UCLA also clocked 1:29.35 in the 200-yard relay, only two-hundredths of a second from placing fourth in the race.
“I (was) happy that they were racing hard,” said swimming coach Cyndi Gallagher. “They were in the hunt, and they had a lot of confidence at that point.”
UCLA will be well represented in the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, running from March 14 to 17.
Belanger, Monahan, junior diver Traci Shiver, and freshman diver Alice Yanovsky have each qualified to compete in the A-level cut of the competition, meaning that they have posted top-tier scores this season.
Belanger said that she was preparing for the NCAA Championships by fine-tuning her dives.
“I think that this point of the year is focused on quality dives,” Belanger said. “The quality gets better and better and then that’s how we’ll get ready for the championships.”
Seven UCLA swimmers have qualified to compete in the NCAA Championships as well, but with B-level times.
“(After Pac-12 Championships), I have more confidence going into NCAAs,” Schanz said. “I think this was a really good indicator to see where I’m at and what I need to work.”
For many of the Bruins, the Pac-12 Championships were their last meets of the season. Stebbins said that overall he was proud of the season the team has had.
“I’m most proud of the culture that we’ve built,” Stebbins said. “I’m proud of the way the team kind of attacked the meet. … They were gritty and tough and that was pretty fun to watch.”