Bruin swimming and diving will finish up its season with a chance at top finishes in a few events at this week’s NCAA championships.
Junior diver Eloise Belanger has a shot at placing in all three diving events, and swimming has an opportunity in the 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard butterfly.
No. 21 UCLA swimming and diving (5-5-1, 2-4-1 Pac-12) will send seven swimmers and one diver to compete in the NCAA championships from Wednesday until Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
Belanger will be the only Bruin representative in diving, as she took second place in the NCAA Zone E meet last week to qualify for the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform events. The junior’s recent performances give reason to believe that she has a chance at being one of the eight divers in the finals, as Belanger scored ninth overall in 1-meter and platform, and 13th in 3-meter across the five zone meets.
This is the third time in as many years Belanger has qualified for the championships in 1-meter and platform, and the second time in 3-meter, after missing out last year. She said that competing at the highest level of collegiate diving inspires her to work her hardest, regardless of how the scores turn out.
“Everyone is diving well, so you also want to do well,” Belanger said. “It brings you into that mood and pushes you to do your best … I’ll be happy with the results no matter what (they are).”
Diving coach Tom Stebbins said that having a short turnover between the zone meet and the championships is hard for Belanger, but that it’s just what the athletes are expecting in these late stages of the season.
“It’s just the flow of what we do at the end of the year,” Stebbins said. “I mean competing three days in a row, and having just two days off, and then heading out again – it’s a challenge, but like I said, it’s just one of things where it is what it is.”
Seven Bruin swimmers also qualified to compete. Senior Katie Grover, sophomore Kenisha Liu, and junior Emma Schanz have each qualified in three individual events. Only the top 16 competitors in each event advance to the finals, and Schanz and Grover both have a good chance at making it in one of their events. Schanz is seeded 13th in the 200-yard breaststroke, and Grover is seeded 15th in the 200-yard butterfly.
Grover said that getting to compete against the best swimmers in the country pushes her to her limit and makes the championships even more even more enjoyable.
“A lot of Olympians are swimming this year that may not be here the next few years,” Grover said. “It’s really cool to be in the same league as them, and it really does bring everybody up.”
Senior Margaux Verger Gourson and junior Sandra Soe, UCLA’s distance swimmers, each qualified for the 500-and 1650-yard freestyle events, though neither are seeded in the top 30 in either event.
Sophomore Amy Okada and senior Sarah Kaunitz will be competing in just the 200-yard and 800-yard freestyle relays with other members of the team.
Swimming coach Cyndi Gallagher said the pressure of swimming in the NCAA championships can make some of the girls doubt themselves, but that they’ve been working on overcoming that nervousness throughout the season.
“We’ve worked on that, just letting go of our worries and letting go of the end result,” Gallagher said. “Some people like that sort of excitement and pressure, and some people just have to learn how to manage it by doing it again and again.”
Gallagher also emphasized the team had been working hard on improving throughout the season, never giving up on themselves when the season got tough.
“This year, I thought they did a good job of letting nothing stop them,” Gallagher said. “No one really thought we were that good, and we were kind of just there. But we got good, and we got better. So that’s what I expect this time.”