Swim and dive sends 7 swimmers, 2 potential divers to NCAA championship
Sophomore Hannah Butler finished fourth in the 1-meter diving competition at the Zone E Diving Championships, a two-spot jump from a season ago. (Courtesy of Don Liebig/UCLA Athletics)
By Kyle Boal
March 9, 2021 2:17 p.m.
The Bruins are NCAA championship bound.
No. 19 UCLA swim and dive (2-1, 1-1 Pac-12) had its best conference championship finish since 2006, placing third and scoring 1169 points – a 173.5-point increase from last year. Seven swimmers were selected to compete in the NCAA championship, and the Bruins also sent sophomores Hannah Butler and Katie Shaheen to the NCAA 2021 Zone E Diving Championships from March 8-10.
Coach Jordan Wolfrum said she couldn’t have asked for any more from her team at the Pac-12 Championships.
“We gave exactly what we had – everything we had to give,” Wolfrum said. “There are plenty of things that I would’ve liked to see go better this season, right, but at this meet, in this moment, we gave everything that we had, this is what we had, we put our hearts on the table. While I would’ve loved to see us get more training, more racing opportunities, (have) things go smoother over the last 12 months – in the last three and a half days, I couldn’t have asked for any more.”
Butler finished fourth in the 1-meter competition Monday at the Zone E Diving Championships – which featured 12 teams – qualifying for the NCAA championships for the second year in a row. Additionally, Butler improved two places in her finish from 2020 en route to being named the 2020 UCLA Swim and Dive Newcomer of the Year. She will compete in the 3-meter competition Tuesday.
Shaheen also qualified for the Zone E competition a year ago and will compete in all three diving competitions this year.
With NCAA qualification, the divers would join the swimmers – freshman Sam Baron, sophomores Gabby Dang, Sophia Kosturos and Brooke Schaffer and juniors Claire Grover, Ella Kirschke and Delaney Smith – to potentially compete in Greensboro, North Carolina.
After setting a school record in the 100-yard butterfly at the Pac-12 championship, Baron is set for the No. 11 seed in the event at the NCAA championships. The freshman will also compete in the 200-meter butterfly as the No. 21 seed, one of two swimmers to earn double qualification.
She said this year has taught her to stay present.
“I would just say to have fun,” Baron said. “I’m always usually hard on myself at meets, and I feel like I realized this freshman year that just leaning on teammates helps a lot. You don’t always have to do everything by yourself, so I feel like that’s a good reminder (to) just embrace the moment.”
Dang and Kirschke earned qualifications for the first time in their careers in the 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle, respectively. Kosturos, Schaffer and Smith are all listed as relay alternates.
As the other dual qualifier, Grover earned invitations in both the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter breaststroke, giving her the fifth and sixth individual NCAA qualifications of her career after triple-qualifying as a freshman.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the season, Grover said the Bruins have grown closer than ever in Wolfrum’s second year.
“With a year like this one, we’ve kind of had to rely on each other and be there for one another and get close to each other … We were only seeing each other, you know, so I think that the chemistry has gotten a lot better over the years,” Grover said. “I think, especially with this year, we all had to get extra close.”
The NCAA championship is set for March 17-20. The team leader in event wins, Grover, said she will be proud to don the blue and gold.
“It’s just such a high-level meet – it’s such a blessing to be able to go represent UCLA there,” Grover said. “I’m just really excited. I love racing the best, and I love representing this team, and it’s just a great opportunity.”