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UCLA swim and dive has ‘nothing to lose and everything to gain’ at NCAAs

UCLA swim and dive junior Eva Carlson pops out of the water for a breath. (Tszshan Huang/Daily Bruin)

By Aaron Doyle

March 20, 2024 2:38 p.m.

With their eyes set on high placements at NCAAs, the Bruins mean business.

No. 21 UCLA swim and dive (5-4, 3-4 Pac-12) is headed to Athens, Georgia, to compete in the national championships March 20 through March 23. The Bruins are sending three swimmers and four divers after their qualifying performances at the Pac-12 championships and Zone E Diving Championships last week.

UCLA heads into the championships with its highest ranking of the season.

“That’s definitely been our goal, is to be top-25, be ranked throughout the whole season,” said sophomore Rosie Murphy. “It just makes me even more excited to race for UCLA and further that reputation, or build the team even more with the showing at NCAAs.”

School-record-breaking performances from junior Paige MacEachern and Murphy at the Pac-12 championships, as well as four podium finishes from UCLA, were just a peek of what the Bruins have been working for.

Murphy broke out in 2024, breaking school records in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard backstroke. The sophomore qualified to compete in three events – the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys and the 200-yard backstroke.

Murphy, who will compete in her first national championship, will be joined by junior Eva Carlson and MacEachern, who were at championships last year.

“I definitely have talked to her (Murphy) about just going in there and knowing that you are just as good as everyone else,” MacEachern said. “Knowing that you have earned your place here and that you are better than you think you are, and just to go out there and prove to other people that you are just going in and having confidence.”

With only seven Bruins headed to the championships, practice has looked different.

Swimmers competing at NCAAs are in the pool, but the rest of the team has been on the sidelines cheering them on as they prepare for the final meet of the year.

“The motto for this week is, ‘We’re having fun.’ Lots of laughing, lots of smiling, and just carry that energy forward into this meet, and take care of business,” said associate head coach Karissa Kruszewski. “This is a good experience as well as learning experience for those that will be looking to make it again next year.”

On the diving side, freshman Lauren Hallaselkä, sophomore Eden Cheng, junior Zoe Jespersgaard and graduate student Savana Trueb qualified after top-eight finishes at the Zone E championships.

Cheng, a 2020 Olympian and the 2023 European Champion in the 10-meter platform, is set to compete in the platform event, in which she placed 15th at NCAAs last year.

Trueb will join her in the platform event and will also compete in the 3-meter event along with Hallaselkä and Jespersgaard. Hallaselkä and Jespersgaard will represent UCLA in the 1-meter dive.

Last year, the Bruins grabbed a trio of 15th-place finishes at nationals, marking their highest finishes for the team at the meet.

This year, the seven Bruins heading to nationals have 15 opportunities for UCLA to snag a podium finish.

“If you have a lane, you’ve got a chance, so that’s really how we’re going. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Kruszewski said. “We are really looking forward to going in there and sneaking into some top-16, top-eight places.”

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