LA MIRADA, Calif. - Paul Li achieved a school record and three teammates also swam to individual wins as UC San Diego strengthened its hold of first place in both the men’s and women’s divisions Thursday at the 2014 Pacific Collegiate Swimming & Diving Conference (PCSC) Championships. The four-day meet is taking place for a third year in a row at the Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatic Center.
Through two days and eight of 21 events, the ninth-ranked Triton men upped their total to 699 points, well ahead of second-place Concordia Irvine (389). The No. 5 UCSD women have 627 points, easily on top of closest competitor Cal State East Bay (426.5). Both squads are well on their way to a sixth consecutive PCSC crown.
Li completed his winning race in the 500 freestyle final in 4:25.48, over a full second faster than Kneif Lohse’s previous school standard of 4:26.81 from the 2009 NCAA Championships. It marked a first career individual conference title for the Fullerton native, and booked his second straight trip to the NCAA meet, getting just under the 4:25.66 qualifier.
The Triton women went 1-2-3 in the 500 for the second year in a row, with senior co-captain Anji Shakya now a four-time champion in the event for her career after timing 4:48.56 to start off Thursday’s evening finals. Shakya, who posted the fastest morning prelim time (4:53.49), shaved almost five seconds hours later. She had gone a school- and meet-record 4:48.19 to win a year ago. Following Shakya were freshman Sierra Gage (4:59.94), sophomore Jessica Norgaard (5:00.11) and even fellow senior Erika Rodman (5:01.67) in fourth.
Nicholas Korth, like Shakya a senior co-captain, sprinted 20.20 for his first individual PCSC championship in the 50 free. He already had seven others heading into this year’s meet in the 100 breast, 200 breast and 200 IM. Korth led a predominantly UCSD field ahead of sophomore Cole Heale (20.46), fellow senior Reid McCallum (20.62), junior Jack Galvan (20.71) and freshman Julian Jacobs (20.92). Alex Merrill, himself a senior co-captain, was a sixth Triton in the final, touching seventh in 21.12. All six lowered their prelim times in the evening and wound up with season-best marks, if not career.
“It is pretty gratifying to win the 50 free because it’s not my primary event and it shows that the hard work put in is coming through,” remarked Korth. “If I keep doing so well, maybe I won’t have to swim the 200 IM at NCAAs.
“For me, the keys to winning this race are the same as they always are. Holding my breath, keeping a good line with my body, head position and keeping the tempo up. They all came together tonight.
“It was great having a heat full of Tritons in the final (6 of 8). It’s always great to race with my best friends but to win together is even better.”
Sophomore Colleen Daley nabbed her first individual PCSC title in the 50 free, sprinting 23.59 to touch the wall just ahead of junior teammate Sierra Robbins (23.60) in second. Daley was also fastest in a lifetime-best 23.54 in prelims.
“It felt good to win, and it’s just a testament to the hard work that’s been put in,” said Daley. “In the 50, every race is pretty much the same. You go in 100 percent and hope for the best. I could only see the lanes to the left and right of me so I didn’t know Sierra (Robbins) was so close. I had no idea when I touched the wall what had happened.”
Daley, Robbins and anchor Shakya were joined by freshman leadoff leg Austine Lee in posting a first-place effort in the 200 free relay (1:33.77). It was a fourth straight title for the UCSD women in the event and third in a row for Robbins. The Triton men duplicated that success through Heale, Korth, Galvan and anchor McCallum (1:20.46). The foursome was .44 seconds off the school record of 1:20.02 from 2009. Heale’s leadoff 50-yard split of 20.42 was a lifetime best.
Junior Eva Chen was the runner-up in the 200 IM in a season-best 2:05.30. Freshman Chandler Pourvahidi was third behind Li in the 500, going 4:31.71 in finals after producing a personal record of 4:29.47 in morning prelims. UCSD’s top finisher in the men’s 200 IM was AJ Zavala in fifth, as the sophomore timed 1:53.56 in finals after hitting a personal-best 1:52.47 earlier in the day.
“I don’t know if surprised is the right word,” replied UCSD co-head coach Corrie Falcon when asked if she was surprised by the magnitude of the team’s performance over the first two days. “Right now I would say I’m excited, motivated and happy. I would say it’s been a pleasant surprise. You always want to swim well and expect to swim well and I can honestly say this is the best start we’ve ever had at the conference championships. It feels like from top to bottom, everyone is swimming well. We have more things to achieve, but we’re definitely ahead of the game.
“We had four individual titles tonight, two by seniors (Korth and Shakya) and two by sophomores (Li and Daley). For the seniors, this has been their territory. Nick and Anji have been consistent and strong throughout their careers. Paul and Colleen are demonstrating the same kind of attitude. Paul may have had the swim of the night, breaking a school record that had stood since 2009.”
The 2014 PCSC Championships continue with two sessions on Friday, Feb. 14, as preliminaries again begin at 9 a.m., with evening finals at 4 p.m.