LA MIRADA, Calif. - Six league crowns out of eight events and two school records highlighted an exceptional first night for the UC San Diego men and women Wednesday at the 2014 Pacific Collegiate Swimming & Diving Conference (PCSC) Championships at the Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatic Center.
The fifth-ranked Triton women and ninth-ranked men, both coming into the four-day meet as five-time defending PCSC champions, shot to the top of the standings.
Posting first-place finishes in all four events to be held Wednesday, the Triton men have 300 points. Fresno Pacific is closest with 140 points. The UCSD women accumulated 253 points to lead over a tightly-packed threesome of Division I foe Pepperdine (175), Alaska (172) and Azusa Pacific (170). Seventeen events remain.
UCSD swept the 800 free relay races for the fourth consecutive year, with the Triton men’s 200 medley relay earning a fifth straight PCSC championship. Nicholas Korth swam the breaststroke leg of each of the past four, with senior teammate Reid McCallum serving as the freestyle anchor of the last three.
Sophomores Paul Li, Michael Leung and AJ Zavala set up senior anchor Alex Merrill for a school- and meet-record performance of 6:37.14 in the 800 free. It was a meet mark for the third straight year for UCSD, bettering last year’s 6:37.67 by Adam Rice, Leung, Li and Merrill. Li’s opening 200 yards Wednesday was a season best by over a second and a half, and in fact a personal best that moves him up from No. 3 to No. 2 in Triton history at that distance. Merrill anchored for the second year in a row, with him now being part of four wins in the event for his career.
Erika Rodman and Kyle Nadler swept the first-ever PCSC 1000 freestyle events to begin the evening session. Rodman went 10:10.83, shaving almost eight seconds off her previous best as she went from No. 4 to No. 3 all-time in the UCSD record book.
Nadler then timed 9:13.52 to win the men's competition for his first individual conference crown. The sophomore dropped more than 11 seconds off of his previous best of 9:25.24. The time moved him up from No. 8 to No. 2 on the all-time UCSD list, behind only Triton great Matt Herman (9:02.67). It also almost assures the Davis native of his first career trip to the NCAA Division II Championships.
“I think around the 400(-yard) mark, I knew I wasn’t hurting too bad,” said Nadler. “I usually have good front-half speed, but at that point, I knew I had enough left in the tank to finish strong. Going in, I had no idea I was going to swim that kind of time. I had no idea I would ever swim that kind of time in my career.
“I’m really happy. With a taper, you never know. I hadn’t been feeling that well, but when I saw Howie (Chang) (9:24.64) throw it down this morning, it really fired me up. I was ready to go after that. It’s an awesome feeling (to be a conference champion). I’ve been working my way up since I got to UCSD, and it just feels great to see the hard work pay off. This was something I really wanted.”
On the same night as her win in the 1000, Rodman, a second-year Triton who transferred from Penn State and swam to her first league crown in the mile in her PCSC debut in 2013, led off the first-place 800 free relay ahead of senior co-captain Anji Shakya, sophomore Jessica Norgaard and freshman anchor Catherine Woo. The foursome turned in a season-best time of 7:29.23, with Shakya a four-time winner.
Korth, McCallum, freshman backstroker Julian Jacobs and junior flyer Jack Galvan went a season-best 1:29.60 to maintain UCSD’s monopoly in the 200 medley relay. The time fell narrowly short of the Tritons’ own meet record of 1:29.48 from 2013.
Triton junior Sean Malley matched the school standard in the 50 backstroke with his opening split during a time trial of the 200 medley relay after the championship finals were completed. That mark was unavailable at press time. He and the men’s 800 free relay accounted for UCSD’s first two program records of 2013-14.
In his fourth and final PCSC meet, senior Luke Calkins finally earned his first conference title, totaling 295.70 points in finals for the win in one-meter diving. His preliminary score of 286.50 was also tops in the four-diver field.
Sophomore Allyson Cohen was UCSD’s top finisher in the women’s three-meter, taking fourth (211.55) Senior Megan Zeeb was right behind her in fifth with a season-best mark of 208.45 in her final three-meter showing.
A trio of true freshmen, Sierra Gage (second, 10:17.80), Chandler Pourvahidi (second, 9:15.68) and Sasha Mitrushina (third, 9:18.62), put together solid personal-record efforts in their PCSC meet debuts in the 1000.
The ‘A’ foursome of senior Sandy Hon, freshmen Jaimie Bryan and Austine Lee and sophomore anchor Colleen Daley completed the 200 medley relay in third in 1:43.56. The men’s and women’s ‘A’ 200 medley relay each actually bettered their marks in time trials at the end of the night, but those times, too, were unavailable.
“Unbelievable,” exclaimed a well-pleased Triton co-head coach Matt Macedo. “We did everything we wanted to do and more.
“There’s no doubt the distance group set the pace with nine out of 10 swimmers hitting best times. They came out right away and showed we were ready to swim well. That kind of momentum carries over to everyone else. Their performance and that of our relays and divers set the tone for the days to come. Not everyone got to swim today and I can’t wait to see if everybody can feed off the energy we generated tonight.”
The 2014 PCSC Championships will go into full swing with two sessions on Thursday, Feb. 13. Preliminaries will begin at 9 a.m., and finals at 4 p.m. Events to be contested on the second day include the 500 free, 200 individual medley, 50 free and 200 free relay.