GENEVA, Ohio - UC San Diego senior co-captains Anji Shakya and Nicholas Korth put together two more special performances to add to their incredible four-year careers as Tritons on Friday at the 2014 NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships.
Shakya led virtually from the start to win the 500-yard freestyle, with Korth breaking his own school record in the 100 breaststroke in taking a third-place finish minutes later. The Triton women’s 800 free relay also set a new program standard.
It was a second national title for Shakya, having won the 200 freestyle as a junior a year ago. The Davis native was the 2012 and 2013 national runner-up in the 500.
On Friday, Shakya shaved more than seven seconds off of her morning prelim time of 4:56.69, going 4:49.51 in a dominating race that saw her touch the wall over a second ahead of Drury sophomore Sarah Pullen in second place (4:50.86). Her morning time was fifth fastest and thus put her on the outside in lane two, but it mattered none on this night as the 18-time All-American was up to the task. Shakya entered the NCAA meet with the top time nationally in the 500 (4:48.56) this year.
“It was such a relief to finally have a race feel that good, and to have it be my last 500 was just amazing,” said Shakya.
“It was all mental,” offered UCSD co-head coach Corrie Falcon about Shakya’s day. “This morning, I think she was feeling the effects of six races yesterday, and maybe she wasn’t where she wanted to be at that point. I asked her this afternoon if she wanted to win tonight, and she said yes.
“Something switched between the sessions. Anji knows she’s capable, if she’s aggressive and steady. I knew at the first 50 (yards) that she was going to win. She was in the lead, but not over-swimming.
“I’m extremely proud to see her get another national championship. She’s had a bit of self-doubt, but was able to overcome it. She raced like a champion tonight.”
Korth became the first Triton to get under the 53-second mark for 100 yards of breaststroke, speeding 52.92 to best his previous school record of 53.08 from last year’s meet. The Santa Clarita product ultimately touched the wall third in the tightly-contested race behind Ruben Gimenez (52.73) of Bridgeport and Piotr Jachowicz (52.81) of Wayne State. Korth entered the event as the third seed and advanced to the evening portion with the fastest prelim time of a season-best 53.26, winning the second heat.
“I laid it all on the line,” said Korth. “I couldn’t be happier, walking away with a school record and knowing I left it all in the pool.”
The four-day meet began Wednesday morning and runs through Saturday, co-hosted by Edinboro and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission at the SPIRE Institute Natatorium. Geneva is located about 45 miles east of Cleveland.
The Triton women stayed in fifth after Friday’s action, now with 204 points. A 14th straight top-four finish is well within their reach, with West Chester marginally ahead at 211.5 points. Drury (358) and Wayne State (349), who have combined for the last five national titles, will battle it out on Saturday. UCSD dropped from fifth to eighth on the men’s side. With 159 points, the Tritons sit behind Wingate (168), with Drury having locked up a 10th consecutive championship at 406.5 points. Florida Southern is closest with 257.
Having already won the 500, Shakya later got back in the pool to lead three underclass teammates to a school mark and silver medals with a second-place finish in the 800 free relay. The foursome of freshman Natalie Tang, Shakya, sophomore Colleen Daley and freshman anchor Catherine Woo blazed to a time of 7:22.00, over a second and a half faster than the 7:23.54 turned in by Aubrey Panis, Anju Shimura, Ashtyn Douglas and Erinn Deters at the 2009 championships. Tang’s opening split of 1:49.70 was a personal record and moved her up to No. 3 all-time at UCSD.
The Tritons were trailing by .83 seconds in third when Shakya hit the water, and surged to the lead after 400 yards by 2.4 seconds through the veteran standout’s impressive split of 1:48.77. Drury stormed back, however, and won with relative ease in the end, breaking the NCAA Division II record in 7:20.08. Shakya’s split was matched by Pullen’s anchor as the second-fastest of the night.
“I’ve only swam this event twice, and that was definitely the most nerve-wracking race I’ve ever been in,” explained Daley. “But it was super exciting being with those girls and watching the progression of the race.”
Naomi Thomas had the only other All-America performance for UCSD on Friday, as the sophomore placed seventh in her specialty, the 200 butterfly (2:03.98). Thomas, who set the school record in the 100 fly Thursday (54.69), had gone a season-best 2:01.53 in prelims to win the third of four heats with the fastest time to that point. She ultimately qualified third into finals.Freshman Chandler Pourvahidi (14th, 4:31.34) and sophomore Paul Li (16th, 4:38.14) in the 500, as well as freshman Jaimie Bryan in the 100 breast (11th, 1:03.50), made consolation finals. Pourvahidi (4:29.12) and Bryan (1:03.21) produced personal-best marks in prelims to advance.
Other Tritons competing Friday were freshman Sierra Gage (19th, 5:02.70), senior Erika Rodman (28th, 5:07.40), sophomore Kyle Nadler (28th, 4:36.35) and freshman Sasha Mitrushina (30th, 4:37.25) in the 500, senior Sandy Hon (35th, 58.96) and junior Sean Malley (25th, 50.23) in the 100 back, freshmen Austine Lee (18th, personal-best 1:04.18) and Zach Yong (25th, 26.12) in the 100 breast, and Li (21st, 1:52.70) in the 200 fly.
Yong, Li, Pourvahidi and Nadler timed 6:46.31 for 15th in the 800 free relay.
UCSD had six individuals advance into evening finals. The Tritons garnered seven more All-America nods to give them 33 over three days.
The 2014 NCAA Championships conclude Saturday with preliminaries beginning at 7:30 a.m. PT and the final session at 3 p.m. PT. The program includes the 1650 free, 100 free, 200 back, 200 breast, men’s three-meter diving and 400 free relay. Korth is the top seed in the 200 breaststroke as the 2011 national champion in the event. Fellow senior Luke Calkins will also cap his college career, on the three-meter springboard, with prelims at 11 a.m. PT. Triton freshman Sierra Gage is seeded eighth in the 1650. All sessions Saturday can be watched online, free of charge, at NCAA.com, with live results here.
Triton Notes: UCSD has now set six school records over the first three days of the meet, with both 200 medley relays and Sean Malley’s 50 backstroke split on Wednesday, Naomi Thomas in the 100 fly on Thursday, and Nicholas Korth and the women’s 800 free relay on Friday night ... The men’s 200 medley relay actually matched the school record it had broken in morning prelims Wednesday, in the championship final at night ... Korth’s latest school record in the 100 breast is now more than two seconds faster than anyone else in UCSD history, with Juan Pablo Carrillo at No. 2 with his 55.00 from Nov. 20, 2009.