A total of 27 members of the UC San Diego men's and women's swimming and diving teams made the all-day trek to Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday, Mar. 3, for the 2013 NCAA Division II Championships. The Tritons departed East Campus very early in the morning, and flew direct to Atlanta, Ga., followed by a two-plus-hour bus ride to Birmingham, where they will stay all week.
The NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships will take place Wednesday through Saturday, Mar. 6-9, at the Birmingham CrossPlex. The meet is part of the 2013 NCAA Division II National Championships Festival, with five team titles set to be determined in Birmingham in men's and women's indoor track and field, men's and women's swimming and diving, and wrestling. The Gulf South Conference and the city of Birmingham are serving as co-hosts to more than 1,000 student-athletes in all.
The Tritons enter the meet as the champions of the Pacific Collegiate Swimming & Diving Conference (PCSC), with the men and women both having won their fifth consecutive PCSC crowns in La Mirada last month.
The UCSD women, ranked third nationally in the NCAA Division II, were 8-3 in dual meets this season. The fourth-ranked Triton men completed their dual schedule at 8-2 with seven straight victories.
TRITONS RANKED IN TOP FIVE
The last of three national poll releases by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) for the 2012-13 NCAA Division II season was unveiled on Jan. 31. In it, the UCSD women remained at No. 3, while the men moved up from No. 5 to No. 4. The respective squads were third and fifth in the Dec. 19 installment, and first and third on Nov. 14.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
UCSD co-head coaches Matt Macedo and Corrie Falcon have 15 swimmers on the women's side and 12 men, 10 swimmers and two divers, at their disposal this week at the NCAA Championships. The Triton men have finished as national runners-up in each of the past two seasons to eight-time defending champion Drury University of Springfield, Mo. UCSD fell well short in 2011, however, by a count of 600.5-345, before narrowing that gap to 73 points (473-400) in Mansfield, Texas, in 2012.
On the women's side, UCSD has finished in the top four in all 12 years since moving to Division II, with 10 third-place efforts, including four straight, and two fourths. Drury won the 2009, 2010 and 2011 national titles before being edged by a mere point, 497-496, by Wayne State of Detroit, Mich., a year ago.
There are two former national champions among the Tritons' group in Alabama this year. They are junior co-captain Nicholas Korth, who won the 200 breaststroke as a freshman in 2011, and fifth-year senior Mercedes O'Brien, who swam the breaststroke leg of the first-place 200 medley relay as a freshman in 2009.
All sessions of the NCAA Division II Championships can be watched live online, free of charge, at NCAA.com. Live results will also be available. All links can be found in the Schedule/Results section on the swimming and diving page. In addition, tune in to Championship Central at UCSDtritons.com for behind-the-scenes coverage and follow the Tritons on Twitter (@UCSDtritons, @UCSDSwimDive) for photos, results and more.
The 12 UCSD men in Birmingham are senior co-captain Julius Espiritu (fourth trip), junior co-captain Nicholas Korth (third), seniors Adam Rice (third), Tyler Runsten (fourth), Jeremy Smith (second) and Adam Yen (third), juniors Luke Calkins (third), Reid McCallum (third) and Alex Merrill (third), sophomore Dane Stassi (second), and freshmen Michael Leung and Paul Li (first for each).
For the women, senior co-captain Beth Dong (third trip), junior co-captain Anji Shakya (third), seniors Casey Adams (second trip), Olivia Fountain (third), Mercedes O'Brien (third), Amber Tan (fourth) and Katherine Tse (fourth), juniors Sandy Hon (third) and Erika Rodman (first), sophomores Jaclyn Amog (second), Eva Chen (second) and Sierra Robbins (second), redshirt freshman Dari Watkins (first), and freshmen Colleen Daley (first) and Naomi Thomas (first) are in Alabama.
The Tritons, along with Wingate, have the fifth-largest men's swimming presence in Birmingham, behind eight-time defending national champion Drury (15), Incarnate Word (13), Florida Southern (12) and Grand Canyon (12).
UCSD's women have the second-largest contingent on hand, falling short of only the 16 sent by Drury. Incarnate Word (12), Wayne State (11) and Wingate (11) are providing double-digit entries as well.
The first Tritons to begin competition this week were Luke Calkins and Tyler Runsten as the pre-qualification diving meet took place on Tuesday, Mar. 5, with the two UCSD entrants moving on to the main draw on both springboards. The three-meter proper is Wednesday with trials at 11:30 a.m. PT. The one-meter is Friday with trials again at 11:30 a.m. Diving finals take place after 3:30 p.m. PT later on those same days. Runsten was the three-meter silver medalist in 2011.
The swimming starts on Wednesday with the 1000 free, 200 IM, 50 free and 200 medley relay. Thursday's slate is made up of the 200 free relay, 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free and 400 medley relay. Top Triton contenders that day will be Beth Dong with the nation's top 400 IM time in Division II heading into the meet, as well as fellow co-captain Anji Shakya, who has posted the fastest time in Division II in the 200 free. Senior Olivia Fountain and sophomore Dane Stassi are currently ranked third and fourth in the women's and men's 100 fly.
Friday will see Shakya back in the water with the top time nationally in the 500 free, followed by the 100 back, 100 breast, 200 fly, one-meter diving and 800 free relay. Stassi has the year's best mark in the 200 fly, while Korth is a top-five contender in the 100 breast. Naomi Thomas, a true freshman at her first nationals, will compete for the 200 fly as the No. 2 seed.
The NCAA Championships will come to a close on Saturday, Mar. 9, with the 1650 free, 100 free, 200 back, 200 breast and 400 free relay. Korth was the 2011 national champion in the 200 breast and enters with the second-best time nationally.
Women's races take place before the men's. UCSD will compete in all five men's and women's relays held during the meet. Preliminaries begin each morning at 8 a.m. PT, with the evening finals sessions getting under way at 3:30 p.m. PT.
TRITONS AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS
Nicholas Korth's season-best mark in the 200 breaststroke of 1:57.49 is second-fastest in the NCAA Division II, behind only Thiago Parravicini (1:54.67) of Incarnate Word. Korth ranks fifth in Division II in the 100 (54.21).
Dane Stassi tops the Division II leaderboard in the 200 butterfly (1:45.65) by almost two full seconds (1:47.56), and is fourth in the 100 fly (48.13).
On the women's side, captain Beth Dong is fastest among Division II swimmers in the 400 IM (4:18.01), seventh in the 500 free (4:56.06), 1650 free (16:57.77) and 200 fly (2:03.06), ninth in the 200 back (2:01.20) and 11th in the 1000 free (10:17.01). Fellow senior Olivia Fountain is third in the 100 fly (54.95), with freshman Naomi Thomas behind her in eighth (55.82). Thomas is second in the 200 fly (2:01.53). Fountain has the seventh-best 50 free mark at 23.32.
Junior Anji Shakya is fastest in the 200 (1:48.24) and 500 free (4:48.19), seventh in the 100 free (50.82) and 10th in the 200 back (2:01.35).
Other Triton individuals in the top-eight nationally are Jeremy Smith (500 free, 7th, 4:28.30 and 1650 free, 7th 15:39.26), Paul Li (500 free, 8th, 4:28.39) and Adam Rice (400 IM, 8th, 3:57.67). The UCSD men's 800 free relay is sixth (6:37.67) while the 200 (1:29.48) and 400 (3:17.20) medley relays are ninth and seventh, respectively. The Triton women are second in the 200 free relay (1:33.65) and 400 free relay (3:24.52), fourth in the 800 free relay (7:26.45), and ninth in the 200 medley relay (1:44.41).
TRITON TRIO EARNS DIVISION II SWIMMER OF THE WEEK HONORS
UCSD sophomore Dane Stassi (Jan. 30) and co-captains Beth Dong (Jan. 8) and Anji Shakya (Feb. 19) have all been named by CollegeSwimming.com as a Counsilman Hunsaker Division II Swimmer of the Week. Shakya was the most recent Triton recipient after her incredible performance at the conference meet in La Mirada, Feb. 13-16. Stassi swept his specialty butterfly events at Cal Poly on Jan. 26, while also participating in two first-place relays. Dong won the 400 IM and 200 back against Division II rivals Grand Canyon and Cal State East Bay on Jan. 5 and was also a double-winner against Division I San Jose State in the 500 free and 200 IM (Jan. 6).
LAST TIME OUT
The UCSD men (1543.5 points) and women (1364.5) cruised to comfortable victories at the 2013 PCSC Championships in La Mirada last month, extending their run of conference crowns to five straight apiece. The men won nine individual titles, including double winners Adam Rice, Tyler Runsten and Jeremy Smith, and added a trio of first-place relay finishes. Five conference records, alongside the school standard in the 800 free relay (6:37.67), all went down. Adam Rice was the co-swimmer of the men's meet as the joint top point-scorer.
On the women's side, the Tritons achieved six individual crowns, with Anji Shakya a triple winner on her way to swimmer of the meet distinction, and two relay wins. She broke school and meet records while touching first in the 200 free and 500 free. Michelle Casillas was the Women's Diving Coach of the Year in the conference.
ENDLESS POOLS POLL
The Triton women were atop the latest installment of the Endless Pools/CollegeSwimming.com Division II Top 25. It was the 10th week the Tritons have led the poll this season, with the most recent rankings accounting for performances between Jan. 21-Feb. 18. The UCSD men, who were No. 1 in this ranking earlier in the year, are at No. 4. Points for the Endless Pools/CollegeSwimming.com Top 25 are calculated using the average percentile rank of each team's top 27 swimmers in each meet. The Top 25 is ranked on the basis of each squad's highest-scoring competition over the preceding month.
Team captains for the 2012-13 season were voted on at the conclusion of the prior year, with Nicholas Korth, fellow junior Anji Shakya, and seniors Beth Dong and Julius Espiritu earning that distinction.
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