LA MIRADA, Calif. -
Four league crowns, two meet records and a school mark highlighted the first night as the UC San Diego men's and women's swimming and diving teams each settled into the top spot of their respective standings in the 2013 Pacific Collegiate Swimming & Diving Conference (PCSC) Championships at the Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatic Center on Wednesday.
Posting first-place finishes in all three events to be staged on the first of four days of competition, the Triton men, ranked No. 4 in the NCAA Division II, have 211 points. Fresno Pacific and Cal Baptist are closest behind with 136 and 135 points, respectively. The UCSD women, No. 3 nationally, picked up 195 points to lead over Pepperdine (155).
The Tritons' 800 free relay team of Adam Rice, Michael Leung, Paul Li and Alex Merrill timed 6:37.67 to out-touch Fresno Pacific (6:37.77) by a mere .10 seconds and eclipse the previous school record by even less, .01 seconds (6:37.68). Merrill and Espiritu were both part of that previous program mark from the 2012 NCAA Championships. The time also bested the prior meet record of 6:38.30, already belonging to UCSD from last year's PCSC Championships. Leung and Li, both true freshmen, were first-time conference champions.
Earlier in the evening, the men's 200 medley relay foursome of Julius Espiritu, Nicholas Korth, Dane Stassi and Reid McCallum went 1:29.48 to both win and achieve a meet record, barely lowering the 12-year-old mark of 1:29.49 by then-member University of Hawai'i. Stassi, a sophomore who sat out the 2012 PCSC meet, thus became a first-time conference champion.
Senior diver Tyler Runsten, a three-time runner-up in one-meter springboard diving, finally broke through in his final appearance at the conference championships, scoring a season-best 313.30 points to easily outdistance the eight-person finals field after turning in the top mark during prelims. Junior teammate Luke Calkins placed third (261.50) with freshman Garet Webster in sixth (247.10).
"Tyler has only been back five and half weeks, recovering from shoulder surgery and studying abroad during the fall quarter," remarked diving coach Michelle Casillas. "He shook off his lack of competition and found his edge. He dove like a champion today."
Runsten will next defend his three successive three-meter titles on Friday.
On the women's side, the 800 free relay of Sierra Robbins, Beth Dong, Dari Watkins and Anji Shakya won in a season-best 7:26.45, easily an automatic qualification time into the 2013 NCAA Championships, the first by UCSD swimmers at this year's meet. Shakya is now a three-time PCSC champion in the event.
"The women's 800 freestyle relay was a very solid performance from several perspectives," said UCSD co-head coach Corrie Falcon. "On the second leg, Beth Dong swam about two seconds faster than she did at last year's national meet and moved us from fourth to first. That put us on track to win. Then, Dari Watkins swam two seconds under her Arena Invitational time from November and pretty much sealed her ticket to the NCAA Championships. Anji's (Shakya) anchor was icing on the cake. I feel pretty good about the potential for all four of tonight's relays to get picked up."
UCSD was second behind PCSC newcomer Simon Fraser (1:44.51) from Canada, timing 1:44.60 to get narrowly out-touched by .09 seconds. Sandy Hon, Mercedes O'Brien, Jaclyn Amog and Amber Tan made up the ‘A' group for the Tritons.
Freshman Allyson Cohen was the top Triton finisher in three-meter diving, placing third with a finals score of 211.80, with junior Natalie Mouzooni fifth (204.35).
UCSD swept the 800 free relay races for the third year in succession, with the Triton men's 200 medley relay earning a fourth straight PCSC championship. Korth has swum the breaststroke leg of each of the past three.
"It's good to see we're swimming fast," concluded co-head coach Matt Macedo. "To set two conference records with the class of teams that have come before us in this meet is exciting, and it looks like we've already qualified several new people for NCAA's. We are off to the kind of start we had hoped for."
The 2013 PCSC Championships will go into full swing with two sessions on Thursday, Feb. 14. Preliminaries will begin at 9 a.m., and finals at 4:30 p.m. Events to be contested on the second day include the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free, women's one-meter diving and the 200 free relay.
-- UCSDtritons.com --