INDIANAPOLIS - The University of California San Diego is sending 24 student-athletes to the 2017 NCAA Division II Men's and Women's Swimming & Diving Championships in Birmingham, Ala., March 8-11. The official list of qualifiers was announced by the NCAA on Wednesday afternoon.
The fourth-ranked UC San Diego women will have 10 swimmers, all four divers and three relay specialists on hand for a total of 17 competitors. The contingent for the third-ranked Triton men includes five swimmers, their lone diver, and one relay entrant. Twenty Tritons made the cut each of the last two years for the meets in Indianapolis, Ind.
The four-day meet will be held at the CrossPlex in Birmingham for the first time since 2013. The city of Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Huntsville serve as hosts. The swimming and diving will be part of another NCAA Division II National Championships Festival, featuring more than 1,000 student-athletes from five winter sports that will crown their team champions that week.
The women's group is led by tri-captains Jaimie Bryan and fellow fourth-year senior Natalie Tang, who have earned their fourth invitations. Juniors Angie Phetbenjakul and Julia Toronczak (Santee/West Hills HS) are three-for-three. Junior Haley Hamza and sophomores Reagan Eickert and Lily Maxfield are two-time qualifiers, though Hamza was unable to attend last March due to injury. First-timers gaining spots are junior Alex Rodman (Coronado/Boston University/Coronado HS) and true freshmen Brooke Miles and Kaitlyn Ritchey.
Divers Brooke Abrantes (San Diego/Santana HS) and Patty Sullivan are making their second appearances, joined for the first time by fellow sophomore Delainey Carlin (Carlsbad/Carlsbad HS) and freshman Tiffany Wong on the women's side, and junior newcomer Trevor Jackson (Ramona/Ramona HS) for the men. All five divers will go through a pre-qualification meet in the one- and three-meter springboard competitions on Tuesday, March 7, vying to make the main draw in either event.
The five Triton men's swimmers going are seniors Michael Cohn (Solana Beach/Grossmont College), Gabriel Hernandez and Zach Yong, alongside junior Kevin Wylder and sophomore Garrett Tse. It marks a third berth in three years as a Triton for Cohn and Wylder. Hernandez, a first-year transfer out of Golden West College, has made his first and only NCAA field as UCSD's lone automatic entrant. Yong makes his return in his final go-around after trips as a freshman and sophomore before sitting the 2016 edition out. Tse is a first-timer.
Cohn, Hernandez, Wylder and Bryan are national championship contenders, with Cohn and Bryan having placed second and third in their best events, the 200-yard backstroke and 200 breaststroke, respectively, a year ago. Hernandez is a top-five seed in three events, the 200 individual medley (No. 2), 200 butterfly (No. 3) and 400 IM (No. 5). He broke meet and school records in all three at the Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Conference (PCSC) Championships earlier this month. Wylder has the fourth-fastest mark in the 50 freestyle.
The Triton men and women both are eligible to participate in all five relay events in Alabama. To that effect, four will go to Alabama strictly as relay swimmers, in tri-captain Haley Murphy, fellow juniors Jayna Wittenbrink and Sarah Yao, and true freshman Edgar Chin. Murphy is a freestyler, Wittenbrink a butterflyer, Yao a sprinter, and Chin a breaststroker. Murphy and Wittenbrink are making return trips.
Chin and juniors Kevin Fink and CJ Pais, are listed among 11 men's alternates, with their B standards in the 200 breast, 200 fly and 200 back, respectively. Fink was in Indianapolis as a sophomore a year ago.
UCSD (10) is tied for the fourth-largest women's swimming contingent, along with Delta State of Cleveland, Miss. Wingate (N.C.), the 2016 runner-up, has 12, with Lindenwood of St. Charles, Mo., sending 11, as is two-time defending champion Queens of Charlotte, N.C. Forty-eight squads will have 183 swimmers at the meet.
Queens ended Drury's 10-year reign atop Division II men's swimming and diving in 2015 and repeated in 2016. Drury has qualified 12 swimmers to Birmingham, with Queens (11) and Florida Southern (10) also in double figures. Lindenwood, the 2016 runner-up, qualified eight. A total of 157 men's swimmers will represent 34 different programs.
Directed by third-year head coach and former Triton national champion Daniel Perdew, UC San Diego will travel to Alabama on Sunday, March 5. The UCSD women were third last March, their highest finish since another third-place effort in 2013. The Triton men wound up 17th in 2016.