UCSB’s swim team is cutting to the chase.
The Gauchos, who had their regular season reduced to just one meet by the COVID-19 pandemic, will plunge right into their Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Swimming & Diving Championships today at Cal Poly’s Anderson Aquatics Center.
Westmont, meanwhile, will be swimming in a three-way competition at Pepperdine this weekend after having its national championship meet canceled by the NAIA.
Cal Poly volunteered to play host to the MPSF Championships after COVID-19 restrictions prevented the usual site — the swim complex at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park — from conducting the event. This week’s meet will continue through Saturday.
“So much of this year was unpredictable, but our group is excited to race, even if this meet will look and feel much different than past conference championships,” coach Matt Macedo said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the 13 women and 17 men who committed to their teammates and to this unprecedented season.
“I’m especially grateful that our three seniors were able to participate in our one and only dual meet and have a championship meet to close out their careers.”
The MPSF Championships actually began on Tuesday with the diving competition. UCSB will be playing from behind since it does not have a diving component in its program.
Hawai’i is the defending meet champion for both the men and women. Also competing in the MPSF Championships are Cal Poly, BYU, Pacific, UC San Diego and UC Davis.
The Gaucho men, who won back-to-back MPSF titles in 2017 and 2018, placed third last year. Ryan Levy will be the team’s lone senior in this week’s meet. He won both the 100-meter (46.43) and 200 (1:40.43) freestyles in the dual meet that UCSB at Cal Poly on Jan. 30, 174-114.
Levy also anchored the Gauchos’ first-place, 400 free relay team at that competition. He was named to the All-MPSF Second Team in 2019 and helped lead UCSB to its titles in 2017 and 2018.
The Gaucho women’s team will be led by senior captains Bryn McGowan and Lexi Fusari.
McGowan won the 50 free and anchored the winning 400 free relay team in the Cal Poly meet. She’s previously received All-MPSF Second Team honors in the 50 free as well as in two relays: the 200 free and the 200 medley.
Fusari contributed to the 171-120 dual-meet win over Cal Poly by anchoring the first-place relay teams in the 200 medley and 400 free.
The Gaucho women are seeking their first MPSF team title since joining the conference in 2010.
“I know this team will leave it all in the water,” Macedo said.
COVID-19 protocols prevent spectators from attending the event. A live stream of each day’s competition, plus real-time results, can be accessed at gopoly.com.
Westmont tests the Waves
Although Westmont’s NAIA hopes were dashed by the cancelation of the national championships, the Warriors did challenge Pepperdine’s NCAA Division 1 women’s team in a dual meet on Friday in Malibu.
“It was intended to be our final chance at qualifying for nationals,” Westmont coach Jill Jones Lin said. “Despite nationals being cancelled, I wanted to have some of the swimmers who have been looking good in practice suit up in a tech suit and see how they could do.”
The condensed format made for a one-hour meet, with several of the Warriors swimming all of their events within the first 15 minutes.
“With such a quick meet timeline, the women didn’t have a lot of time between races to recover, so they were racing very tired,” Jones Lin said. “However, they held on and really impressed me with their determination to give everything they have every chance they had.
“We started out with the 200-yard freestyle relay and the ‘A’ team did a great job of staying with Pepperdine throughout the race.”
The team of Morgan Shattuck, Bridge Hoth, Rachel Peden and Kassy Gregory recorded a time of 1:44.06 — fifth-fastest in school history — while finishing behind two Pepperdine teams that clocked 1:43.05 and 1:43.41.
Cayla Won broke her own school record in the 400 individual medley by more than seven seconds with a time of 4:59.11.
Hoth won the 50 free (25.30), touching out Pepperdine’s Ellie Hendren by seven-tenths of a second. Pepperdine won the meet, 187-47.
“We had some unfortunate situations where some of the team was put in quarantine just before this meet and the last one,” Jones Lin said. “That really opened our eyes to see that any chance you have to race has to be taken seriously.
“We cannot assume we will have another meet to fall back on.”
The Warriors do plan to return to Malibu on Saturday for a tri-meet with Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.