Typically the first win is great, but the second is twice as nice. The UC Davis swimming and diving team put truth to that statement this past weekend.
The Aggies, competing at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference championship down at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, Calif., grabbed their second conference championship in the third year of the conference’s existence. Still, this one was different.
With the addition of two athletic powerhouses, Hawai’i and Brigham Young University, the competition was stacked much higher for UC Davis than it was back in 2011.
“I told them to swim with no fear, and it was a total team effort, not just one individual scoring most of the points,” said head coach Barbara Jahn. “This year was harder than the previous year, with the addition of two extremely strong teams, Hawai’i and BYU.”
Indeed, UC Davis flipped back and forth for the lead and was in contention with the Rainbow Wahine and the Cougars for the duration of the meet.
Junior Liliana Alvarez was with the first championship team in 2011 and last year when the Aggies fell to third.
“We knew we were in the running after the first day but we weren’t in the top spot,” she said. “But after the second and third day we just thought we could win.”
After the first day, UC Davis already had strong contributions from several of its swimmers. The Aggies had a duo of relay finishes after the first day, with a second-place 200-meter Medley Relay that saw junior Haley Porter get out-touched by 14 hundredths of a second with a time of 1:40.42.
The second was the 800-meter Freestyle Relay, in which juniors Samantha Shellem, Katie Edwards, Haley Porter and senior Bridget Bugbee took a first-place finish with a margin of victory of over six seconds at 7:14.45.
Shellem continued on the second day, shattering records in the 500-yard Freestyle and the 200-yard Free Relay. Her victory in the 500 Free came in at a time of 4:45.6 seconds, good enough to obtain “B” qualifying standards for the NCAA Championships.
Freshman Marissa Brown finished second in the 500-yard Free with a 4:50.65 time, a couple places before Bugbee, who grabbed fifth at 4:53.54. The combination of these three racers added 51 points to the team score.
Alvarez won her third straight MPSF 100-yard Breaststroke title in as many attempts, putting down a time of 1:01.25. The San Anselmo, Calif. native also recorded a 2:12.41 in the 200-yard Breast — .35 seconds behind the winner — to snag 17 more points for UC Davis.
“It was a total team effort, and if you look at every individual that went to the meet, you see everyone contributed points and that’s special,” Jahn said. “Our quality of depth was what helped us get 38 points ahead because although some of the other teams might have had more first-place finishes than us, it was our second through eighth places and ninth through 16th finishes that got it done for us.”
Alvarez, who has performed well throughout her whole three years at UC Davis and had a hand in 105 of the UC Davis points, was quick to credit the whole team for the victory.
“It was a total team effort and everyone from the first race was swimming really well,” she said. “Everyone was extremely supportive and there was a positive attitude and atmosphere.”
Sophomore Samantha Rados was one of the “sleepers” that scored a handful of extra points that lifted the Aggies to first place. She grabbed fourth place in the 400-yard Individual Medley with a time of 4:20.26. Rados had a hand in 28 points for UC Davis.
“I know last year it was a bit disappointing, so it definitely felt good coming back and proving to the other teams in the conference that we could do it because they definitely didn’t see us coming,” Rados said. “Compared to last year I did a lot better in terms of placement and felt like I contributed more, so it was a great feeling.”
Shellem, who transferred from California, lauded the team’s camaraderie and all-around performance.
“I’ve never been a part of such an amazing group of women; I wanted to do it not only for myself but for the entire team,” she said. “It wasn’t about me, it was about everyone else and it was great to jump into the pool after the win.”
Rados, who still has two more years of competition with UC Davis, also mentioned the team’s determination as a strong factor for their present and future success.
“I know our team is filled with hard workers, and even if we had lost it, we would have kept fighting and working hard to win the title within the next couple years,” Rados said.
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at email@example.com.