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Anteaters on the Rise -- January 23, 2003

IRVINE, Cal., January 23. COACH Brian Pajer's U Cal Irvine Anteaters are starting to make their presence known around the Big West Conference in the coach's rookie season.

UCI has broken six school records so far this season. Froshwoman Lara Bjargardottir, an Icelandic native, has broken four herself and participated in a fifth. She currently holds the Anteater standards in the 200 free (1:52.47); 500 free (4:54.33); 200 individual medley (2:05.44) and 400 IM (4:25.73).

Sophomore Molly Donelan (Silver Spring, MD/Sidwell Friends HS) has broken the school -record in the 200 fly with her 2:08.07. Her swim, accomplished in the dual meet against Utah, broke the oldest mark at UCI as the previous record was held by Jeannette Browning (2:09.34) set in 1978.

Bjargardottir and Donelan, along with sophomore Cheryl Jennings (Folsom HS) and Semah Zavareh (Sunnyvale, CA) broke the school record in the 800 free relay with their 7:46.36. That time broke the oldest remaining record (7:48.35) for the women's team set in 1990.

The real test for Pajer's teams will come the final weekend of next month where they host the Big West Championships at Belmont Plaza. The University of the Pacific is defending champ on both the women's and men's sides. Coach Danny May's Tigers -- whose men stopped U Cal Santa Barbara's 23-year win-streak last year while repeating on the women's side -- appear to be set to defend their titles

May is also in his rookie year with UOP, having taken over from former USC All-America Ray Looze, who's now Indiana University's head men's coach. May was formerly boss at Northern Iowa.

Don't look for the Anteaters to unseat the champ, at least not this season, but that's Pajer's goal. If his success with the Irvine Aquazots USS club team is any indication, he'll have UCI among the conference's powers before long.


--Bill Bell