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UC-Irvine Wins Women, Pacific Wins Men Big West Titles -- February 27, 2005

LONG BEACH, CA, February 27. GET out your history books. Grab a pen. The UC Irvine women wanted in and they got it, surging to their first-ever Big West Swimming and Diving Championship title at Belmont Plaza after a stellar meet, per conference reports.

And while you're at it. Go ahead and write in the Pacific men, who held off defending champion UC Santa Barbara and locked down the Tigers' in third title the past four years.

After a lifetime of line-chasing, the UC Irvine women's hard work paid off with the Anteaters' first-ever women's Big West Swimming and Diving Championship title. After the 1,650-yard freestyle event on the final day of the conference championship meet at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach, Calif., the Anteaters had enough of a lead over defending champion Pacific that only a disqualification could threaten to derail the steamrolling UCI squad. The rest of the meet went off without any such hitch.
In fact, the Anteaters knocked out a tight one-two finish in the women's 200 breaststroke to secure their place in history. Sophomore Aubrie Smallwood stole the title from teammate Lara Bjargardottir with a time of 2:17.45, but Bjargardottir was just a fingernail away, touching in at 2:17.71. The Anteater duo ensured the second individual swimming title for UC Irvine in their run to the team crown -- the school's first Big West championship title in any sport since men's golf won in 2002-03.
By meet's end, the UC Irvine women had four individual champions in Smallwood and Chelsea Nagata's swimming crowns and a diving sweep from Jackie Jones and Franny Brittle. Jones won the women's 3-meter event, and Brittle successfully defended her 1-meter title with a win of her own on Saturday. Their performances rounded out complete diving domination by the Anteaters. In Saturday's men's competition, Anton Slobounov pinned up his third straight sweep on the board. With Friday's win in the 1-meter event, Slobounov became the winningest diver in Big West history with five crowns. On Saturday he closed out his junior year with career win No. 6.
While history was being made in the women's race and on the diving board, the men's team race came down to a battle between two reigning powers. Defending champion and owner of 25 Big West titles UC Santa Barbara hung around, but couldn't pass up Pacific, which boasted the 2002 and 2004 men's crowns. The Tigers had a 19-point lead over the Gauchos with two events still to go. UC Santa Barbara made a move in the 200 butterfly when Pat Cary nailed his second meet record by tearing to the 200 butterfly victory in a steaming 1:45.32. On the way into the final race of the meet -- the men's 400 freestyle relay -- Pacific's lead was cut to 11 points. The Tigers rose to the challenge, however, and pounded out a 2:59.40 in the final race of 2005 to finish with three relay wins, two two-time titlists (Kryszstof Zoldak and Clint McLaughlin) and two other individual crowns (J.P. Russell and Wojciech Betlej) to lock away their third Big West championship in the past four years.

In its first year in the Big West, UC Davis added a serious depth charge to the championship meet. Two Aggies claimed individual crowns with Renee Dyer chalking up the second with her speedy victory in the 100 freestyle (51.42). She was following the lead set Friday by backstroke specialist Yuka Kobayashi. Kobayashi showed her versatility and came close to her third individual title of the meet in the 200 butterfly on Saturday, but came in second to UC Santa Barbara's Jen Schwalb . Both broke the 2-minute barrier in the event, finishing at 1:59.44 and 1:59.50. Kobayashi had racked up her second individual title earlier that day, blazing into the wall at 1:53.52 in the 200 backstroke.

Her victory heated up the water in lane 6, when Pacific's Wojciech Betlej streaked to his first title with a time of 1:46.14 in the 200 backstroke. The win was a big one for the Tigers, as it boosted their lead over UC Santa Barbara to help secure the men's team title.

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Kryszstof Zoldak, PAC

FEMALE CO-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Jennnifer Radecke, PAC
Ja-Neil Bragg, PAC

MALE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Kryszstof Zoldak, PAC

FEMALE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Ja-Neil Bragg, PAC

MALE COACH OF THE YEAR
Daryn Glasgow, PAC

FEMALE COACH OF THE YEAR
Brian Pajer, UCI

FINAL TEAM STANDINGS

WOMEN
1. UC Irvine, 821
2. Pacific, 717.5
3. UC Davis, 693.5
4. UC Santa Barbara, 606
5. Idaho, 244
6. Cal Poly, 191
7. Cal State Northridge, 173

MEN
1. Pacific, 881
2. UC Santa Barbara, 864
3. UC Irvine, 684.5
4. UC Davis, 494
5. Cal Poly, 253
6. Cal State Northridge, 241.5

Results: 02-25-05 2005 Big West, M-W, Friday

Results: 02-26-05 2005 Big West, M-W, Saturday