BELMONT SHORES, Calif., February 25. THE University of California Irvine's Lady Anteaters and Pacific's men's Tigers are leading their respective divisions after two days of action at this year's Big West Championships here.
UOP is seeking its third title in four years while the UCI women have yet to win a Big West crown. However, under the leadership of second-year Coach Brian Pajer, himself a former UCI All-America breaststroker and Olympic Trials qualifier, the Anteaters have made great strides in both the women's and men's programs.
Pacific's Krzsztof Zoldak, a Polish Olympian, set a Big West record in the 200 IM and qualified for NCAAs with his school- and conference-standard 1:46.84. His swim came just after teammate Ja-Neil Bragg won the women's medley in a pr 2:01.51, an NCAA "B" cut.
UCI's Jackie Jones and Frannie Brittle tag-teamed their way to a first- and second-place finish, respectively in 3-meter diving, leaving their Anteater teammates to get the rest of the job done between the lane lines.
Although defending-champ Pacific emerged with two individual distaff crowns and a decisive first place finish in the 200 freestyle relay, UC Irvine still reigned supreme in the team race by day's end.
Jennifer Radecke got the swimming portion of the day going for Pacific with her second individual title of the meet. The Tiger speedster cut three seconds off of her winning time from last year in the 500 freestyle, clocking 4:52.38. In the next women's event, teammate Bragg led the way in a tightly contested 200 individual medley, beating out UC Santa Barbara's Jen Schwalb for first. Just 0.38 seconds separated the two, with Bragg touching in at 2:01.51 for the first of three NCAA B cuts hit in the race. UC Irvine's Lara Bjargarsdottir placed third and hit the third cut of the event.
On the men's side, UC Santa Barbara threatened to extend its lead after Garrett Porteous made a comeback run in the 500 freestyle to claim that title. Pacific regrouped as a team from there, however, and tacked up three straight victories sparked by Zoldak's meet record in the 200 IM.
In the fastest race of the day, Clint McLaughlin sped to an NCAA B cut time in the 50 freestlye with a 20.09, and Pacific crept further ahead in the standings.
Finally, the men's battle came to a head when the Tigers had to ward off UC Santa Barbara in the 200 freestyle relay. Both foursomes hit NCAA consideration times, but the Tigers squeaked in for the win at 1:20.71 — a mere instant ahead of the Gauchos' 1:20.82.
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO (2/24)
1. Pacific, 319.0
2. *UC Santa Barbara, 301.0
3. UC Irvine, 201.5
4. UC Davis, 153.0
5. Cal State Northridge, 121.5
6. Cal Poly, 94.0
1. UC Irvine, 339.0
2. *Pacific, 309.0
3. UC Davis, 267.5
4. UC Santa Barbara, 191.5
5. Cal Poly, 99.0
6. Idaho, 93.0
7. Cal State Northridge, 66.0
* Defending Champion