BELMONT SHORES, Cal., February 26. RAY Looze is 2500 miles to the east in cold, cold Bloomington, where he's in his rookie season as men's swim coach at Indiana University.
But from the performance of the University of the Pacific Tigers, whom Looze guided to last season's women's and men's Big West Championship, on tonight's opening night of the 2003 conference title meet, his replacement — former Northern Iowa coach Danny May — is filling some pretty big shoes more than capably.
May's Tigers roared on opening night at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool, winning three of five women's titles and all five men's races to grab both the women's and men's leads after Day 1. The Lady Tigers lead perennial Big West power Santa Barbara, 241-218, with U Cal Irvine a solid third (147).
In the men's race, UOP leads Santa Barbara's Gauchos, who lost the title last year for the first time since 1978, 260.5-188.5. Rookie coach Brian Pajer's Irvine Anteaters are third with 135 points. (Pajer also coaches the UCI men.)
UOP's women got the proceedings off to a flying start with their 1:32.22-1:35.68 victory in the opening 200 free relay. The Tigers' time was just .04 off the meet record of 1:32.18 by Nevada-Reno from six years ago and is well within the NCAA "B" cut of 1:35.76.
The men then followed suit, winning in 1:21.11 to Santa Barbara's 1:21.79.
The Tigers' first individual gold came in the 500 free, where froshwoman Laura McDonald — a Southern California native of Riverside — raced to a 4:53.79-4:54.20 win over teammate and defending-champ Robin Errecart. Both times are NCAA "B" cuts.
In the 200 IM, Irvine's Icelandic import, freshman Lara Bjargardottir, won the Anteaters' only gold of the evening with her pr and UCI-record 2:03.38. UOP's defending champ, Kris Willey, took second (2:03.95) with teammates Heidi Schmidt — defenindg 100-200 breast champ — and Kristy Matthews, third and fourth (2:03.97-2:04.26). All four were within the NCAA "B" cut of 2:04.38.
The winner trailed Willey at the 150 mark (1:34.19-1:34.92), but her final 28.46 50 free did the trick as Willey's final 50 was 29.76.
Santa Barbara scored its solo gold when Julia King won the 50 free in 23.41. UOP's Shannon Catalano finished second with a 23.55. Also scoring for Pacific was junior Leilani Avilla and junior Maria Kerrhon, who came in third and fourth, respectively.
Although she was disqualified in the 50 finals, UOP sophomore Lyndsay McNamee, who won last season in 23.44, had a solid “B” cut of 23.18 in the prelims — fastest time of the meet.
The Tiger women’s 400 medley relay team struck gold with another “B” qualifying time, 3:39.94. Sarah Marshall, defending 100-200 back champ who also led off the Tigers' 400 medley relay last season in a Big West record 53.82, led off tonight in a quick 54.47.
Good time but not fastest split of the race. That honor went to UCSB's Lindsay DaLonzo, who cranked a Gaucho-record 54.41. However, UCSB was a distant second overall (3:45.69).
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After the Tiger men's team won its opening 200 free relay, sophomore JP Russell, defending 200 back champ, added the 500 free title to his hardware collection with a 4:28.58-4:30.55 win over UCSB 's Eric Koch.
Senior Filip Wronski, defending Big West champ in the breaststrokes, next won the 200 IM in 1:50.95 with Cal Poly's Ben Palmer a tenth behind (1:51.05). Sophomore Jonathan Radcliff also scored for the Tigers with his third-place finish (1:512.83).
In the 50 free, sophomore Vince Martinez, who won the 100 free last season in a pr 44.84, added the half-century tonight with his NCAA "B" cut of 20.07. Senior teammate Matt Smart (20.59) finished second as the Tigers took the top two spots.
Capping off a very successful first day, UOP's 400 medley relay team finished first in 3:19.80 tio UCSB's second-place 3:20.74.
The meet continues through Saturday.
– Bill Bell
TOP 3 WOMEN’S SCORES
TOP 3 MEN'S SCORES