It wasn’t exactly the finish they had hoped for, but the USC women’s swim and dive team made a strong showing at the Pac-12 conference championships this past week, finishing the meet in second place overall.
The women’s Pac-12 championships, held this year in Federal Way, Wash., from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2, featured six of the nation’s top-25 teams. USC was hanging onto the No. 1 spot entering the meet, followed by No. 2 Cal, No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Arizona, No. 14 UCLA and No. 23 Arizona State.
The Women of Troy started strong on Wednesday, finishing second in the 200-yard medley relay and third in the 800-yard freestyle relay to open the meet in third place. The 200-yard medley relay team, made up of senior Christel Simms, junior Kasey Carlson and freshmen Kendyl Stewart and Kasia Wilk, finished just 0.19 seconds behind Arizona, who had to leapfrog both USC and Cal to win the relay.
On day two, USC moved into second place with the strong swimming of Olympic silver medalist and senior Haley Anderson, the first women’s swimmer in conference history to take home three consecutive 500-yard freestyle titles.
Though they finished the day strong, all was not well for the Women of Troy on Thursday. After a poor showing in the morning preliminary rounds, senior Jessie Schmitt called a swimmers-only meeting before the evening’s final rounds began. Sparked by the display of senior leadership, the squad came to life, highlighted by a school record in the 200-yard freestyle relay by Carlson, Stewart, Wilk and freshman Jasmine Tosky.
Anderson, however, was not done breaking records. On Saturday, the senior became the first Pac-12 women’s swimmer to win four consecutive 1650-yard freestyle titles.
“While I may seem a bit biased, I think Haley should have been swimmer of the meet based on her four-year repeat as the 1650 champion,” USC head coach David Salo said. “We would not have come this close to winning the championship without her.”
Despite Anderson’s best efforts, the Trojans came up a bit short in the meet overall. Though they put up a school record of 1418.5 points, they finished 21 points behind eventual conference champion Stanford in the closest conference championship meet in Pac-12 history.
On the men’s side, USC began its quest for a conference title on Sunday. Entering the meet ranked fourth nationally, the Trojans have to compete against three other ranked conference rivals over the next two days for the crown: No. 2 Cal, No. 7 Stanford and No. 10 Arizona.
Against stiff competition, the team did not disappoint on the opening day, setting school records in both the 800-yard freestyle relay and the 200-yard medley relay.
The four-man squad of sophomore Chad Bobrosky, senior Alex Lendrum, sophomore Cristian Quintero and junior Dimitri Colupaev finished the 800-yard relay in 6:16.88, fast enough to beat Cal by nearly two seconds.
The race seemed out of reach after the first two legs, but Quintero sprinted ahead of the competition in the third, posting an incredible time of 1:32.58. Colupaev took over the race from Quintero and never looked back, posting a solid time of 1:33.83 to lock up the school record and USC victory.
In the 200-yard medley relay, the Trojans were just as impressive. The quartet of sophomore Luca Spinazzola, freshman Morten Klarskov and juniors Chase Bloch and Vladimir Morozov posted a school record time of 1:25.04, less than one second behind first-place Cal, but only good enough to finish fourth overall.
“It is always disappointing not to win a team relay,” Salo said. “It speaks to the depth of the conference when it takes a team record just to finish fourth. [Our players] know they can get better in a couple weeks for the NCAA championships, and I think the results will speak for themselves.”
The men’s team will continue its chase for the title until Wednesday, when the eventual champion will be crowned. Notables yet to race for the Trojans include freshman Jack Wagner, sophomore Dakota Hodgson and senior Justin DiFederico.
When the action concludes on Wednesday, all eyes will turn to Indianapolis, where the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships will be held. With a strong showing this week, expect the Trojans to be contenders when the NCAA finals begin on Mar. 21 for the women and Mar. 28 for the men.