USC men’s swimming and diving team prepare for Pac-12 championships

USC Men’s Swim and Dive look to claim the top spot during the Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships, a feat they accomplished back in 2015. (Bryce Dechert | Daily Trojan)

The men’s swimming team is preparing to compete in this week’s Pac-12 Swimming and Diving Championships, in an effort to improve on last year’s performance. 

Though USC didn’t win last year’s championships, individual athletes showed promising abilities. Then-freshman Chris O’Grady placed second in the 100-yard breaststroke and broke the USC school record in the 200-yard breaststroke. In men’s diving, then-junior George Korovin won first place in platform diving, while then-freshman Shangfei Wang took third in 1-meter diving. 

This year, the Pac-12 Championships are held in Federal Way, Washington. Men’s diving kicked off on Wednesday with a win by freshman Laurent Gosselin-Paradis, who ended the day as the 1-meter diving champion. On Thursday, Korovin took first in the 3-meter event, while Gosselin-Paradis took second place. Diving competitions closed out on Friday with Gosselin-Paradis winning platform, and USC swept the men’s diving events for the first time since 1999.

This week sees the start of men’s swimming, which will last from March 1-4. The Trojans will look to perform well in the relays, the 500-yard freestyle, the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke, and the 200-yard backstroke, all of which they placed highly in last year.

Graduate student Jackson Odgers, who will be competing in the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley, is excited for his last chance at the Pac-12 Championships.

“The last time around, it’s a little bit special, [I’m] excited to give everything I got compared to last year,” Odgers said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “We ended up placing super well compared to the years prior. And this year, we’re hoping to build off of that and try to keep moving up the scoreboard.”

Senior sprint and middle distance freestyler Max Saunders is also enthusiastic about the Pac-12s. 

“This is potentially my last Pac-12,” Saunders said. “So I’m just [saying to myself,] ‘Last one fast one.’ It’s not my first time doing this, so I’m gonna try to have fun and lead by example, hype people up.”

Saunders will swim in the 50-yard, 100-yard, and 200-yard freestyle races, as well as the freestyle relays. In terms of the team, Saunders and Odgers both emphasized the new talent coming in.

“One of the most fun parts is seeing how all of our newcomers do because it’s their first time at a college meet and they always impress themselves and blow themselves away with the times they can do,” Odgers said. “And I think as a team, feeding off of each other’s energy is what really gets you to go fast at these championship meets.”

Saunders noted that the team has been more energetic this year, too.

“The positivity on the pool deck has been a lot better,” Saunders said. “Just a lot of camaraderie, a lot more than it’s been in the past couple years, which is extremely exciting.”

Though he’s happy to compete, Saunders remains realistic about USC’s chances to win the Pac-12s, which they have not won since 2015. 

“We’ll definitely have some individual guys really causing some problems for some bigger teams at the moment, but on the[a] more team scale I don’t think we’ll be that close[know],” Saunders said.

Individual performances in the Pac-12 Championships help determine who will move on to the NCAA National Championships, which Odgers is looking to compete in.

“On a personal level, the chance to qualify for national championships is what excites me the most, especially in my final season. That’s going to be a tall order, but it’s gonna be fun to try to do it,” Odgers said.

Saunders is also optimistic about the swimmers’ chances of moving on to the NCAAs this year, but especially for future years.

“[We’re in this] transition phase where we had a lot of talent last year that moved on. Some of the younger guys really stepped up this year, and we got some great talent coming in next year,” Saunders said. “As someone who’s in their last year of swimming, I’m extremely hopeful for the future and excited to see what a lot of these guys are going to do [this] week and beyond.”

The team will look to replicate their title-winning success from 2015 as they head to Washington Wednesday to race in the Pac-12 Championships.