Women's swimming, men's and women's diving gearing up for Pac-12 championships

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PAC-12 WOMEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW

Year in and year out, Pac-12 women’s swimming sports some of the best swimmers in not just the United States, but on the international level as well. The 2014 Pac-12 Women’s Swimming Championships will again showcase several NCAA standouts and Olympians from all over the world. As of Jan. 30, five teams were ranked in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Top-25 poll, including four in the top 11 and three in the top five.

CALIFORNIA, the nation’s top-ranked team, is aiming for its third Pac-12 team Championship—the last one coming in 2012. The Bears have been a force in collegiate swimming over the past five years, winning three NCAA team titles in that span, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. Cal finished its regular season slate going 7-2 with its only dual losses coming at the hands of a pair of Conference foes in No.4 Stanford and No. 5 USC. A squad already stacked in talent, Cal welcomed the addition of World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin this year and is poised to pick up its second Conference championship in three years. Franklin hasn’t missed a beat in her first year swimming collegiately, winning multiple individual events in all but two meets this season and helping her team to several relay victories.  Sophomore Anne Kastler, the Pac-12 Diver of the Month for the month of January, heads into the diving championships with momentum after setting a school record on the 1-meter board against Stanford in the final competition of the regular season.

STANFORD, the defending Pac-12 Champions and winners of 19 Conference titles overall, finished the dual season with an unblemished 10-0 record that was capped by a rivalry win over No. 1 Cal. Ranked fourth nationally at the end of the season, Stanford also recorded dual victories over No. 5 USC and No. 17 UCLA. Seniors Felicia Lee and Maya DiRado, who both own multiple All-America awards and Stanford records, will guide the Cardinal through the Pac-12 Championships in the pool. On the diving board, senior Stephanie Phipps is a keynote performer for Stanford and will defend her first-place finish in the 3-meter competition at Pac-12 Championships last year. 

The fifth-ranked USC team completed the dual season with a 7-1 record overall, going 6-1 in Pac-12 meets, including an upset victory over No. 1 California and a come-from-behind victory over rival and 17th-ranked UCLA to finish the season on a strong note. The Trojans’ lone loss came against No. 4 Stanford. USC will rely on key swimmers like senior Kasey Carlson, the defending Pac-12 Champion in the 100 breast, and sophomore Kendyl Stewart, the reigning Champion in the 100 fly. In the diving well, junior Haley Ishimatsu will look to defend her platform title from last year’s Pac-12 Championships after winning the competition at the Bruin Diving Invitational and coming in second at the Wildcat Diving Invitational. 

ARIZONA may have lost their head coach a month into the season, but the Wildcats responded to adversity well,  recording a 5-4 mark in their dual meets in 2013-14 while being ranked 10th in the latest CSCAA poll. All four of the losses came against opponents ranked in the top six in the country, including Pac-12 foes California, Stanford and USC. Arizona’s biggest win of the season came against UCLA as the Wildcats came from behind on the final day of the event to steal a narrow 151-149 victory. Leading the Wildcat swimmers this year are senior Margo Greer and sophomore Bonnie Brandon. Greer, the 2013 NCAA champion in the 50 free and 100 free, went a perfect 11-of-11 in events in November while owning the 6th fastest time in the country this year in the 50 free (21.78). Brandon highlighted her second year of collegiate swimming by shattering her own school record in the 200 back with a time of 1:50:70. The Arizona women’s diving squad will be led by senior Samantha Pickens, who became the first Arizona female diver to win a national title when she won the 1-meter dive at the 2013 NCAA Championships.  

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The 17th-ranked UCLA Bruins started the season on a strong note, winning four-straight meets by more than 80 points. UCLA went 4-4 to finish with an 8-4 overall record that included key wins over Arizona State, Utah and Washington State but ended with three-straight losses to Stanford, Cal and USC. Seniors Ting Quah (freestyle) and Lauren Baker (long-distance free) anchor the Bruin squad in the pool, while senior Paulina Guzman looks to lead a primarily young diving squad.

UTAH’s squad compiled an 8-3 dual record this season, including a second-place finish in the highly competitive Mizzou Invitational, where three Utah swimmers broke school records. The Utes will seek revenge against fellow Pac-12 teams, as Utah’s only three dual losses came to Conference foes Arizona, USC and UCLA. Utah will rely on its experienced senior squad, including Traycie Swartz and Sami Zuch, who own school records (Swartz in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 back, Zuch in the 1650 free).  

ARIZONA STATE’s women’s squad wrapped up the dual season with a 3-5 record, notching victories in the pool over UNLV, Denver and Oregon State. Arizona State senior Tristin Baxter, a standout distance and fly swimmer, paced the team with multiple first-place finishes throughout the season, and will look to improve upon her second-place finish in last year’s 1650 free at the Pac-12 Championships. Other key performers for ASU include freestyle swimmer Jaclyn Chavez and breaststroke swimmer Tory Houston. In the diving well, juniors Hailey Casper and Sydney Czaus will represent the Devils. Casper placed ninth in the Pac-12 Championships last season.

OREGON STATE went 3-12 in dual play, with their only victories coming against non-conference opponents San Diego, Seattle and Northern Arizona. Oregon State’s team losses came despite outstanding individual performances, particularly from sophomore standout Sammy Harrison, who recorded at least one first-place finish and multiple top-three finishes in all of her 10 meets, including a victory in the 500 free against No. 1 California. Senior Crystal Kibby, a breaststroke specialist for the Beavers, also finished in the top-three in all of her appearances with multiple first-place finishes throughout the season. 

WASHINGTON STATE ended the dual season with a 3-6 record and look to bounce back from a tough Pac-12 season at the Championships. WSU’s lone Conference dual victory came against Oregon State, and the team only scored 100 or more points in four dual meets this season. Key swimmers for the Cougars include senior Emma Johansson, a standout butterfly swimmer, and junior Nicole Proulx, a freestyle specialist.

PAC-12 MEN’S DIVING CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

The men’s diving competition is set to feature some of the top talent in the nation. STANFORD standout and Olympic medalist Kristian Ipsen, another top returner in the Pac-12, will try and defend his 1-meter and 3-meter championships from last year’s event. ARIZONA sophomore Rafael Quintero, a two-time Pac-12 Men’s Diver of the Month selection and the reigning Newcomer of the Year, looks to reclaim the platform title after winning the Conference competition last season. The rest of the field has plenty of talent to challenge the reigning champions, including ARIZONA STATE’s Riley McCormick, who returned to the collegiate scene after competing in the 2012 Olympics, and USC’s Collin Pollard, who placed first in the platform and 3-meter earlier this year at the competitive Bruin Diving Invitational. Other notable talent includes UTAH’s Jacob Crayne, the 1-meter winner at the Bruin Diving Invitational who placed second in the platform and 3-meter behind Pollard; Lester Wright of UC Santa Barbara, who finished in the top three of all events at the same invite; and Wildcat Carter Craft, a junior who won the 1-meter at the Wildcat Diving Invitational over teammate Quintero. CALIFORNIA divers Tyler Pullen and captain Grayson Hutson face their final chance to compete in Pac-12s after earning top-10 finishes in the Bruin Diving Invitational and the Texas Diving Invitational earlier this year. CAL POLY’s lone diver, freshman Paul Fischetti, looks to represent the Mustangs as one of the youngest in the Pac-12 rosters. 

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