Teams to compete at Pac-12 women's swimming and men's and women's diving Championships
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 2016 Pac-12 Women’s Swimming Championships will again showcase several NCAA standouts and Olympians from all over the world. As of Feb. 16, five teams were ranked in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Top-25 poll, including four in the top 15 and two in the top five.
STANFORD, the nation’s top-ranked team and and winner of 19 Conference titles overall, finished the dual season with an unblemished 8-0 dual-meet record for the first time in two seasons. The Cardinal produced dual victories over every Pac-12 opponent and now eyes its first Conference title since 2013. The Cardinal finished as the NCAA Championship runner up two years ago and return All-Americans and welcome some new talent into the mix. Stanford returns three swimmers from its NCAA Champion 400 free relay quartet from last year, including 2012 Olympic bronze-medal winning and current 100 free national leader Lia Neal. Freshman Ella Eastin has come in and made an immediate impact for the Cardinal, holding the nation’s top time in the 400 IM (4:01.04) and the second-fastest times in the country in the 200 IM (1:54.53) and 200 fly (1:53.34).
CALIFORNIA, the reigning NCAA and Pac-12 champion and the nation’s No. 6-ranked team, is aiming for its fifth Pac-12 team Championship. The Bears have been a force in collegiate swimming over the past seven years, winning four NCAA team titles in that span, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. Cal finished its regular season slate going 6-2 in dual competition, falling only to USC and Stanford. The Golden Bears are led by six-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year Teri McKeever who has produced 11 Pac-12 Swimmers of the Year. California is led by national renowned seniors Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton, who hold top-10 times in the 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke, respectively. Also making an impact this season is freshman Kathleen Baker, who holds the third-ranked 200 IM time in the country (1:54.56). Baker, the Pac-12 January Swimmer of the Month, won 10 individual events in the month of January.
No. 4 USC closed out the year with a win over rival No. 19 UCLA, marking the ninth-straight win over the Bruins. The Trojans will rely on key swimmers in junior Chelsea Chenault, who placed second in last year’s Championship in the 500 free and third in the 200 free. Chenault ranks 12th nationally in the 200 freestyle, with a time of 1:55.58. Freshman Kirsten Vose was the Pac-12 December Swimmer of the Month, who set pool records against UCLA in the 200 free and 200 breast. Freshman transfer Anika Apostalon ranks 11th in the country in the 100 freestyle (48.11).
No. 14 ARIZONA started the season with the nation’s third-ranked incoming freshman class. Sixteen Wildcats have notched NCAA cuts, with 14 women securing cuts in multiple events. Freshman Annie Ochitwa holds three top-10 times in the country, paced by her 100 freestyle which ranks second in the nation. Senior Emma Schoettmer has six season wins in the 100 breaststroke and is tied for the fastest 100 breastroke on the team. Schoettmer also holds the fifth-fastest 100 butterfly time (51.35) in the country to date. The Wildcats have four relays ranking in the top-10 nationally, with their 800 freestyle relay ranking as high as eighth (7:01.50).
The UCLA Bruins finished fifth at Championships last season and this year enter Pac-12’s as the nation’s 19th-ranked team. The Bruins finished the year on a three-meet losing streak, to top ranked Conference teams in Stanford, Cal and USC. In the pool, UCLA is led by junior Linnea Mack, the only Bruin to qualify for three events at NCAA’s (50 free, 100 free, 100 back). On the diving side, Maria Polyakova takes the lead after earning honors as November and December’s Pac-12 Diver of the Month. A member of the Russian National Team, Polyakova took gold on the 1-meter at the 2015 inaugural European Games.
ARIZONA STATE’s under the helm of first year head coach Bob Bowman, the Sun Devils collected two wins in dual season. The Sun Devils are led by swimmer Katarina Simonovic, who has collected two 200-yard freestyle victories as well as a win in each of the 200- and 800-yard freestyle relays. On the diving side, Mara Aiacoboae is the Sun Devil standout. Aiacoboae was named the Conference’s January Diver of the Month and has collected four 3-meter and six 1-meter individual event wins, as well as one victory on platform. She will participate in the FINA Diving World Cup in hopes for berth to the 2016 Olympic Games.
OREGON STATE collected two wins in dual action this year, topping in-state competition on senior night. Senior standout Sammy Harrison broke the OSU record for 1,000-yard freestyle victories in a career this season and finished off the regular season with a victory in the 1,000 free and a part of the winning 400 freestyle relay. Harrison and Czsarina Isleta both represented the Beavers at U.S. Winter Nationals. Isleta holds the No. 6 times in school history in the 100 breast (1:03.02) and 200 breast (2:16.29).
WASHINGTON STATE under Pac-12 All-Century Team member head coach Tom Jager, the Cougars have strung together back-to-back years of dual meet winning records and now searches for its first individual or team Conference title. WSU went 8-3 this year in dual competition after finishing the regular season with a comeback win over Utah. Junior Addisynn Bursch has notched 11 individual wins, including four victories in the 200-yard IM and four in the 200 free.
UTAH comes into Championships finishing sixth the past two years and looks to better their placing. The Utes totaled a 4-9 dual-meet record this season, with help from breaststroke specialist Genevieve Robertson. Robertson has six victories at the 200-yard distance and two victories at 100 yards. Utah’s Amanda Casillas has five 1-meter victories and four 3-meter victories. At the Art Adamson Invitational, senior Ashlyn Karosas qualified for the Canadian Olympic Trials in the 200 IM (2:22.13).
PAC-12 MEN'S DIVING PREVIEW
The men’s diving competition is set to feature some of the top talent in the nation once again. ARIZONA senior Rafael Quintero, will look for a win after placing in the top three in all three diving categories at the last two championships. Quintero has also earned two Pac-12 Diver of the Month accolades during the 2015-16 season. Bradley Christensen of STANFORD earned a runner-up finish in the 3-meter while taking fifth place in the 1-meter in 2015. USC’s Collin Pollard was also a Pac-12 Diver of the Month on the year. He earned top-5 finishes in each of the three diving events at the 2015 Championships, including third place in the platform. UTAH’s duo of Jacob Crayne and Josiah Purss are currently second and third in the Pac-12 in the one-meter event.