USC women's swimming family mentality helps propel them to 2016 Pac-12 title
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — It was a long time coming but on Saturday night, USC took home their first-ever Pac-12 Women's Swimming and Diving Championship.
“It’s just an awesome experience to be the first team to ever win the Pac-12 Championship for our school,” junior Chelsea Chenault said. “We’ve just be so strong, we’ve been fighting on this whole year, we’ve been really going strong and really just working hard.
We had a good group of positive people that could really get us through and get us this championship and get us this far.”
No school outside of the Bay Area has taken home the title since Arizona won three straight from 2006-08. Since 2008, it’s been all Stanford and Cal. And as competitive as they’ve been the last few years, it never seemed to be the Trojans’ turn.
But all of that changed on Saturday night in Federal Way. And the path to the championship actually started almost a year ago, at the 2015 Men’s Swimming Championship.
“We all watched the men’s team win Pac-12s last year, and that was super exciting for us and [Salo] came back and was like, ‘Isn’t is awesome to see what they just did? Now don’t you want the same?’
[The guys’ team] is like our older brothers. They’ve always got our back.”
Head coach Dave Salo echoed that.
“In large part, our teams work really well together. They really like each other, they function together, they train together, and they just really feed off of each other’s successes.”
That family spirit was apparent in the way the Trojans were able to win the overall meet with a score of 1481 despite winning only three events. Chenault took home the 500 freestyle on Wednesday night, and Elizabeth Stinson won the 1650 free on Saturday evening as individuals. USC also won the 800 freestyle relay on opening night, it’s first relay win since 2010.
After finishing third at the 2015 Pac-12 Championships, the Trojans looked like a very different team this year. Their roster got much younger, adding 13 new freshmen swimmers and 2 freshmen divers, and much bigger.
All those changes just brought them closer together.
“We have a crazy bunch of girls, especially the freshmen” said freshman Kirsten Vose. “We just have so much fun with everything we do. The energy carries us through the races.”
“It’s been really refreshing to pretty much double our team with such youth, and it’s been awesome because they’ve been just carrying us and they’ve been the exciting, upbeat people.
And I know last year we had a very small team, it was a much older team…This year we kind of let the freshmen take a role as leaders…it’s definitely helped out team as far as the positive and the spirit aspect.
They’ve definitely helped carry us to where we are right now.”
And where they are is on top of the Pac-12.