By Patricia Sanchez
It was either sink or swim at the Pacific Conference Swimming Championships (PCSC) in Long Beach, and the Slugs came out swimming.
The team set a school record with 1652 points, and the men’s side became the first Division III team to win gold in the 800-meter relay.
“[The team had] 170 points the year before I got here,” Coach Kim Musch said, putting this year’s performance in perspective. “I’ve seen the girls team earn about three times as many points since I started.”
The team broke eight school records at the meet, and the relay team, along with three other Slugs, received automatic berths to the NCAA national championships next month in Houston.
The relay team of Kenton Drake, Troy Marcikic, Ben Ferguson, and Jamie Johnson finished with a time of 6:47, helping Drake earn “swimmer of the meet” honors.
“I thought I’d have to work a lot longer,” Drake said, referring to the fact that he joined the team late in the season because he had been playing on the water polo team. Drake will be competing in the 100 and 200-meter breaststoke and the 400 Individual Medley. Although the star swimmer said that he is confident going into the NCAA competition, he is not sure that he will be able to increase his level of performance.
“I’m not sure how much better I’m going to do the second time around,” Drake said. “We’re going to rest again and from what I’ve heard it’s never as good—you don’t get back to your peak.”
On the women’s side, Erin Hunter placed into nationals in three categories. Hunter is returning to nationals this year after making the “A cuts” in the 200 and 400 IM and the 200 breast stroke.
“This year I feel like I’m more prepared mentally,” Hunter said. “It’s about not letting people get to you and believing in yourself.”
Diver Adam Guttierez also received an automatic “A-cut” berth in the tournament, and the rest of the team had a chance Saturday to make it through the “B-cuts.” The best of the “B-cuts” will be invited by the NCAA. Those invitations have yet to be sent out.
“The waiting killsÂ­—you want to be excited but at the same time you aren’t sure you get to go,” fourth-year swimmer Dana Morton, who is hoping to make it in the 50 free, said.
The accolades the team has been racking up have not all gone to the swimmers. Head coach Kim Musch also took home an award as he was voted Division III coach of the year.
“I oversee the whole team and give it direction, but I wouldn’t be able to get coach of the year without the [assistant coaches],” Musch said. Musch has been with the team since fall of 1998 and has seen it undergo a transformation that’s led to remarkable accomplishments.
Junior and team captain Jason Martin, who’s been with the team since his freshman year, said that the size and unity of the team has had a great impact on this year’s performance. Although team members swim alone, the team works together toward achieving the same goals.
“This year we’re a lot closer,” Martin said. “We’ve bonded a ton more and I think that’s helped a lot.”