Casey Colella practices his butterfly stroke at Sunday practice. Photo by Dylan Foster.
Casey Colella practices his butterfly stroke at Sunday practice. Photo by Dylan Foster.

UC Santa Cruz’s swimming and diving team has its sights set on victory this week at the Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference (PCSC) Regionals. The event, held this Wednesday through Saturday at East Los Angeles Community College, makes up the four most important days of the entire six month season for the 52 men and women competing.

“It all comes down to conference,” sophomore Kelley Henderson said.

PCSC includes institutions from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and all three divisions of the NCAA. The schools gather to compete for the PCSC championship and a chance at qualifying for their respective national championships.

The conference championship meet is where the coaches and swimmers focus all of their attention. In the peak of its season, the team practices nine to 11 times per week with practices as early as 6 a.m., which makes for about 20 hours a week in the water preparing for this week’s tournament.

“For the season, we try to get our athletes in a perpetual state of fatigue so that they never quite recover,” said head coach Kim Musch. “We ask them to swim that way in meets, so they are tired and they have to find a way to be faster. Then at the end of the season when we rest them, we look for super compensation, where we finally let them get recovered.”

This recovery — referred to as “tapering” — combines a reduction in accumulated fatigue by decreasing the intensity of the workout and providing athletes with more than adequate rest time so athletes can perform at their highest intensity during a race. It is a tapering off of intensity and an increase in recovery.

For about three weeks, the coaches have been decreasing the intensity and the distance their athletes swim at practice. This helps the swimmers focus and specialize on the specific events they will be competing in.

“Throughout the whole year you get killed with yardage, it’s a struggle to walk up any stairs,” said junior transfer Salvador Anguiano. “But now [with tapering], you   a lot of energy, but you can’t spend all that energy doing anything extraneous.”

This has been an adjustment for Anguiano, who sacrificed some personal hobbies in preparation for regionals.

“For me, I love surfing and I have to put that aside for about three weeks. I can’t run, workout or do anything outside of practice. It has been difficult for me but I know it’s going to pay off,” Anguiano said.

Other swimmers have been preparing and sacrificing in other ways. For sophomore Casey Colella, it means eating healthier and cutting out “land” workouts. Freshman Ryan Springer-Carter stopped shaving mid-November to shed some valuable time off her events.

“Our overall goal, ideally, is to have each individual athlete swim their lifetime best time in every race they swim. That’s a pretty lofty goal, but that’s what taper does, it puts our athletes in the best position to perform their best at this last meet,” said assistant coach Matt Nauman. “Some people are shooting for team records while others are aiming toward the NCAA meet.”

The team has two athletes with a strong chance of making nationals and many more on the hunt to make B cuts. Swimmers who make A cuts earn an automatic place in the NCAA meet, while the B cuts are invited depending on the ranking of their qualifying time.

The male swimmer most likely to qualify for the NCAA meet is Colella, who competes in the breaststroke and individual medley. In his freshman year, he made the B cut but was not selected for the national meet.

“We think Casey Colella has a very strong chance of qualifying for the NCAA meet,” Nauman said. “He didn’t quite sneak in last year, but we are hoping that this year he will be a little bit quicker and maybe get an A cut. Fingers crossed.”

On the women’s side, freshman Ryan Springer-Carter is hoping for NCAA qualification. She will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly. Springer-Carter is looking to break UCSC’s records in the 50 and 100 freestyle and is feeling the pressure of regionals.

“I am really nervous, I am trying to put a lot of pressure on myself to go fast,” Springer-Carter said. “I am really close to some of the school records in the 50 and 100 free, so I need to do my absolute best.”