Photo by Ali Enright.

The UC Santa Cruz swim and dive team invited California State University Bakersfield and Fresno Pacific University to campus on Jan. 23, as it hosted its final dual meet of the season. Swimmers and spectators filled the stands for Saturday morning’s match as UCSC fell short of the victory.

While the Slugs lost the men’s and women’s team competitions, the larger success of the meet was the team demonstrating its ability to compete with some of the best collegiate athletes in the state — UCSC was the lone Division III school present. CSUB was a Division I top 20 team and FPU ranked in the top five of Division II athletics last season.

Still, Santa Cruz received solid contributions throughout the 32 events that day. Sophomore Wesley Whittlesey and junior Ivan Garin finished fourth in the men’s 400-yard medley race with a time of 3:41.26. Senior Cameron Braun placed third in the men’s 50-yard freestyle, recording a time of 21.85 and freshman Kiara Calayag logged third in the women’s 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:01.70.

“[Santa Cruz] has always had really good swimmers,” said CSUB head coach Chris Hansen. “They are very enthusiastic and have a lot of energy. I’ve known [UCSC’s swim and dive head coach] Kim [Musch] for years, so it’s tough to compete against him.”

Saturday’s competition not only served as a measure of the team’s progression throughout the season but as an indicator of where the team stands before next month’s conference championship. This provided a final opportunity for swimmers to experiment with different event styles.

“Every time we swim against a Division I or II school, it is going to be a challenge,” Musch said. “We want to get everything together physically, mentally and psychology as we focus on next month’s conference championships.”

This was the last home meet of the season, and the last competition on campus for the 14 seniors on the 71-person roster. The Slugs are expecting to lose key performers like Braun, Becky Barall and Salvador Anguiano for next year’s season.

As their time on the team comes to an end, the seniors are thankful for the experiences throughout the year, reiterating how important coach Musch has been.

“[Musch] is an amazing coach, friend and teammate. He has shaped us all in such a positive way,” Braun said. “There is no way to really thank him, but we all are very grateful for what he sacrifices for this team.”

With the season nearing an end, the team shifts its focus to the Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference Championship next month. The competition will be held at East Los Angeles Community College in Monterey Park, California, where the Slugs hope to clinch the title.

“We have not had this strong of a team in my four years here,” Braun said. “This team is like a family, we may fight and argue but we will always be there for one another.”