“You’re swimming for four days,” swim team head coach Kim Musch said to his team on Saturday. “A lot of you will swim 12 or 13 races. As soon as you finish one race, you have to put it behind you. You don’t think about how tired you are, you focus on the next one. You don’t need to explain it to everyone if you raced badly. Just one race can make your meet.”
Members of the swim team have been waking in the wee hours of the morning and training for three to five hours a day over the last six months in preparation for the Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Conference.
This weekend’s competition will be the last meet of the season for most of the swim team, unless any of the athletes qualify for the NCAA DIII Swimming Championships, which take place during the last week of March.
Freshman swimmer Jeanette Dove hopes to not only go on to nationals but to also break the school record in the 100 yard backstroke race.
“I’m trying not to let it get to me,” she said. “I’m doing better than ever this season because I’m more relaxed.”
As a senior swimming at the conference for the fourth time, Evan Moore has a different perspective.
“I’ve been there so many times, this time I’m just focusing on myself,” he said.
The practices leading up to this final meet are focused on breathing and becoming comfortable with faster swimming. Assistant coach Isaac Kim is working with a rope device to pull individual swimmers through the water to simulate what it feels like to go that fast, hoping to have the swimmers mimic the speed during their races.
“Physically, they are ready,” Kim said. “Everything is mental from here on out.”
Coach Joe Wilson said pressure will be the team’s biggest foe at the event.
“It is a stressful meet,” he said. “Each person puts a lot on themselves. This is the season’s climax.”
However, at their practice last Saturday, the nerves didn’t show. The swimmers were mostly laughing and joking about when they will finally shave their legs and arms.
“Right now everyone might be feeling like they are a bit nervous, but I think once we get to the meet and the excitement kicks in, I think everyone will swim really well,” said sophomore swimmer Dana Macabales. “Last year, as the meet went on it got easier to swim faster.”
The Slugs are the only DIII public school team at the meet. The rest of the teams at the event are DI and DII schools, as well as private DIII schools.
The UCSC swim team struggles to make ends meet. All participants are required to fundraise. Despite this financial disadvantage, the men finished fifth in the 2010 conference and the women finished sixth, besting many DI and DII teams who have more funding.
Moore said he is proud of the Slugs’ DIII status and that it will be an advantage for the team at the coming meet.
“It’s nice being underdogs — there are not as many expectations,” Moore said. “We’re usually a much happier bunch, and that works out in our benefit.”