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Aggies challenge each other in the pool

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From page B1 | October 16, 2012 | Leave Comment

UCD junior Sabrina Cochrane, one of the team captains, swims in a meet last season. The Aggies open the 2012-13 campaign at the Pacific Invitational on Saturday. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

The 2012-13 edition of the UC Davis women’s swimming team is looking to make a splash against a constantly shifting pool of opponents.

So it’s a good thing that coach Barbara Jahn leads a roster of swimmers who are willing to step up to the challenge — even against each other.

“They look at competition in a positive way,” said Jahn, who has been at the helm of UCD’s squad for four decades. “They think, ‘If I can challenge a teammate to be better, then it’s just to make me better.’ They don’t look at it as a threat. Because of that approach, they’ll be stronger as a team.”

The intra-squad competition is great preparation for the Aggies’ upcoming season, which will see them swim in 12 meets through February. It all begins Saturday (10 a.m.) at the Pacific Invitational.

Jahn said the UCD team has a great deal of top talent, but the elite swimmers are backed by a plethora of individuals who can hold their own.

An Aggie who seems guaranteed to make waves is junior Liliana Alvarez, who garnered national attention when she raced in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2012 Olympic Trials — placing 45th out of 150 swimmers.

She also has been the sole UCD representative at the NCAA Championships each of the past two years.

“She has had a great summer, and I’d expect her to qualify (for the Division I championship) again,” Jahn said. “Her goal is to get others to qualify as well, so she’s not the only one going to nationals from UC Davis.”

The veteran Aggie swimmers, who are working hard to qualify for The Big Dance, will be joined by three transfers and four freshmen, who will fill out the 30-person roster.

“We’re all together at least 20 hours a week, plus a lot of us live together,” said Aggie senior Morgan Lee, who is a team captain. “It’s important that we’re all getting along and helping each other in the weight room and practice. It just brings us together.”

Junior Sabrina Cochrane said the UCD squad’s synergy and devotion to staying fit will have opponents struggling to keep pace once the season is in full swing.

“All of us are really excited about it,” said Cochrane, another Aggie captain. “This year, our dual-meet racing is going to be fast.”

Cochrane added that the local women will accept no less than being at the top of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UCD finished third last season, behind BYU and runner-up UC Santa Barbara.

New to the conference this season are the University of Hawaii and San Diego State. Jahn said having to go head-to-head with these squads poses an interesting challenge for UCD, but not one that is unfamiliar.

“The dynamic of the conference has changed every year for the past three years,” Jahn said. “Once we see more results from conference pools we’ll have a better idea of what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are.”

When the Aggies are at their own Schaal Aquatics Center, Jahn expressed a desire to see fans cheering the UCD squad on, saying it makes a difference.

“People see their heads in the water and think they can’t hear, but they do,” Jahn said. “They’re definitely aware of people in the stands … It helps immensely.”

Notes: After Saturday’s tournament in Stockton, the Aggies host San Jose State on Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. … Alvarez was joined at the trials by former Aggie men’s swimmer Scott Weltz. He also swam the breaststroke, taking fourth in the 100 meters and winning the 200 meters. That put him on Team USA for the London Olympics, where he took fifth. Weltz is coach by former UCD men’s coach Pete Motekaitis; each has each worked as an assistant coach for the Aggie women.

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052.

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