According to UC Davis women’s swimming and diving coach Barbara Jahn, the Aggies aren’t the favorites heading into the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship.
With her humble statement, one could be forgiven for overlooking UCD’s dual meet record this year: a perfect 9-0.
Add that to the fact that the Aggies have won two of the last three MPSF titles, and one starts to wonder if Jahn is playing coy.
“I’ve never really kept track of my win/loss records,” Jahn told The Enterprise on Monday. “It’s a boost of confidence, but the media is more in tune to the win/loss record than swimmers are.”
The conference championships, which for the swimmers run next Wednesday through Saturday at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, while the divers are at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena Feb. 20-22, will pit some of the top collegiate pool mavens from powerhouses such as Brigham Young University, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Hawaii against each other.
Some of these athletes will earn chances to compete in the NCAA Championships March 20-22 in Minneapolis, Minn. This self-proclaimed scrappy Aggie squad is likely to send two athletes to nationals: senior breaststroker Liliana Alvarez and freshman butterfly specialist Hilvy Cheung.
For Alvarez, this would be nothing new as the Spanish major has qualified for the NCAAs finals in each of the past three seasons, though she was forced to miss last year’s competition with a ruptured ear drum.
While Alvarez is the experienced veteran who has been expected to perform well, Cheung has been somewhat of a revelation in the butterfly while also swimming well in the backstroke.
“You always have a few standouts,” said Jahn, who is in her 39th year at the UCD helm. “But this year we’re really going to need everyone to pull their weight and contribute as much as (they) can. With the exception of a few people, we don’t have a person who’s going to take first in every event. We have a lot of people who’re going to take second, third, fourth. We have workers.”
Jahn likes to call these workers — who may not be the most talented swimmers, but are just as important to the results of the team — “aircraft carriers” because they’re dependable.
She lists senior freestylers Hailey Porter and Sabrina Cochrane among these aircraft carriers who could help the Aggies take home a second consecutive MPSF championship.
When talking about what is going to make this blue-collar team successful next week, Jahn cites what she has been stressing in practice all year: the little things.
“It’s the little things that are going to make the difference,” Jahn explained. “For the freestylers, things like their start and how they come off the wall (are important). Are they tight and below all the resistance in the water or are they popping up and trying to swim fast on the surface?
“(We need to) take advantage of the things that we’re better at doing.”
Some of those things Jahn thinks her UCD squad excels at are working hard and staying strong over multiple days of a competition.
“This is just a really hard-working team,” Jahn said. “And I think all that hard work is going to pay off. We’ll just take it one day at a time. Every day is different. (We) start OK but then we get better each day. Some teams, their last day isn’t their strongest day.
“But we seem to rise to the occasion.”
Notes: Alvarez has won the 200 breaststroke in five consecutive dual meets, dating back to UCD’s victory over Fresno State on Jan. 11. … Jahn is assisted by former UCD men’s swimming coach Pete Motekaitis and diving coach Phil Tonne. … Jahn also mentioned freshman Alice Roberts as an Aggie standout, but cautioned observers from expecting too much from her young swimmers in their first go-around.
— Reach Evan Ream at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanReam