Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and plenty more of the country’s best swimmers made appearances at the biggest swimming party of the year. UCLA swimmers made it, too, and managed to make some noise.
Competing as Team Bruin, 11 UCLA swimmers competed at the 2010 ConocoPhillips National Swimming Championships held from Tuesday to Saturday at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine. Team Bruin put together a ninth-place finish overall, but it was the individual performances that impressed the most.
Seniors Lauren Hall and Brittany Beauchan led the way, much like the pair did during the NCAA year.
Both competed in two C finals – which are contested between the 17th-24th-place finishers in preliminaries – in their specialty events. Hall was 22nd in the 200 individual medley (2:17.35) and 18th in the 400 IM (4:45.14), while Beauchan was 21st in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.26) and 17th in the 200 breast (2:29.47).
Junior Bianca Casciari was the only UCLA swimmer who appeared in a B Final, doing so in the 200 butterfly. Casciari finished 12th overall in a time of 2:12.58.
Three relay teams also managed to garner medals, which are handed out to the top eight teams in relay events. The 4×200 freestyle relay led the way with a second-place finish (8:12.51), while the 4×100 medley team took seventh (4:12.73) and the 4×100 free team took eighth (3:52.33).
Senior Sam Vanden Berge, who swam the second leg for the 4×200 free team, also had two solid individual performances in distance events. She finished ninth in the 800 free (8:42.04) and 18th in the 400 free (4:14.45) after competing in the C final of that event.
Despite it being offseason for NCAA teams, Team Bruin still saw itself looking up to some familiar faces on the scoreboard. The club teams affiliated with Cal, Stanford and USC all finished ahead of UCLA in the overall team rankings. Cal even had a national champion in sophomore Caitlin Leverenz, who took the crown in the 400 IM.
The meet was contested in a long-course meters pool – typical for most top-level events, including the Olympics – as opposed to the short-course yards format used during the NCAA season. A long-course pool is 50 meters long, while a short-course pool spans just 25 yards.
Phelps once again made headlines, but it was Lochte who stole the show by defeating the man who won eight gold medals in Beijing two years ago.
Lochte beat Phelps in the finals of a major meet for the first time ever in the 200 IM Friday. He won by more than a second over the second-place Phelps. On Saturday, Lochte did it again, winning the 200 backstroke, with Phelps finishing fourth. Both swimmers concluded the Championships with three events wins each.
On the women’s side, Amanda Beard, who once trained with Team Bruin under UCLA coach Cyndi Gallagher, surprised everybody with her second-place finish in the 200 breast.
Beard once amazed the country by picking up three medals as a 14-year-old at the 1996 Olympics, but had a dismal showing at the 2008 Olympics. She retired after the 2008 Games and gave birth to her first child in September 2009. Competing for the first time in a major meet since her retirement, Beard, now 28, touched the wall behind only Rebecca Soni. The second-place finish earned her a spot on the U.S. Pan Pacific Championships team.