After spending the entire season at No. 1 in the polls, going 8-0 in dual meets and reclaiming the Pac-10 title, the women’s swimming and diving team had only the NCAA championship meet in March left to cap another stellar season. And they came close—third place, behind Auburn and Georgia. “There’s a lot of schools that would be very satisfied with third place,” says head coach Richard Quick. “We’re not satisfied.”
With its last NCAA title won in 1998, this is the longest the team has ever gone without a championship. After finishing second to Georgia last year largely because of a lack of team depth, Quick had had enough; he went out and recruited five divers and 12 swimmers, by far the largest freshman class in team history.
“The energy on the team was amazing because of the freshmen,” says senior Shelly Ripple. “I think I’ve smiled more.”
The upperclassmen did their part, too. Ripple capped an undefeated season in the 200 butterfly with her first NCAA title in the event. Senior Jessica Foschi, the defending NCAA champion in the 500 freestyle, carried a two-year win streak through this season before finishing second in the Pac-10 and NCAA championships. And sophomore Tara Kirk went undefeated in her signature event, the 100 breaststroke, finishing off with an NCAA-record swim at the championships. Kirk then tacked on a win in the 200 breaststroke, setting an American record in the process.
As for the freshmen? Quick’s gambit paid off; of the first-years, six swimmers and two divers qualified for NCAAs. With another six freshmen already committed for next season and a year of experience for the Class of 2005, the team will again be a favorite to contend for the title.
—Jeff Cooper, ’01