22 Lopesswimmers post national qualifying times before cancellation
By: Julie Laugel/GCU Staff
The Grand Canyon University Club Swimming team was one of many GCU teams to have an unexpected end to their 2019-20 season.
The team competed in six meets throughout the season to rack up qualifying times for nationals. GCU had 22 swimmers qualify in 76 different events for the 2020 Collegiate Club Swim and Dive Nationals, which was scheduled to take place in Greensboro, North Carolina beginning April 10.
“It was another year to learn about ourselves and how much we can endure,” said GCU Club Swimming Head Coach Jeremy Phung. “Every year, we become stronger as individuals and as a whole team overall.”
The Lopes traveled to invitational meets at the University of California – Los Angeles, University of California – San Diego, Northern Arizona University and Arizona Christian University, but perhaps their most successful meet was the Canyon Classic at GCU’s Diamondback Pool, which proved to be their last meet of the season in early March. Besides seeing five new swimmers and 33 new events qualify for nationals, the Lopes broke eight GCU program records.
“We were really struggling after the UCLA Winter Invitational (in late February) because there were a few people who had not made qualifying times,” said Phung. “At the Canyon Classic, we aimed to have fun, and it felt like every event that we swam had somebody qualifying for nationals.”
The Lopes nominated four students to help lead the team throughout their season.
“We had so many people step up to the plate and show great strides in student leadership this year,” said Phung. “These leaders are phenomenal at encouraging the team and leading them towards the right direction and good culture leading into next season.”
Among the four student leaders is freshman Brooks Birkinbine, who qualified in four different events for nationals, including the 100 and 200 Freestyle, and 100 and 200 Breaststroke.
“He was voted by his peers to be a student leader this next season – the only freshman of our four-person student leadership team,” said Phung. “He definitely came into this season and shocked me with his poise and behavior towards the program.”
Although devastated that they won’t be able to compete against the best at nationals, the Lopes will use that as fuel for next season.
“Through not having a pool or competing at all in the first semester, to hosting our very first meet, to now having nationals canceled, our team has stuck through adversity and continued through it,” said Phung. “I cannot wait to see how well this team is going to perform at nationals next year.”
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