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Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table

Coaches, Athletes, Athletic Round Table Salute Retiring UCSB Swim Coach Gregg Wilson

Retiring UCSB swim coach Gregg Wilson is joined by team members Mason Tittle, left, and Julia Mikota.
Retiring UCSB swim coach Gregg Wilson is joined by team members Mason Tittle, left, and Julia Mikota. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

UC Santa Barbara swim coach Gregg Wilson has been coming to the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table’s press luncheons almost as long as it’s been hosting them.

When Wilson stepped to the podium on Monday, he announced it was his last time speaking as as head coach of the Gauchos.

“It’s been a good run. It’s been 40 years I’ve been coming to these programs,” he said.

Wilson is retiring after 40 years at the helm of the Gaucho swim program.

The Round Table has been staging the press luncheons for 46 years.

San Marcos aquatics coach Chuckie Roth swam for Wilson at UCSB and remembered when the coach brought him to the luncheon.

“I still have my newspaper clipping,” he said. “You were really proud of me because I swam well.”

Roth then expressed his appreciation for his college coach.

“Gregg, you’ve been a great mentor to a lot of us, and I’m one of thousands of lucky people that I get to call alumni of the swimming community at UCSB. You did a lot for me… you did a lot for us. You had so much patience but you helped us become better people. That’s the No. 1 credit I can give you, helping me become who I am today. I know darn well from my best friend, (Olympic gold medalist) Jason Lezak, that he wouldn’t be where he is today if he didn’t have a mentor such as yourself.  You’re always with me. I appreciate you.”

Westmont men's basketball coach John Moore called Wilson "the John Wooden of our community." He then got the luncheon crowd to give Wilson a standing ovation.

Wilson introduced two of up-and-coming swimmings, junior Julia Mikota and freshman Mason Tittle. Mikota is the Gauchos' highest ranking returning sprinter for next year. “She’s progressed marvelously in three years,” he said.

He noted that Tittle is in the running for MPSF Freshman of the Year honors.

Wilson said he’s “known Tittle before he was born. I went to his parents’ wedding. His father swam for me. His grandfather was the meet official when I swam age group.”

“No way,” shouted Roth.

BASEBALL

UCSB: Former Gaucho standout Chris Valaika gave the team report. He is one of the program’s all-time great players. He was drafted in the third round by the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 and made his major league debut with the Reds in 2010. He also had stints with the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs.

“I was fortunate to come here 13 years ago as a player and now I’ve come back as an assistant coach,” he said

The Gauchos are coming off winning the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego.

“It was a great tournament for us, facing nationally ranked teams,” Valaika said. “It was really great to get our name out there and it puts on the map again.”

UCSB has a big week of games against Pac-12 opponents, playing host to No. 15 UCLA on Tuesday at 2 p.m. and traveling to No. 12 Oregon over the weekend.

“Hopefully we an take some games and get oursevles on the map again and get ranked,” said Valaika.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

UCSB: The Gauchos play their final regular season games at home this week against UC Riverside on Thursday and Cal Poly on Saturday afternoon.

UCSB is on a six-game winning streak.

“We hope to carry momentum into next week’s Big West Tournament,” said assistant coach Brandon Veltri.

Westmont Women: Assistant coach Selena English said the Warriors accomplished two goals during the regular season, winning the GSAC regular season title and going undefeated at home.

The Warriors now look to complete three more goals in the postseason: win the GSAC Tournament, make the final four at the NAIA National Tournament for the third time in four years and bring home the national championship

English pointed out that Westmont ranks in the top 10 in four major team statistical categories: No. 1 in 3-point shooting percentage, No. 3 in scoring defense, No. 6 in total rebounds and No. 8 in field goal percentage.

The Warriors open the GSAC Tournament on Saturday at Hope International against the winner of the Biola-Hope game.

Westmont Men: The Warriors begin the GSAC Tournament on Friday against Arizona Christian.

“We feel like it’s all or nothing for us now,” Westmont coach John Moore said. “We have to win the tournament to get back to the nationals.”

COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL

UCSB: The Gauchos face a big week with back-to-back matches with UCLA. The Bruins come to Rob Gym on Friday night.

UCSB is in fifth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation at 9-5. UCLA is in fourth.

COLLEGE WATER POLO

UCSB: Coach Serela Kay said of the 17 games the Gauchos (9-8) have played, nine have been decided by one goal and five have gone into overtime.

“The positive news is we’re in the mix and we’re preparing ourselves to win the Big West Championship, which we host at end of April,” said Kay.

SWIMMING

SBCC Women: Roth said he has 17 swimmers but only two returners.

“We have a lot of new faces,” he said. “We have great individuals that will help.”

Charissa Dorn and Addison Seale are leaders in and out of the water for the Vaqueros. Seale was an All-American in water polo and Roth is expecting her to earn All-American honors in swimming too.

“Both girls have great work ethic. I’m excited about the season,” he said.

San Marcos Girls: The Royals return All-American, Channel League champion and UC Davis-bound Olivia Smith and league multi-finalist Maddie Kriz.

“Both are 4.0 students in the classroom and make good choices in and out of the water,” said Roth.

Roth has set up some competitive meets for the Royals. They swim against Glendora the No. 2-ranked team in CIF Division 2 and Foothill, a strong Division 1 program.

San Marcos Boys: Coach Jeff Ashton said he’s optimistic about the season. He has a good mix of club swimmers and water polo players who are committed to sticking it out and swimming their senior year.

Ashton said distance swimmer Taylor Lund and sprint freestyler Jack Corbin are senior leaders on the squad.

Santa Barbara: The Dons host the season-opening Channel League Relays on Friday.

Coach Mark Walsh introduced two of his top swimmers on the girls team, junior Kai McGeoy and senior Kristina Garcia. McGeoy is one of the league’s top swimmers in the 500 freestyle while Garcia, a Cal commit in water polo, is a standout in the 50 free and 100 backstroke.

From the boys team, Blake Spiller is one of the few senior water polo players who decided to swim. “He stuck it out,” Walsh said. “He’s a great captain. He always does the right thing. I’m lucky to have him.”

Sophomore Evan Blix is back after making CIF on a relay team last season. “He’s already swimming faster than he did last year,” said Walsh.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Santa Barbara High: Coach Andrew Butcher introduced star player and University of Washington-bound Amber Melgoza and heir apparent Cassandra Gordon.

Playing in the elite 16-team Open Division of the CIF playoffs, Melgoza scored 30 points in a defeat against No. 3 seed Chaminade, 31 in a win over No. 6 Mater Dei and 27 in a two-point loss to fourth-seed Vista Murrieta.

Butcher said the game against Chaminade was “one of the best games of her career.” She outscored and outrebounded Duke-bound Leaonna Odom in the game and even got a high-five from Odom after she pump-faked Odom and scored.

Gordon is a sophomore and “is just starting to figure out basketball,” Butcher said.  “She’ll be in Amber’s role next year and I’m sure she’ll break every record Amber has. I’m predicting that. She’s an outstanding athlete that will fill that role well.”

After being ousted from the Open Division, the Dons wait for their draw in the CIF State Regionals. The draw will be released Sunday and the tournament starts a week from Wednesday.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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