CSUEB earned its first trip to the NCAA DII Championships in 2012-13.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that 2012-13 was the best year in the history of the Cal State East Bay swimming team.
In its third year under head coach Ben Loorz — and just its fourth since joining NCAA Division II — the Pioneers set 16 school records and sent four student-athletes to the NCAA national swim championship meet.
The team won eight of its meets during the past season, and finished as the top NCAA Division II squad at the UNLV Invitational in Las Vegas. The Pioneers had high expectations heading into the Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference (PCSC) Championships in February, but few could have predicted the performance they would turn in.
Over the course of four days at the Splash! Aquatic Center in Southern California, CSUEB shattered nearly every record on the books. It took second place overall, the best finish in program history, while nine Pioneer swimmers earned all-conference honors.
Senior Jenel Lopez set Pioneer records in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle. Sophomore Alyssa Tenney established new highs in the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as the 200 and 400 individual medley. Junior Rachel Knowles broke records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, while junior Caitlin DeNise and sophomore Brittany Rojo set new school records in the 100 butterfly and 200 butterfly, respectively. In addition, five CSUEB relay teams established program bests in the 200, 400, and 800 freestyle relays and 200 and 400 medley relays. All told, four swimmers — Lopez, DeNise, Rojo, and Erica Crain — qualified to compete in eight events at the Division II national championship meet.
Three weeks later, the Pioneers traveled to Birmingham, Ala. for the Division I nationals and once again achieved success. The 200 freestyle relay team swam in the finals and placed eighth in the nation, earning first-team All-America accolades for Crain, DeNise, Lopez, and Rojo. CSUEB also captured honorable mention All-America honors for a 12th place finish in the 800 freestyle relay and a 10th place finish in the 400 freestyle relay in which they set another school record.
Individually, DeNise took 12th place in the 100 butterfly, and Lopez placed 13th in the nation in the 200 freestyle. Based on total points, the Pioneers finished the season ranked 21st in the nation.
Lopez, a native of Los Angeles, finished her career as probably the greatest sprinter in Pioneer history and was a key figure in the team's recent rise nationally. At the 2013 CSUEB Student-Athlete Awards Banquet, Lopez was named Cal State East Bay's Female Athlete of the Year, winning the award for the second year in a row.
The Pioneers also had a standout year academically. Knowles earned Academic All-PCSC honors for competing in a championship meet and maintaining at least a 3.5 grade point average (GPA). Tenney, Hannah Cutts, and Karly Wasung were honorable mention Academic All-Americans for posting a 3.5 GPA. Collectively, the Pioneers earned Academic Team All-America honors thanks to a 3.28 team GPA in the fall quarter and a 3.05 in the winter.
The Cal State East Bay team will lose three senior All-Americans next season as Loorz's squad has improved every year he's been the head coach, so hopes and expectations remain high heading into the 2013-14 season.