The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

The day College of San Mateo swimmer Alvaro Andaluz has been waiting for is finally here.

The Coast Conference championships are set to begin Thursday at West Valley College. And while the season has proven true in its ups and downs, giving Andaluz and his fellow Bulldogs more than enough competition, CSM head coach Randy Wright said this is the time for which his swimmers have been waiting.

Andaluz, a breast stoker, enters the championships as one of the favorites in his discipline. He’s ranked fourth in the 100-meter breast and second in the 200 — a double medal is not out of the question.

“He swims his best when he has somebody to race,” Wright said. “We didn’t know where a couple of these breaststrokers came from. We haven’t seen them all year. But he is excited that is it race time and there is someone he is going to be in hot pursuit of. He’s definitely one to watch.”

While not as strong as the women’s team — who will look to win another conference title — the men of CSM have their fair share of spotlights. Andaluz is chief among them, having missed all of last season.

The CSM team actually enters the contest up for the first time — that’s thanks in large part of the efforts of Jeremy Rodriguez at the Coast Conference diving championships. His performance in the 1 and 3-meter boards earned CSM 29 points.

“Jeremy did a great job.” Wright said. “He did his job. I don’t know if Jeremy was super excited about this performance, he was a little down and could have done a little better. But at the end of the day, 29 points is probably going to rank in the top third scoring for his team. He realizes he did a great job for the team. And the guys are fired up.”

Wright said the men are strong in most of the strokes this year — a big difference from last season.

Along with Andaluz, Derrick Koo comes in as a favorite in the backstroke. He’s the top ranked backstroker in the 100, second in the 200 and second in the 200 individual medley.

“He’s one of those swimmers, kind of like Kelsey Mercado (on the women’s team), where he’s ranked in that 10 to 14 zone in the state so he’s definitely not a shoe-in for the trip to L.A. (and the state championships). So, he’s got to come ready, not just to win races but improve his time so he can qualify for next week’s big dance.”

Also strong and in that range are swimmers Jason Wong and Shawn Doker, who swims the butterfly. Both are expected to make the finals.

Where the men will struggle is in the freestyle. Unlike last year when the Bulldogs had a handful of speedsters, the 2013 version of the CSM men’s team does not. Last year, that handful was consistently under the 50-second mark — even as low as 47 second. This season, not once has CSM cracked the 48-second mark.

“Freestyle will be brutal,” Wright said. “We just don’t have that fast of a team.”