Author: Donovan Dennis
Occidental’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have a new coaching staff, led by interim Head Coach Tom Iannone and assisted by Juliet Suess ’14. Iannone, formerly an assistant coach for the Tigers, was named interim head coach following the sudden departure of Shea Manning several weeks before the start of the season.
“It was a surprising development, but because I was an assistant, I felt prepared,” Iannone said. “It wasn’t completely overwhelming. To the athlete’s credit, they have done a fantastic job accepting the change and thriving with this sudden and unexpected transition.”
Iannone, though new to the Occidental helm, has over two decades of coaching experience at the high school, club and collegiate levels. He is also currently the head coach at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena. Suess, the new assistant coach for the Tigers, graduated from Occidental in 2014 following four years as a member of the women’s swim team.
“I think Tom has been doing an excellent job,” Cody Hamane (sophomore) said. “He’s handling things well, and the most important thing is that the team likes and respects him.”
Describing his goals for the team, Iannone is quick to emphasize that his first priority is an uplifiting athletic career for his swimmers.
“I want student-athletes to have a positive experience,” he said. “I want to train hard and learn what it means to apply it to their lives beyond Oxy.”
Zoe Namba (senior) has noticed the changes and noted the improvement to the team dynamic he has facilitated.
“I think he’s successfully assumed the responsibilities that come with being a head coach and the director of the aquatics programs,” Namba said. “For most of us swimmers, the transition was very smooth, as we were all very familiar and comfortable with Tom. He’s an excellent coach and mentor, and I look forward to seeing him on deck every day.”
So far, his approach has seen success, both in and out of the pool. At the first meet of the season, the Tiger men stomped La Verne with a 143-87 victory. Benjamin Sappey (first-year), Hamane and Elliot Davis (first-year) took home victories in the 200 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 200 butterfly, respectively.
The women faced a tough opponent in La Verne, falling 160-119 in the same meet. Elli O’Brien (junior), Maddie Gilman (sophomore) and Mady Kaczmarowski (junior) notched up several victories for the Tigers in the 100 breaststroke, 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
The Soka Invitational Saturday proved equally impressive for the young Tiger squad, with third and fourth place finishes against tough NCAA Division II and NAIA competition. Lizzy Kosin (senior) found an in-season best finish in the 200 freestyle early in the day, followed by another best from David Avery (junior).
The men’s team was aided by top swims from Hamane, Will Westwater (senior) and Chase Mitchell (sophomore) in the breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke events. They later combined with Austin Lashley (sophomore) for a second place finish in the 400 freestyle relay, leading to a third place finish for the team.
On the women’s side, stiff competition from Azusa Pacific, Biola and Concordia University Irvine held the Tigers to 185 points for fourth overall. Lianne McKinney (sophomore) and O’Brien tallied points in the 100 Butterfly and 200 individual medley, respectively.
“We have been very proud of our successes so far and I know everyone is working so hard in practice,” Kosin said. “Everyone has been so supportive of each other in and out of the water which has created a great team dynamic. With only two meets down I cannot wait for the rest of the season to see my teammates continue to improve.”
The Tigers next compete against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Claremont on Jan. 9.
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