Author: Damian Mendieta
Undaunted by the cold Aliso Viejo morning, the women’s swim team wasted no time off the blocks, cruising to a second-place finish Nov. 17 at the Orange County Invitational. A mere ten points shy of runner-up Biola University, the men’s team held their own to place fourth despite missing several swimmers. Coming off two months of arduous pre-season conditioning, the Tigers have shifted into high gear with the regular season about to begin Friday (diving) and Saturday (swimming) against Redlands University.
The first race of the day set the tone for the meet, as the women’s team A medley relay took first but also posted the third fastest time in Occidental history. Anchoring the relay, co-captain Lauren Ransom (senior) touched the wall at 1:53.15 to give the women their first points of the meet.
The A team would go on to raise eyebrows throughout the morning. Caroline Chang (junior) clinched a new meet record in the 100-yard breaststroke, Lizzy Kosin (first-year) broke into the Occidental top-ten all-time finishes in the 200-yard butterfly at 2:22.01, and Zoe Namba (first-year) garnered 18 crucial points for the women.
Alexander Najarian (first-year) led the way for a small but mighty men’s roster. His time of 2:01.46 in the 200-yard butterfly was the 8th fastest time in Occidental history. Steven Van Deventer (sophomore) finished third in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke. Matt Connelly (first-year) and co-captain Spencer Whalen (senior) took third and fourth, respectively, in the 1,000-yard freestyle. Of the ten male Tigers in the water at Soka, all but one managed to post double-digit points for a team overall score of 255.
All signs indicate that the men are poised to learn from their pre-season match-ups. Kevin Kuwata (sophomore) referred to the men’s 200-yard individual medley relay as one of the most promising events for the Tigers.”I think as a team we did great, some emotions went through there. We know what we don’t want to happen at SCIACs so it’s a lesson to be learned as we take it into Redlands,” Kuwata said. “I want everyone to have fun, I know last year that people were down with attitudes with not a good taper and all that, but I think it will be a good year for everyone to trust the system.”
The Tigers also host a strong set of distance swimmers to complement the sprinters.
With three male distances swimmers out, Whalen and Connelly held down the fort in the 500-yard and 1,000-yard freestyle.
Rebecca Fernández (first-year) and women’s co-captain Izzy Mayer (senior) tallied up some critical points in the 1,000-yard freestyle, placing fifth and eighth, respectively. “It was a little rough, I don’t think I went out as fast as I should have, but I definitely held a constant pace the entire time, which is always good,” Fernández said. “It’s the beginning of the season, so its just about moving my pace faster.”
Mayer competed in the 500-yard freestyle later in the afternoon, along with Noel Hemphill (sophomore). Coming off a season-ending shoulder injury last year, Hemphill finished seventh.
The Tigers await the beginning of the SCIAC regular season, as Occidental will host the Redlands Bulldogs on Saturday at 11 a.m.
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