Author: Damian Mendieta
After a month of preseason training, the Tigers swim teams finally blasted off the blocks in a multi-team, non-conference meet hosted by the University of Redlands on Saturday. Barely into his second year, Head Coach Shea Manning aggressively recruited last year to almost double both the men’s and women’s roster. Returning swimmers are All-American Caroline Chang (junior) and All-SCIAC recipients Steven Van Deventer (sophomore), Kevin Kuwata (sophomore) and Lauren Ransom (senior). Though there was no diving on Saturday, SCIAC champion diver Jessica Robson (junior) is also back in action.
The women quickly stole the spotlight as veteran swimmers Chang and Emily Watkins (sophomore) came in first and second overall in the 100-yard breaststroke, with Chang out-touching her teammate by three tenths of a second. Coming off a strong junior season, sprinter and co-captain Lauren Ransom (senior) cruised to a top-ten finish in the 100-yard freestyle.
Rallying support, co-captains Alena Morris (senior) and Izzy Mayer (senior) have sought to establish a close-knit roster. “Compared to my last experiences, going into SCIACs I want to make sure that the women’s team stays really solid as group of women,” Morris said. “Remember that the girls here are only going to be doing this for four years so [they should] just have fun and not take themselves too seriously.”
Despite a lack of collegiate swimming experience, newcomer Lizzy Kosin (first-year) finished second in the 100-yard butterfly and sixth overall in the 100-yard freestyle. Kosin swam an impressive butterfly race, right behind All-American Lauren Zehner of Redlands, and dropped almost two seconds for a personal best. Zoe Namba (first-year) also raised some eyebrows, a top ten swimmer in both the 100-yard freestyle and backstroke.
A strong core of sophomore swimmers anchors the men’s team. Runner-up in the 200-yard breaststroke at the SCIAC conference meet last season, Steven Van Deventer (sophomore) got a run for his money in the 100-yard breaststroke slipping past with a 1:02.38 to finish ninth. This past spring, Van Deventer and Kevin Kuwata both shattered Occidental’s 200-yard breaststroke record during the conference finals in South Gate, California.
Promising rookie Alex Najarian (first-year) held his own in the 100-yard butterfly, one of the closest races Saturday. Najarian nabbed sixth place, even though he was only half of a second behind the winner of the event.
Several swimmers pointed out that their times were not representative of their potential ability, citing excessive soreness from intense practices the week prior to the Pentathlon. “We focused a lot more with stroke technique and the quality of the [practice] sets are more focused,” Alex Rand (sophomore) said. “Everything is more about doing the right thing versus too many of one thing.”
However, the swimmers have received more intense practices with open arms. “This year is going a little harder than last year,” Van Deventer said. “I feel like Shea is taking us to a new level, I think he went a little easy on us last year.”
An ample recruiting class has bolstered the team’s ranks. Seventeen new swimmers allowed Occidental a larger presence Saturday against the mammoth rosters of CMS and Redlands.
Men’s captain Spencer Whalen (senior) said the integration of new swimmers will depend on team bonding. “The most important thing is probably not just performance but also team unity,” Whalen said. “I think that really helps the overall performance. it gets people excited about meets, and that’s one of my goals as men’s team captain.”
This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.