The Occidental men’s and women’s swim teams competed in the 2018 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Swimming & Diving Championships Feb. 21–24 and finished fifth and sixth, respectively. The University of LaVerne hosted the SCIAC Championships at the Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, Califonia. The men’s and women’s teams broke 11 school records combined, a performance that was highlighted by men’s captain Austin Lashley (senior), who broke five of them.
Lashley’s five new records included second in three events: the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard butterfly. His performance in the 100-yard butterfly will potentially qualify him for nationals. On the women’s side, Annika Moen (sophomore) broke the school’s 100-yard butterfly record and Madison Thurber (first year) broke the backstroke record in the 100-yard event.
“It was awesome,” head coach Steve Webb said in an article for the Occidental Athletics Department website. “We exceeded all the expectations I had for them, and I am very proud of them. I am even more excited for the future of our very young team.”
The four-day meet concluded the swim season for Occidental, which started Sept. 25, according to women’s team captain Joan Kronick (junior). Lashley said that everyone on the team was excited for the championships and saw it as the culmination of a season of hard work. Kronick wanted everyone on the team to give maximum effort.
“No matter what your expectations are, you go in and you want to win,” Kronick said. “Even though it’s not a realistic expectation, we want to be the best in the conference and that’s how we conduct ourselves.”
Lashley echoed that sentiment, noting that everyone was ready to compete for Occidental as well as to improve their own best times.
“No matter your place, everyone has a goal that they’re working towards,” Lashley said. “That’s the cool thing about swimming: it’s a team sport, but then everyone can do their own thing and achieve something at this meet.”
Laura Chun (junior), praised Webb’s coaching style. The focus on quality of yardage and the fact that swimmers now practice for the specific races that they will race in has been crucial, according to Lashley, Kronick and Chun.
“It makes practices a lot more intense and a lot more fun too because we’re dialed into specific things that we need to do instead of swimming a lot of extra yardage,” Chun said.
For swimmers such as Lashley, Kronick and Chun, this season has been their best at Occidental. They are incredibly proud of the work that they have put in and the times that they have posted, which has shifted the culture of the team, according to Dire Ezeh (junior), who returned to the team after studying abroad in the Fall 2017 semester.
“As someone who came back halfway through the season, I was really surprised to see how positive everyone on the team was, and I think for those of us who were only swimming half the season it’s definitely nice to come back and see that our team is still improving and putting up [our] best times,” Ezeh said.
Lashley reflected on the season, noting wins such as the 159–129 victory over the University of Redlands to illustrate how successful his final year at Occidental has been.
“Those traditional powers like Redlands that I’d never thought we’d beat in a dual meet, we have by a good margin,” Lashley said. “It’s been exciting and has exceeded my expectations.”