Author: Alex Nieves|Ryan Graff
Sophomore Alex Najarian, who was one of just two Occidental men’s swimmers to qualify for nationals last season, stole the show for the Tigers at Saturday’s Redlands Pentathlon.
Najarian consistently scored across all five events, taking 11th place overall in the year’s opening meet.
“It’s just day-to-day putting in the work,” he said. “Some days it comes together, some days it doesn’t. Some days it happens in some events and some days in others. We’re just getting through the work right now, so we can do our taper later on, and we’re not too worried about our times at this point in the season.”
Reigning 200-yard breaststroke national champion Steven van Deventer (junior) also performed well for the men’s side, placing third in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:00.46 minutes. In his first official race since winning the title in Shenandoah, Texas, he recorded his second nearly sub-one minute time in as many seasons.
“Every meet is different,” van Deventer said. “So it was just like a normal race. I went double-o last year, not at [the Redlands Pentathlon], but probably a meet soon after. It’s not a big deal. I just focus on every day; every day is different.”
Senior All-American Caroline Chang registered the best outing for the women in the 100-yard breaststroke, completing the event with a second-place time of 1:08.88 minutes. Fellow veteran Juliet Suess (senior) finished first for the Occidental women and 17th overall in the 100-yard freestyle, locking in a time of 56.27 seconds.
Along with the black and orange’s strong upperclassmen presence, the women’s side also enjoyed the breakout performance of Talia Marcopoto (first-year). The newcomer from Hong Kong made the top-ten in the 100-yard backstroke at 1:03.87 seconds.
“I was nervous because it was the first college meet that I was going to have,” Marcopoto said. “But the upperclassmen, even though there’s not many of them, are really good at motivating us and getting the team spirit up. That helped motivate me to do well, and I’m excited for the rest of the season because the whole team community has been really good. It was an exciting first meet.”
Though the pentathlon marked just the first meet of the new season for his teams, Occidental head coach Shea Manning felt that the event was a step in the right direction and a sign of things to come for future outings.
“[The Redlands Pentathlon] is unscored, the entire team isn’t swimming; [there are] odd events,” he said. “So it was really just kind of a training opportunity to get the race jitters out before we start competing in SCIAC.”
The trips to San Bernardino are not quite over for the aquatics program.
The women’s diving team travels to Redlands for the Bulldog Invite Saturday. Namely, Jessica Robson (senior) — Tiger diving’s only competitor last year and the defending SCIAC champion on both boards — begins her quest for a third straight undefeated season.
“This year, we have two divers, so the outlook is already looking up from previous seasons,” she via email. “I think that this year will be good for us. I’m really motivated to remain undefeated in SCIAC, so I just keep working hard at practice everyday so I can stay consistent.”
Meanwhile, the swimming teams will be in action at the Orange County Invitational hosted by Soka University.
“We have another great opportunity this weekend to swim more relevant races for everyone and get ready for that La Verne dual meet the first weekend in December,” Manning said. “As far as where we are this season, we’re bigger, I think we have greater talent, a higher amount of talent both coming in with first-years but also developing the veteran athletes…I’m loving what I’m seeing with the work ethic in the pool and the weight room.”
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