Author: Ryan Whalen
Both the Occidental men’s and women’s swim and dive teams are looking to make waves in the pool this season with strong recruiting classes—five first-years for the women and eight for the men—and experienced veterans returning for another year in the water.
The women lost several top performers due to graduation last semester in Caroline Change, Jessica Robson and Juliet Seuss, who combined for a total of 13 team records and 16 individual SCIAC championships. But the team will look to build on their fourth place finish at last year’s SCIAC Championship meet, this time with a more team-oriented approach.
“Although we lost some really talented seniors, I would not call this year a rebuilding year for the women,” head coach Shea Manning said. “Instead, I think it would be better to call it reorganization, as we still have a lot of young talent on the team.”
Fly specialist Lizzy Kosin (junior) and Rose Seabrook (sophomore) lead the way for the Occidental returners. Both swimmers found success last season, as Kosin was part of several record-breaking relay teams, and Seabrook set team records in the 1,650 and 1,000-meter freestyle.
First-years Madeline Gillman, a freestyle specialist and Lianne McKinney, a sprint and fly swimmer, are looking to be major contributors in both individual events and team relays.
“The first-years have already proven to be incredible swimmers with a lot of motivation to do well as individuals and as a team,” Kosin said.
While the team’s practices are geared towards the preparation for the SCIAC Championship meet, it is still early in the season and most of the swimmers are working on recovering their fitness.
“Because we are only four weeks into the season, we have really just been working on getting back into shape and getting comfortable in the water,” Gillman said. “But that has not changed our goal of performing well at the championship meet.”
Belen Moreno (first-year) has taken on the mantle as the only member of the women’s dive team, and she will look to fill the shoes of three-time SCIAC champion Robson.
The men’s team, which did not lose any seniors to graduation, has big expectations for this season. They will look to bounce back from a seventh-place finish at SCIACs last year, eyeing a spot in the top four at the SCIAC championship meet.
“Unfortunately, we were disqualified in two of our relays last year, and that took off quite a few points,” Alex Najarian (junior) said. “But this year we are hoping to finish in the top half of SCIACs, as we had a really strong recruiting class, and that mixed with the returners makes our team very competitive.”
Leading the returners is the repeat 200-breast NCAA DIII national champion Steven Van Deventer (senior), along with five other All-SCIAC swimmers. They will also bring back all members of the 400- and 800-meter freestyle relay teams, which were less than a second off from breaking 37-year-old records in each respective event.
The Tigers’ wealth of experience has also enabled them to alter their practice methods, even allowing them to focus on event-specific training. Every Monday the men’s team puts extra emphasis on relays, while Thursday practices are more individualized and involve peer review.
“Every Thursday we act as if it is a meet; we warm up and race our events as if it was a meet,” Van Deventer said. “Afterwards, we work on the areas of the race we did not do well on, giving everyone a more individually specific practice.”
First-years Reed Foster, Austin Lashley and Matt Weiser are examples of the talented incoming group, as all three of them are multi-event specialists. Lashley will compete in freestyle and butterfly events, while Weiser focuses on backstroke and freestyle competition.
Aaron Hammer (senior) will again be the lone men’s diver representing the Tigers this season.
Both team’s participated in the non-scored Bulldog Pentathlon this past Saturday, but their first scored meet of the season will be 10 a.m. on Saturday at the SOKA Invitational.
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