Author: Donovan Dennis
Despite chilly temperatures and sporadic rain showers, the Occidental men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams took to the pool Saturday, overtaking Whittier in the final dual meet before next week’s SCIAC Championships.
The Tigers brought home wins on both the men’s and women’s sides, delivering 168-117 and 160-88 victories, respectively. This competition marked the last home meet in Taylor Pool for this year’s graduating seniors, who were honored before the meet began.
“I’m just so grateful for this group of seniors,” head coach Shea Manning said via email. “We have such a diverse group of personalities and ability levels, but they have really learned how to use their strengths and meld it into a truly unique leadership dynamic.”
In the pool, the Tigers started off the meet strong as first-years Lianne McKinney and Maddie Gillman teamed up with Maddy Kaczmarowski (sophomore) and Emily Watkins (senior) for an ‘A’ relay victory in the 200 medley relay. McKinney and Gillman later finished 1-2 in the 200 freestyle, while Watkins brought home top honors in her specialty, the 100 breaststroke.
In the women’s 1650, Rose Seabrook (sophomore), Rebeca Fernandez (junior) and Noel Hemphill (senior)* stacked the podium for the Tigers in an open-field race. They later combined for one-two-four finishes in the 500 freestyle.
Yuca Kosugi (senior) and Lizzy Kosin (junior) combined for one-two finishes in the often-grueling 200 butterfly, and seniors Gabby Hanna and Rachel Wilson secured an overall tiger victory with their performances in the women’s 200 breaststroke.
On the men’s side, Occidental featured prominently atop the podium with victories in multiple events from Chase Mitchell (first-year), Matt Weiser (first-year) and Austin Lashley (first-year), David Avery (sophomore), and Steven van Deventer (senior).
The team of Weiser, van Deventer, Mitchell and junior Alex Najarian matched the women’s 200 medley victory, and men’s team members Lashley, Nathan Reynolds (senior) and Domenic Rodriguez (first-year) swept the 200 butterfly, adding more points for the Tigers.
Occidental took home wins in only 17 of 32 events, indicating that second and third place finishes were instrumental to the day’s overall success. At 53 members, this team marks one of the largest combined teams in recent years, and the addition of 14 first-years and a junior transfer has been instrumental in the squad’s success this season.
“I think the freshman class is really our strongest class,” van Deventer said. “The freshmen are just all over the place good. There definitely won’t be an issue with ability when the seniors leave.”
In preparing for the approaching SCIAC Championship meet, the Tigers are focusing on the specifics of race strategy and team dynamics during their taper period rather than mileage in the pool.
“It’s all about the details here on out,” Manning said via email. “We try to personalize taper as much as possible so that each one of our student-athletes is going into the SCIAC meet confident in his or her preparation and ability.”
For many upperclassmen, the taper period also provides critical opportunities for team bonding and relationship building.
“The team energy is one of the special things about Oxy, and it’s one of the things I’m focusing on this year,” Hanna said. “It really brings a positive note to our swimming. The women’s team is much more mentally driven at meets, so it’s important for us to be close knit so we don’t get in our own heads.”
Though victories at dual meets and the SCIAC Championships often defines success for many athletes, much of the value of Occidental swimming comes from both in and out of the pool for this year’s seniors.
“It’s so much more than just being at practice,” Wilson said. “I like to think we have left a legacy that we are a solid group of friends, and that you can turn to us (seniors) with other personal problems. Swimming goes beyond the pool deck.”
The Tigers head to the SCIAC Championship at the Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in City of Commerce, California on Feb. 19.
*Noel Hemphill is a sports editor at The Occidental Weekly.
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