Author: Ryan Graff
Going into the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, Occidental head coach Shea Manning secretly hoped for the best. But he could not have possibly prepared himself for his reaction when Steven van Deventer (sophomore), affectionately known as “Vandy” around campus, started to pull away in the 200-yard breaststroke final. Vandy finished with the second-fastest time in Division III history, capturing a National Championship in the event on Saturday.
“I had a good feeling at the 25 mark,” Manning said. “[Vandy] was looking extremely comfortable and was still at the front of the pack. I was 100 percent sure that he was going to win when he hit the 150. You knew that he was about to do something special.”
van Deventer had already exceeded expectations a day earlier by becoming the first Occidental men’s breaststroker All-American since 1983 with a time of 55.21 seconds in the 100-yard breaststroke, good for third place at Nationals and just .05 seconds shy of the SCIAC record.
His game plan for the 200 was quite simple: remain calm and don’t burn out trying to go at the leaders too early.
van Deventer executed the race strategy perfectly, staying close to Steven’s Institute’s Simas Jarasunas with 50 yards to go. Keeping his teammates and coaches on their toes, he was able to edge out Jarasunas and the rest of the swimmers on the final lap, finishing at 1:58.60 minutes. Vandy shattered his own personal record in the event and solidified himself as the fifth Tiger men’s swimmer to win a National Championship in any individual event.
“When I touched the wall, I turned around, threw my arms up and screamed,” van Deventer said. “I saw [Manning], Alex [Najarian] and Caroline [Chang] on the side and I pointed to them and smiled. Then I fell back and floated in the water and thought to myself, ‘Damn, that just happened.’”
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