Women’s Swimming and Diving Defeats Redlands after 15 Years

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Author: Sharen Cervantes

On Saturday, Jan. 22, the women’s swimming and diving team made history by securing a 140.6-102.5 team victory over the Redlands Bulldogs for the first time in over 15 years.  High off their previous win against the Caltech Beavers, the Tigers approached the meet against Redlands with confidence and determination.

“We knew we had been working hard in practice and guessed Redlands probably thought they were going to automatically win.  We went into it thinking that we could definitely beat them, and we wanted to beat them badly,” Juliet Suess (first-year) said.

Head coach Alex Kuhn capitalized on the women’s confidence by forgoing the relays and having the team’s top swimmers enter in three individual events, which he believed gave the Tigers their best shot at winning. According to Kuhn, the women’s swimming and diving team is small but strong, consisting of only 15 swimmers and divers (Redlands’ team consists of 35). In order to make up for the team’s small size, Kuhn decided to give up the relays in order to pit Oxy’s best swimmers against Redlands’ best.

Kuhn’s strategic planning paid off, as new and experienced swimmers alike performed strongly in all their races. All but one swimmer won their individual events, something Kuhn called a “nice surprise.” A few swimmers even swam in events they don’t normally participate in. “[These swimmers] sacrificed [swimming in] their favorite events in order to help the team.

 [The win] was definitely a team effort,” Kuhn said.

The meet against Redlands allowed many Tigers to showcase their talent in the water. Divers Jessica Robson (first-year), Marisa Pulcrano (senior) and Sarah Sharpe (senior) won first, second and third place in the one meter board, respectively. Their wins were followed by others, including wins by Juliet Suess and Caroline Chang (first-years). Chang, who swam in the 200 Individual Medley, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke, came away victorious from all three events. She kept a level head despite the pressure by coming into the meet with little to no expectations.

“[I] just wanted to race without thinking too much about the little things. I think [it] really helped [to] not think about the competition and the fact that Redlands has been, and still is, a very strong swim team,” Chang said. Several other swimmers took home top honors, including Mallory Ryan (junior), who won both the 1000 freestyle and the 500 freestyle, and Lauren Ransom (sophomore), who sprinted to a 25.52 victory in the 50 freestyle.

After beating Redlands, the team was elated. Although the Tigers were initially in a state of shock, once their victory hit them they went into celebration mode. “High fives, smiles, and hugs went around between everyone.  It was pretty surreal,” Suess said. For Chang, the most memorable and touching part of the experience was the support given by teammates. According to her, the women on the team really bonded while cheering for one another during the meet, especially in the face of such a daunting adversary as Redlands. “When the competition is tough, our team unconsciously comes together and supports one another, and the end result is usually great,” Chang said.

Despite the victory, Kuhn is already looking ahead. “Our whole focus is on [winning] the conference championship,” he said. Based on the team’s record thus far, Kuhn predicts that the Tigers will finish second at the SCIAC championships. As finals approach, he continues to push his team to ever greater lengths, requiring 18-20 hours of practice a week. However, considering that the team finished in sixth place last year and is expected to come in second this season, it seems Kuhn’s high expectations are having the intended effect. The team will face off against the University of La Verne on Feb. 5, the last meet before the SCIAC preliminaries.

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