Rocha and Lashley win The Occidental Athlete of the Week

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Women’s golf captain Sam Rocha (junior) tied for tenth place at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) No. 1 golf tournament Feb. 24 and 25 at Arrowhead Country Club. Rocha, who tied for first at the Whittier Invitational in early February, shot 16 over par while fighting a back injury throughout the weekend.

Samantha Rocha (junior), is a member of Occidental College’s golf team and The Occidental’s Athlete of the Week in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Hannah Schoenberger/The Occidental

“My swing was kind of off just ‘cause I had to change it up so my back wouldn’t hurt as much,” Rocha said.

Rocha’s swing adjustment may have affected her iron shots, which she blamed as the weakest part of her game over the weekend. 

Will Morris, the head golf coach, said that Rocha’s top-10 finish reflected her potential looking ahead to the rest of the season despite the injury.

“I just take it back to the potential,” Morris said. “She’s played three rounds this year all well, but she can still go lower.”

Katy Uchiyama (junior), Rocha’s co-captain, noticed Rocha’s injury and her willingness to fight through the pain.

“Even though she was hurt, she wanted to play for the team,” Uchiyama said. “She really wanted to compete that weekend, so she was able to push through.”

Uchiyama credited Rocha with being more than an important contributor to the team, commenting on her unique leadership qualities.

“I think one thing is she definitely takes initiative — when something is wrong or needs to be changed she’s not afraid to speak up or say something about it,” Uchiyama said. “Even if it’s something awkward or hard to say, she’ll find the right way to say it.”

Morris further praised Rocha and Uchiyama for their role in building strong chemistry amongst a young team — one that has no seniors and five first years.

“It’s been a great team bonding experience with the new players,” Morris said. “Sam and Katy have taken the lead on being great co-captains.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Rocha said she has specific goals set for herself.

“My goal this season was to have all top ten finishes in SCIAC,” Rocha said. “Score-wise, my goal is to shoot in the 70’s, and two out of my three rounds so far have been.”

So far, she has kept pace with her self-set standards.

Rocha is a biology major who said her favorite drink on campus is the hot chocolate from the Marketplace. Her favorite shows are “New Girl” and “Mindhunter” and her favorite class at Occidental is Human Anatomy II in the kinesiology department.

Austin Lashley (senior) broke three individual school records and helped break two relay records at the SCIAC championship swim meet (the 100-yard individual butterfly, 50-yard individual freestyle, 200-yard individual butterfly, 200-yard freestyle relay and 400-yard freestyle relay) at the Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, California Feb. 21 and 22, also earning second place in the individual 100-meter butterfly. This past Wednesday, Lashley received an invitation to the Division III NCAA national meet in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter butterfly.

Austin Lashley (senior), is a member of Occidental’s swim and dive team and The Occidental’s Athlete of the Week in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. Hannah Schoenberger/The Occidental

Upon receiving the invitation, Lashley was excited by the opportunity to finish his swimming career on the biggest stage possible for a DIII swimmer.

“This has been my goal really since my sophomore season and so it’s great to accomplish during my senior year,” Lashley said via email. “Swimming at NCAAs will be a great way to wrap up my swim career.”

Lashley’s fellow captain Ben Sappey (junior) further praised Lashley for his accomplishment, emphasizing its magnitude.

“I cannot think of anyone that is more deserving of getting a nationals invite, and in this era of D3 swimming, it’s an extremely impressive feat,” Sappey said via email.

Looking back at the meet, Lashley brought up the atmosphere and the overwhelming support each Occidental swimmer received from the rest of the team.

“At SCIAC’s, Oxy’s known for being the loudest team for our size and every single race you have your entire team behind your lane just screaming like crazy for you,” Lashley said. “It’s the best feeling on earth getting up there and looking down right before you start your race and seeing everyone just going wild for you.”

Head coach Steve Webb emphasized the energetic atmosphere at SCIAC’s as well. He further praised Lashley for his leadership in the pool and in the classroom.

“Austin has been a tremendous leader both in and out of the pool, as on top of everything he has achieved in the pool, he has also had tremendous success in the classroom,” Webb said via email. “He earned Academic All-American Honorable Mention honors last year while he got a 3.85 GPA.”

Lashley said he was thankful for Webb and his teammates for their help throughout his career. He emphasized that his accomplishments were only possible because of those around him.

Lashley is an economics major. He said his go-to meal is chicken and rice, his favorite TV show is “Parks and Recreation and his favorite class at Occidental is Environmental Economics with professor Victoria Umanskaya.