Cindy Dong (first year) qualified for the NCAA National Championship swim meet in two events during the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship (SCIAC) meet Feb. 21–24. Dong set a new conference meet record in the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 2:02.13 and also swam a time of 56.59 in the 100-meter butterfly to qualify her for the national championship in both events. Additionally, she assisted in breaking three school relay records in the 400-meter medley, 800-meter freestyle and 200-meter freestyle relays.
“I’m in shock. Being a first year to go to nationals is just incredible, I’m really in shock based on how many injuries I’ve had and how sick I’ve been, how much I’ve gone through and how much work everyone has put in,” Dong said. “This team supports me so much and I’m so appreciative of them.”
Surmounting injuries and illnesses throughout the season, Dong said she did not know quite what to expect of her performance at the SCIAC meet. Despite this, she still approached the conference championship with her mind set on accomplishing long-term goals.
“My big goal was definitely making nationals, because going into the 200 fly, I was only about .8 seconds away from making the national ‘B’ cut,” Dong said. “The last few years I’ve swam the 100 fly, I’ve only been going 57 seconds … I didn’t end up doing that in the morning session, and I came back at night and I went 56 seconds.”
Dong’s ability to remain goal-oriented in the face of adversity is par for the courseaccording to teammate Laura Chun (senior), who said Dong consistently embraces challenges and always finds a way to view the situation optimistically.
“The way she looks at swimming and deals with obstacles is both inspiring and encouraging,” Chun said. “At one of the first meets of the season, I asked her what her strategy for her 200 fly would be. She said, ‘A 200 fly is just 8 laps fast.’ For most people, a 200 fly is a long, daunting event, and the fact she replied in that manner just shows how fearless she is.”
Reflecting on her historic season and what is still yet to come at nationals, Dong said the unwavering support of her teammates made it all possible.
“When I was doing my 200 fly on Sunday, I looked across the pool and the entire team was on the other end cheering for me, and when I turned, I could see their faces,” Dong said. “I love it so much.”
Dong is a Media Arts & Culture major, and if she could swim anywhere in the world, she would swim in an oceanside pool in Bondi, Australia, and watch the sunset.
Tyler Webb (junior) set the leading 100-meter dash time for SCIAC at the Rossi Relays with a time of 10.70 seconds Feb. 23. The result tied his personal record, which Webb said was an unexpected but exciting outcome for a preseason meet.
“I felt as if I had prepared for that moment,” Webb said. “I was not expecting to run that fast. I kind of wanted to run a 10.9, 10.8, but I’ll take the 10.7, of course. It was a very pleasant surprise.”
Sprinting coach Tyler Yamaguchi was more than pleased with Webb’s result and said his performance speaks volumes about what the remainder of the season holds for him.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, seen a lot of very fast sprinters, no one’s run this fast this early — ever — since I’ve been here,” Yamaguchi said. “I wasn’t expecting that time this early, especially given the conditions, there was almost no wind assisting the sprinters. It was just a really, really spectacular performance and it seemed like once he got up to speed, he just kept extending his lead.”
According to Webb, the lower stakes of this non-conference meet in addition to the high-caliber athletes provided an ideal opportunity to compete.
“I would argue that it’s not as intense, but the competition is definitely more challenging,” Webb said. “It was just preparing for the competition to be at the highest level.”
Webb attributed his early success to the extra hours of work he has poured into his training beginning at the conclusion of last year’s season and extending throughout the summer, fall and winter.
“This sport is really what you put into it. I think a lot of athletes should treat their bodies as investments,” Webb said. “So put in the time and work, and that’s what you’re going to get out of it.”
Yamaguchi said Webb’s commitment to heightening his performance in the months leading up to spring has positioned him to have a monumental season.
“In terms of what it means for the season, the sky’s the limit at this point,” Yamaguchi said. “All I know is he’s prepared incredibly well for this year, I think what it indicates is how hard he worked in the offseason, because in track and field, numbers don’t lie, and you kind of get out what you put in and the results are very quantifiable.”
Webb is a Politics major and black studies minor, and if he could choose a new Occidental mascot, he would pick a jaguar or leopard.