Sagehens’ Season Sink or Swim as SCIACs Surface

It’s been four and a half months since the P-P Sagehens jumped into the pool for their first official practice of the year; three months and three weeks since their first meet at the University of Redlands; a month and a half since they returned to campus (two weeks earlier than the majority of the student body) for winter training; almost three weeks since the last home meet; two weeks since the last morning practice and the beginning of taper. Already, the SCIACs are just over the San Gabriel Mountains.

Except for the select few who will qualify for next month’s NCAA Championships, the swim season will be officially over by this time next week.

The SCIAC Championships take place in Long Beach, CA, in the Beachside Belmont Plaza. Looking out of the glass windows that surround the Olympic-sized pool provides a view of the massive expanse known as the Pacific Ocean.

As much as the beach tempts the swimmers, the excitement really happens inside the walls, where the sounds of splashing and cheering and loudspeaker announcing ricochet in a way quite unlike anything ever heard at the outdoor pools common to sunny Southern California.

The diving Hens have already begun their preliminaries. Aron Burke PO ’13 finished 13th and Richard Creedon PO ’11 finished 14th off the one-meter springboard. Diving finals take place at the conclusion of the preliminary swimming events on Sunday and Monday.

The swimming psych sheets, released this week, help predict some potential top-eight finalists and medal winners in individual events. Names that stand out include Max Scholten PO ’12, who leads the Conference in both the 100 and 200 Backstroke. Chris Wright PO ’12 comes into the meet seeded 2nd in the 200 Butterfly. J.P. Cumming PO ’13 is ranked in the top eight in the 400 IM, 500 Freestyle, and 1650 Freestyle events. Tommy DePaoli PO ’13 leads the Hens in the 200 IM, 100 Butterfly, and 200 Butterfly, starting in 7th, 7th, and 8th, respectively. Ryland Arnoldi PO ’11 could sneak into the final heat of the 200 Freestyle, from his current 8th position. The 9th place rank of Andrew Kinimaka PO ’11 shows promise in the 100 Breaststroke.

Head Coach Bruce Brown can’t wait to watch everyone compete at SCIACs. “We have a lot more quality and depth than last year,” he said. “We have a great general attitude, too.”

As a team, the male Sagehens have secured a 3rd-place seeding in the SCIAC Conference going into this weekend. Redlands’ 199-124 victory over CMS last weekend put Redlands in 1st and CMS in 2nd. Following P-P are Cal Lutheran, Occidental, La Verne, Whittier, and Caltech.

Let’s take a quick look at what the Sagehens are up against. During winter training, they solidly defeated the now 4th-ranked Cal Lu, 130-103. While a Cal Lu Kingsman took nearly every individual event by less than a second, the Sagehens secured both of the major point-scoring relays. Considering the Sagehens’ level of individual improvement, staying ahead of Cal Lu should be no feathers off their backs.

The 2nd-ranked CMS team, on the other hand, almost doubles the size of the Sagehens. They destroyed them 182-60 during the match-up back at the beginning of December. The narrower 161-78 loss to the top-seeded Redlands suggests a large amount of improvement on the part of the Hens. This, coupled with Redland’s decisive victory over CMS, shows the Sagehen’s potential to be a serious threat.“I’m really excited,” Brown commented. “We’re going to be really competitive this year.”

The swimmers leave campus tomorrow afternoon. The actual racing takes place Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, with preliminaries of each event in the morning and finals in the afternoon.The team plans to go out with a bang. “We swam hard and worked hard,” commented Minsoo Kim PO ’10 and Brian Borger PO ’10. “Just wait for the party.”

The Sagehen swimmers and divers will spend three full days in Long Beach in the season’s grand finale. “They’re just a great group,” Brown said happily. “That’s why I’m here.”