Sagehen Swim and Dive Breaks Records at SCIACs

There are 19 weeks in the Pomona-Pitzer swim and dive season, all in preparation for last weekend’s SCIACs Championship swim meet: 19 weeks of 6:30 a.m. mornings and double days, all-out sprint test sets for time, CMC brunches and dinners, listening to the same locker-room CD on repeat and figuring out exactly what the stroke rate numbers mean. 

No-Shave November turns into No-Shave November-through-February. One month of “Sorry I can’t go out tonight; it’s dry season for swimming.” Two weeks of glorious taper, a swimmer’s excuse for driving everywhere.  

It all culminates in the three-day meet at South Gate Pool in Southern California, with three individual point-scoring races per person. 

T-minus one day, over a carbo-load dinner of pasta and garlic bread, head coach J.P. Gowdy delivered an inspirational speech to an attentive crowd of energetic Sagehens. Gowdy told of how the Sagehens have trained hard for this meet and of how they should believe in their training and ability to put up some fast times. 

“This is the best part for coaches,” he said. “I’ve done my work, and now I get to sit back and watch.”

Gowdy and assistant coach Erik Peterson PZ ’11 spent very little time sitting back and watching. By the final day, their voices were so shot from cheering you could hardly understand them when they tried to talk. 

Swimmers who finish within the top 16 of each event in the morning swim the event again in the evening, when they will get another chance to improve their times and move up in the rankings. The final top three in each event attend a short award ceremony, where they stand on podiums and pose for pictures. 

Alex Lincoln PO’14 was the first of the Sagehens to stand on the top tier, taking a come-from-behind victory over the first seed Margo Macgready of Redlands in the 200 Freestyle on Monday night. Max Scholten PO ’12 narrowly defeated Shane Hurter of La Verne by a tenth of a second to win the championship in the 100 Backstroke, completing his four-year reign in the event. On Tuesday night, Lincoln finished in an NCAA B-cut time to win the 100 Freestyle for her second SCIAC Championship.

Even if they do not place in the top three or even the top 16 of an event, the Sagehens earned a ton of what Gowdy calls “breakthrough swims.” After swimming a lifetime best in the 100 breaststroke, Brenda Iglesias PO ’14 spoke for the team in her comment about racing at SCIACs.

“It doesn’t matter what [time] the scoreboard says, because you know you swam a good race,” she said.

In his first race of the meet, J.P. Cumming PO ’13 dropped 18 seconds off his best 500 freestyle time this season to get into the top eight. After taking eighth in 3-meter diving, Avery Barron PZ ’15 broke the 30-second mark in her 50 freestyle. Mari Pettibone PZ ’15 took a total of 12 seconds off her 400 individual medley time, then dropped another two in the 100 breaststroke that same day. Tyson Chihara PO ’12 also finished 12 seconds faster than his best in-season 400 individual medley. Andrew Savage PO ’15 surprised everyone with his six second drop in the 200 freestyle during the morning session, placing him in the third seed overall going into finals. 

Jackie Lynch PZ ’12 swam her last 200 backstroke 15 seconds faster than her previous time. Kyra Stone PO ’15 dropped seven seconds from her in-season time in the 200 breaststroke. In the men’s 200 breaststroke, Kevin Lu PO ’15 finished ten seconds and Nathan Yale PO ’14 eight seconds faster than their in-season times. Caitlin Plefka PO ’13 dropped a whopping 55 seconds from her previous time in the 1650 freestyle Tuesday morning.

The fastest swimming happens during the evening relays as one relay team of four swimmers from each school battles other schools while the rest of the swimmers crowd behind the lanes to form an impassable cheering section. 

The Sagehens started the evening session of the first night with a second place finish in the women’s school record-setting 200 Freestyle Relay, when the team of Lincoln, Maddy DeMeules PO ’14, Nola Shi PO ’15 and Kristen Lindbergh PO ’12 narrowly out-touched Redlands by 0.05 of a second. The men’s team, consisting of Savage, Hugh Berryman PO ’15, Joe LaBriola PO ’12 and Scholten, also took second, finishing only half a second behind CMS. The men’s 200 relay broke a school record set in 1999. 

In the women’s 400 medley relay, Jackie Tran PO’15, Sarah Tuggy PO’13, Charlotte Dohrn PO’13 and Lincoln had to pull two school record-breaking swims from Tran and Lincoln to take second above Redlands. The women’s 200 Medley Relay of Tran, Hannah Robertson PO’15, DeMeules and Lindbergh smashed the previous school record by two seconds in another narrow second place finish. 

The men’s 800 freestyle relay of Savage, LaBriola, Chris Wright PO ’12 and Scholten gathered most of the senior Sagehens for the last event of the second night for a third place finish.

In the final event of the 2011-2012 season, the men’s 400 freestyle relay of Savage, LaBriola, Berryman and Scholten finished third behind Redlands and CMS, breaking the school record in the relay set two years ago.

It is the 19 weeks of grueling work that make the final three days (and the celebration afterward) so memorable and worthwhile.