During spring break, Claremont traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina to compete at the NCAA Division III Swim and Dive Nationals from March 15-18. While qualifying athletes from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) might be bitter rivals at home, through this competition they quickly found a new solidarity and respect for one another.
Nevertheless, CMS’s individual athletes made the biggest splash at the event. In its history, CMS has had 32 national championship swims at NCAAs. However, this year was the first time that both an Athena and a Stag have won in the same year. Augusta Lewis CM ’23 won her first national title with a first place finish in the 400-yard IM. Frank Applebaum CM ’24 finished first at Nationals in the 200 fly with a time of 1:42.96.
Head coach Charles Griffiths described how important this was for CMS.
“It is a big moment for our program and very exciting for Augusta, Frank and all the swimmers, divers, coaches, parents, support staff and alumni connected with CMS,” Griffiths said.
For Lewis, this victory was years in the making. After finishing in the top five in each of her last four races at NCAAs, Lewis finally broke down the door to claim a national title. Lewis explained it was a positive shift in confidence that allowed her to take victory.
“When I was … getting recruited … I definitely never thought that I was gonna even make NCAAs,” Lewis said. “This year … I had a really tough prelim swim, and I barely made it into [the] final. So I had no thought in my mind that I was possibly going to win that race … That’s why I was just so surprised when I looked up at the clock … I genuinely could not believe it.”
Lewis specifically named Applebaum as helping give her the confidence needed to win the title. In his race, Applebaum set a new DIII record, beating his own time from last season by five-hundredths of a second. Applebaum credited his success to the support from his teammates and CMS team culture.
“It’s always nice to break your own record,” Applebaum said. “That was obviously the event that was most on my mind during the season … The competition [and] all my training partners during the season were absolutely crucial for that.”
Despite finishing as runner-ups to CMS at the conference finals, P-P concluded Nationals as the SCIAC’s top scorers with the men’s team in 16th place and the women’s in ninth. CMS finished 20th and 13th for men’s and women’s respectively.
2021 and 2022 SCIAC athlete of the year Alex Turvey PO ’24 led the way for the Sagehens, following up a dominant performance at SCIACs with a second place finish in the 100-meter fly race and a number of impressive relay runs.
Turvey also took home the NCAA’s Elite 90 award, honoring her as reaching the top of both athletic and academic success among DIII athletes. Turvey is P-P’s first ever recipient of the award. A biology major with a 4.0 GPA, she explained her success in the pool and in school is much a result of her fellow Sagehens.
“The teammates around me have shown me how to balance everything,” Turvey said. “I know I can always ask my teammates about school things … To be able to look up to so many people who can share advice on course registration or aspects of certain classes has made it less challenging to be able to balance the two.”
Turvey was additionally named to the All-Academic First Team. Lewis and Applebaum earned second and third team honors respectively as well.
Much of both teams’ success at Nationals was previewed at this year’s SCIAC championship. To the Sagehens’ dismay, both the Stags and Athenas returned inland as SCIAC Champions.
Claremont has taken home every single women’s title since 2003 with the Athenas winning 16 during that span; however, after the Sagehens claimed the conference 2022, this season’s victory was a reclamation for CMS. For two-time athlete of the year Augusta Lewis CM ’23, who took first in the 200 and 400-yard individual medley (IM) races, the meet was incredibly emotional.
“We do like toasts before the SCIAC meet,” Lewis said. “Everyone’s always like bawling their eyes out and crying and this year was definitely no different … My favorite part about the team is just that I get to spend time with all of my best friends … It was a great way to cap off my swimming career and just celebrate with all my teammates.”
The Stags, meanwhile, continued their decade and a half of dominance in the SCIAC, winning their 13th championship since 2008. Frank Applebaum CM ’24, who won three individual titles and championed the Stags to victory in the 400-medley relay, emphasized CMS’s team culture.
“There was [a] culture of everybody wanting to work hard and get faster together when I got here,” Applebaum said. “I’m positive that that is one of the biggest factors that leads to our success at the end of the season.”
CMS head coach Charles Griffiths said that winning the conference was a highlight of the season but did not translate exactly into Nationals, which he said is a very different type of meet.
“Winning both the women’s and men’s SCIAC titles was thrilling for our teams … SCIACs is a full team effort with everyone in our program playing an active role in the moment,” Griffiths said. “Nationals is a different environment with a smaller group representing their teammates in a larger pool of athletes from around the country.”
Despite such a fierce competition at SCIACs, according to Applebaum, the dynamics of the two teams radically changed at Nationals, creating a new sense of community and support among the athletes from Claremont.
“The moment we get to Nationals … we’re not competing in the same sense that we had been the whole year,” Applebaum said. “All of a sudden we’re just these small schools from California, up against all these other schools from the Midwest and the Northeast … [When] we get to [Nationals] it’s almost as if we’re on the same team.”
Turvey echoed that sentiment, and said that it felt like CMS and P-P were a unified force at Nationals.
“We always talk a lot about the rivalry of CMS and everything, but I think it’s always really special to go to Nationals and have this larger SCIAC identity,” Turvey said. “[It] feels like we’re all rooting for each other … I think it’s sad we don’t get to come together as one team at Nationals.”
No other swimmer was as emphatic in highlighting the accomplishments across both sides of Sixth Street than Lewis. As CMS and P-P athletes have returned to Claremont carrying with them a number of All-American honors, Lewis believes all of them should be acknowledged for their accomplishments.
“Every single time I finish a race I go to a warm down pool and there’s people from P-P and other teams saying, ‘good job’ and congratulating [you, and] I try [to] do that too,” Lewis said. “On the last day [we] do a cheer together with all the SCIAC teams, which is really cute. I was really impressed with everything that they did … So I [want] all of the teams to be [recognized for] their success.”