Breaking down barriers and working around restrictions, CMS swim and dive emphasizes unifying as one team

A CMS swimmer swims butterfly.
A Stag is pictured competing in the butterfly event during a meet against CalTech. (Abbey Liao • The Student Life)

Ranked among the top fifteen Division III programs in the nation, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps swim and dive team is off to a stellar 3-0 winning streak against SCIAC opponents and 3-1 overall, with their only loss coming from Division I UC San Diego in a preseason meet. 

“We’ve had three [conference] meets so far and we’ve shown improvement each time out,” head coach Charlie Griffiths said in an email. “It is best to never take an opportunity for granted and I think that this year’s squad is extra appreciative of the chance to train and compete as a team.”

Multiple Stags and Athenas have already earned conference honors for their impressive performances. For the women, diver Emma Ng Pack CM ’24 won SCIAC Diver of the Week following all three winning meets. 

On the Stag side, Jack Griffith CM ’25 was awarded Diver of the Week honors after the UCSD meet, while Marco Conati HM ’22 won back-to-back Swimmer of the Week honors for his outstanding swims against CalTech and Chapman. 

In its tough opening meet, CMS came out with impressive showings against a D1 program despite the 164-123 defeat. Athena swimmer Leila El Masri CM ’22 said that rather than aiming for a victory, CMS used the match as “a check-in” for the team at large.

“We [went] there to swim and get our times in,” she said. “It was still a competition, but they definitely have a really strong lineup and we’re [a] D3 school.”

The early meet served as a testament to what “the team could do at this point in the season,” Natalia Orbach-Mandel HM ’22 said.

[The meet] had lower stakes and it was more an opportunity to push ourselves and see what we could do against a great team,” she added. “I think [our head coach] was really excited because it’s always fun to see [us] getting into tight races with DI swimmers. It’s always exciting when it’s, like, a close finish to the wall and we end up on top.”

Meanwhile, some Stags used the preseason meet to work back up to collegiate swimming and get used to the pool following two years of absence due to the pandemic. 

“I haven’t been swimming as seriously as I am right now compared to the past,” Nick Tan HM ’22 said. “So, a lot of [this] early season was getting back in shape, learning how to approach races; at times, I realized that I forgot some of my race strategies.”

Others were simply eager to get back and feel the excitement of a collegiate meet.

“I missed cheering on deck the most while we were apart,” Athena Ava Sealander SC ’22 said in an email. “I was over the moon with joy while seeing my teammates swim.”

While reacclimating to in-person meets and activities, CMS has strongly emphasized building one unified team striving to achieve the same goals. 

“I think it’s really easy for us to kind of break down [our team] into four different barriers: the men’s swim team, the men’s dive team, women’s dive team, the women’s swim team,” Luke Lenhart CM ’22 said. “We focus on being one core team and we’ve done a really exceptional job [of maintaining that] thus far.” 

“I think it’s really easy for us to kind of break down [our team] into four different barriers: the men’s swim team, the men’s dive team, women’s dive team, the women’s swim team.” — Luke Lenhart CM ’22

The Stags and Athenas have been focusing on building solidarity this season. 

“At the end of practices or at the end of meets, we’ll shoutout people for being good lanemates, having a fast split, or even showing off a good technical skill,” Orbach-Mandel said. “We’re very good about doing the small things that benefit and motivate us.”

Including these smaller praises, CMS is aiming to foster a more positive, uplifting practice environment. 

“We need to do a better job of trying to reinforce good habits and be more supportive at practices,” El Masri said. “Saying ‘How can I help you go faster?’ rather than ‘You can go faster’ might help people achieve their goals and be better — compared to enforcing a positive mentality on others.”

Despite these improvements in the pool, the team is still working on building and maintaining community on dry land.

“Without cross-campus dining, it’s a huge strain to get people from different class years and campuses together,” Sealander said. “Eating a huge meal at the dining hall after a tough practice is the best way to get to know your teammates, so I hope we can continue that tradition next semester.”

On the bright side, loosened pandemic restrictions related to winter training camps have potentially opened opportunities for the team to build strong bonds. 

Looking ahead to its next competition, CMS will face Pomona-Pitzer in a two-day rivalry meet today and tomorrow. 

“I think the rivalry this year is shaping up to be the most hyped up it’s been in history,” El Masri said. “With so many people wanting to watch, it’ll be insane and everyone will go faster than they normally do.”

Ultimately, team members say they’re proud to be a part of the program regardless of the results of upcoming meets and the rest of this year. 

“No matter what has happened in the past year and a half, and no matter what the future holds, being our best as students, citizens and swimmers is a win,” Sealander said.

CMS takes on P-P at home on Friday, Dec. 3rd and Saturday, Dec. 4th.

Facebook Comments