With the opportunity to qualify for nationals, claim SCIAC supremacy and defeat their Sixth Street rivals, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer swimmers both brought their A-games to Commerce, California this past weekend.
But when all was said and done, it was the Stags and Athenas who returned to Claremont with conference titles in hand.
Mirroring the results of regular-season competition, the CMS squads finished first, with the P-P teams both close behind in second. The men’s competition was decided by just 14 points — the Stags earned 1,078 points compared to the Sagehens’ 1,064. On the women’s side, CMS scored 1,196 against P-P’s 1,104.
Both teams’ final scores also benefited from strong showings at the diving championship the weekend prior, where Kendall Hollimon CM ’20 won both the one- and three-meter dives for the Stags, while Ruby Epstein PO ’22 took the three-meter title for the P-P women.
CMS successfully avenged its losses to P-P in the 2018 and 2019 SCIAC finals, as neither P-P squad could complete a three-peat.
“I know the scoreboard says that we lost, which was tough,” P-P swimmer Katherine Lauerman PO ’20 said. “I think this is my perspective as a senior because I’ve had the experience of losing and winning at this point, and now losing again, but I was so proud of how everybody showed up and gave everything they had.”
The championship meet, which took place over four days, was physically draining for the team, even for team members who weren’t competing, according to Lauerman.
“No matter how much or how little you’re swimming, you’re cheering all the time, and by Sunday, when the meet started on Thursday, you’re just destroyed,” she said.
Augusta Lewis CM ’22, who was named SCIAC Swimmer of the Year for the second straight season, said the CMS teams’ wins were due to their supportive team culture at the meet.
“One of our goals going in, and all season, was to be the loudest team on the deck,” she said. “At every single person’s swim, you had a lot of people at the end of the lane which actually really helps when you have a lot of nerves and you can look at the end of the pool and see a bunch of people cheering for you.”
Lewis, who won the women’s 400-yard IM with a time of 4:20.98, the women’s 200-yard IM in 2:02.41 and the women’s 200-yard breaststroke in 2:16.8 — all of which were personal and meet records — said CMS’s team spirit helped make the conference meet one of her favorite parts of the season.
“I’ve never had a meet like SCIAC,” she said. “The energy and just the excitement of everyone being there.”
The CMS coaching staff was also integral to the team’s success.
“Our coaching staff is awesome,” Lewis said. “Everyone likes them. Before every meet we have team meetings and [Coach Charlie Griffiths] talks about how we are going to be the loudest team on deck and the most supportive team there. That’s all him getting us in the right mindset for how we want to present ourselves and what we want to be like on deck.”
For P-P, Lauerman also said a supportive culture allowed them to achieve the success they did, despite falling short to CMS.
“We did a lot of work on team culture, and in general, we developed a lot of cohesiveness between the men’s team and the women’s team,” Lauerman said. “I think it really helps us because we’re so able to support each other, after good swims or bad swims, or good dives or bad dives. There’s kind of this idea of unconditional support. I think it takes some of the pressure off in performing, because we’re all here for each other no matter what.”
Both teams also emphasized the importance of their winter break training camps to developing team culture. Swim training camps start during winter break and lasts from Jan. 2 to Jan. 22, meaning the swimmers are on campus for the majority of winter break.
“It’s really really tough training but super fun because we are one of the only teams on campus so early,” Lewis said. “All we do is swim like five hours a day. We have a long time where it’s just the swim team there. Everyone bonds over the really hard training.”
Lauerman said that winter training allowed the Hens to develop their chemistry.
“I think that’s where we developed this team cohesiveness,” she said. “We have a very young team — a lot of sophomores and first-years — so just being able to see them finally being taken into the fold and having fun in the way PPSD likes to have fun was really cool.”
Swimmers and divers from both teams will continue their seasons at the upcoming NCAAs.
Divers Ruby Epstein PO ’22, Emma van der Veen PO ’21, Jem Stern PO ’22 and Ben Willett PZ ’22 will represent the Sagehens at regionals this weekend at Trinity University in hopes of advancing to nationals. Kendall Hollimon CM ’20 will compete for the Stags.