For the past 14 years, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer swim and dive teams have gone back and forth winning SCIAC championships. Historically, either CMS or P-P have won on both the men’s and women’s sides.
But this year, the teams traded the top two spots: The P-P women’s team and CMS men’s team each claimed first, with the CMS women’s team and P-P men’s team in second place, trailing by 51 and 189 points, respectively.
P-P’s young talent lead women to victory, men to close second
Alexandra Turvey PO ’24 was named SCIAC swimmer of the year for her outstanding performance at the championship meet. She competed in three individual events and four relays — and took home gold for each.
She was more focused on the team as whole, noting that her favorite part of the meet was watching others reach their personal goals.
“When you know people have been working all year towards this final meet, getting to watch their reactions after a really good swim… that makes me love the sport,” Turvey said.
Although the P-P men’s team weren’t ultimately able to beat CMS out for the number one spot, they did dominate the 400-yard IM race. This was thanks to a podium sweep with Larry Yu PO ’24, Justin Lu PO ’22 and Allen Chang PZ ’25 going 1-2-3.
Like Turvey, Yu also raced in three individual events and four relays. He placed first in the 400-yard Individual Medley, second in the 1650-yard and second in the 500 yard freestyle.
The 800-freestyle relay was another highlight for Yu. Going in as the anchor for P-P’s team, he had a slight lead off of the competition.
“The Caltech guy, he went out super hard and caught up with me, so I was internally freaking out — you don’t want to lose to Caltech … eventually, I think he went out too hard and he kind of died in the last 50, so I was able to outlast him,” Yu said. “It was a really fun experience, the energy especially for relays was unmatched in SCIACs.”
Being away from the pool for more than a year significantly impacted swimmers across the board.
During her senior year of high school, Turvey was a 2020 Canadian Olympic trials qualifier in the 50-meter freestyle, but the trials were canceled due to the onset of COVID-19. For Turvey and her teammates, COVID-19 and the subsequent lack of a collegiate season last year presented a variety of challenges.
None of the underclassmen had collegiate swimming experience, and even the upperclassmen had been out of practice when it came to large-scale competitions like SCIACs, Yu explained.
“I don’t think any of us had a meet of that [skill-level] since March 2020, maybe even earlier,” he said. “This was my first big college meet, so I was excited to see what I could do.”
Captain Jason Lu PO ’22 noticed that this translated to somewhat of a difficult start for the Sagehen swimmers.
“At the beginning of the season, it was maybe a little bit more rocky. But I think as the season progressed, everybody was getting back into shape, everybody was getting back into it,” Lu said.
Another obstacle was keeping a 70-plus-person team COVID-safe.
“As a senior, you get a lot more responsibilities and you get a lot more just stuff you have to do and I think that’s something that I wasn’t fully aware of or prepared for and I think COVID kind of exaggerated that.”
Several athletes underscored how crucial a role the team environment played in P-P’s success this season.
“I’ve never been part of such a supportive team who just really loves each other,” Turvey said.
Although the Sixth Street Rivalry remains, there appears to be little animosity between P-P and CMS, as members from both teams pointed out how skilled the opposite program is.
“We’re always really excited to race CMS because they have so many amazing athletes, as well,” Turvey said. “I think the rivalry really brings out the best in all of us.”
CMS’ focus on combined program proves successful
Coming into SCIACs with a 7-0 season record, the CMS men’s team knew they had a good chance of winning. But for many of the athletes, just being able to compete was enough.
Anderson Breazeale CM ’24 won the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke races, and was a member of the 200-yard medley relay team which set a new SCIAC record.
“Mostly [we were] just really grateful to have the opportunity to compete, I’d say that’s what the team was most excited for,” Breazeale said.
The men’s team’s win was solidified by standout performances from rookies Lucas Lang HM ’25 and Nick Tekieli HM ‘24. Lang set a SCIAC record in the 1650-yard freestyle and SCIAC Newcomer of the Year Tekieli won all his events except one.
The CMS women’s team’s close finish behind P-P was led partly by Augusta Lewis CM ’22, who broke both her SCIAC records in the 200-yard IM and 400-yard IM and won every individual event she swam except one.
The Athenas’ strongest event was the 200-yard backstroke, which saw Jameson Mitchum CM ’23, Sammy Ennis CM ’25 and Anna Werts CM ’25 sweep the podium with a 1-2-3 finish.
Ella Blake HM ’23, a multi-talented distance and relay swimmer, also contributed to the team’s second-place finish.
For the majority of the 1650-yard freestyle, she stayed stroke-for-stroke alongside training partner Gracey Hiebert HM ’23. She didn’t let that distract her, though, and managed to stay zoned in.
“I feel like a lot of times when I’m swimming, I’m mostly just thinking about the race,” she said. “I like to have a song stuck in my head so I’m kind of in my own world a little bit.”
Even before this meet, the CMS program got off to a good start this season in November, with their sights set on SCIACs and improving team culture.
Their efforts proved worthwhile, as it resulted in an unofficial cumulative best score for CMS as a combined men’s and women’s program. This reflects the overall strength of the program, Breazeale said.
“Although the points are separate for Athenas and Stags, we kind of just think of it as one team,” he said. “If you add the scores… CMS would have come out on top. That’s not a real thing, there’s no award for that, but we kind of were like, proud that if you were to look at the combined programs of all the teams that the CMS one would have had the most points.”
Both teams on to nationals
CMS and P-P will send around 20 swimmers each to the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis March 16-19. Divers from CMS and P-P will likely also compete at nationals, depending on the results of the NCAA regional qualifiers in San Antonio this weekend.
The rematch is motivating both teams.
“It’s hard to know how other people will race,” Yu said, “But, of course, CMS is going to be out there so we’re hoping to beat them a few more times, as well as make finals and win as much as possible.”
For all athletes who qualified, the next three weeks will see training ramp back up and then taper down before the biggest meet of their season.
“So, yeah, sort of back to work now,” Turvey said.
For Lu, this will be his last nationals, so his goals are more focused on the experience and leaving an impact on his teammates.
“I really want to just go into it with, ‘let me enjoy my teammates and enjoy the swimming,’” Lu said. “And I can hopefully impart some knowledge onto the younger swimmers who are also going to nationals so that they’ll be better prepared in the future.”
Breazeale has some personal goals, including trying to place in the top eight in at least one of his individual races, and to help make the relays he’s on be the best they can be.
“When your teammates work so hard, and they still do really well, individually, I don’t think we’re ever going to be disappointed, no matter if it’s first, second, third or whatever,” Breazeale said. “As long as we’re supportive and proud of how we performed, I think we’re happy with the outcome.”