The Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps swim and dive teams have long been the giants of the SCIAC; their success at the conference championships is expected, as are their large cheering sections.
But on the national level, the tables are turned.
The Division III NCAA Championships have historically been dominated by three teams: Emory, Denison and Kenyon. Nonetheless, Claremont swimmers and divers felt they represented the SCIAC and the 5Cs well in Greensboro, North Carolina, last week at the NCAA meet.
Seventeen P-P athletes qualified for the national-level meet — their largest contingent in decades — along with 13 from CMS. Both teams took home several All-American honors.
Jocelyn Crawford CM ’20, who received All-American Honorable Mention both in the 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relay in her third trip to the national meet, said low representation makes it a tougher meet mentally.
“It’s always kind of hard going into the national competitions because some of the other conferences just have a lot more schools and a lot more money and really big programs, and [the] SCIAC and west coast schools are just not as big, or competitive or [have as] old of conferences,” Crawford said.
Paddy Baylis PO ’22, making his first NCAA appearance, said this made the NCAA meet a “very different environment to really any meet we’ve had before.” Unlike at SCIACs, where CMS and P-P dominate, he said other teams had several more qualifiers and larger cheering sections.
“Compared to teams like Denison and Kenyon, we were really tiny,” Baylis said.
Despite facing the new environment as a first-year, Baylis placed fourth overall in the 1,650-yard event and 12th in the 500-yard.
“I was really stoked with the [1,650]. I think that was exactly the sort of race I was aiming for,” Baylis said.
Other P-P swimmers had strong results as well. Lukas Menkhoff PO ’21 was runner-up in the 100-yard breaststroke, Angela Ling PO ’19 and Sarah Jin PO ’19 finished fifth and sixth respectively in the 100-yard backstroke and Alex Werner PZ ’22 finished eighth in the 200-yard breaststroke. Three women’s and one men’s relay team received First Team All-American honors as well.
In the team rankings, the P-P men finished 11th and the women finished seventh.
On the women’s side, Ling said the top-10 result “says volumes about [their] team” and also demonstrates the Sagehens’ vast improvement on the national level over the past few years.
“As a senior, it’s been so rewarding to watch this team grow in strength,” Ling said. “It’s just so amazing to look at how we transitioned from just being there and having fun to wanting to score points and trying to be in the top-10 teams and achieving that.”
The CMS women placed 22nd as a team. While only two Stags qualified for the meet, both earned All-American honors. Marco Conati HM ’21 placed fourth in the 100-yard butterfly, while Kendall Hollimon CM ’20 placed third in the three-meter diving event, just a few points from first.
Hollimon had placed fourth in the event the past two years. While happy with his improvement, he said that a poor first dive in the finals made him a little disappointed with his own performance.
“I did a lot worse on that dive than I could have,” he said. “It’s kind of a bummer because I didn’t think at all that I would be able to get first, but to see now that I could’ve makes third seem disappointing, even though I know third is a wonderful spot.”
The Athenas had some strong individual and relay results: Augusta Lewis CM ’22 finished 10th in the 400-yard individual medley and 12th in the 200-yard individual medley; Mia Syme CM ’21 was 13th in the 1,650. The 800-yard freestyle relay set a new SCIAC record and came in 14th. However, Crawford said there is room for improvement as a team.
Simply qualifying for and attending the meet provided the swimmers with a sort of “reality check,” which is valuable regardless of the result, Crawford added.
“In [the] SCIAC, you’re racing the same people over and over,” Crawford said. “[Going to nationals] sets you up to make goals for the next year that are realistic, but also ambitious enough that you can really push yourself.”
However, Crawford said the small size of the SCIAC proved valuable in a different way on the national stage. In the end, swimmers from the rival teams enjoyed the opportunity to cheer each other on and represent Southern California at a meet where they were the underdogs.
“There’s a lot of support,” Crawford said. “Everyone’s just kind of happy to be there. It’s a lot more representing the conference as well as representing your team.”
Ling agreed that the inter-SCIAC bonding was one of the best parts of the competition.
“Nationals is super fun because all of the SCIAC teams grow a lot closer just because we’re pretty underrepresented,” Ling said. “It’s really cool to get behind blocks of CMS swimmers, [Cal Lutheran] swimmers and just really be there for each other representing Southern California.”