P-P Swimming Takes 3rd at SCIAC Championships

It’s three days of nonstop swimming competition and voice-box-wrecking cheering. It’s the pre-meet shaving party and slick new racing suits. It’s eating In-N-Out across the street instead of low-budget bagels, Subway, and spaghetti. It’s the mental relaxation, albeit brief, that comes from missing two full days of classes. It’s the adrenaline rush that comes from screaming for a record-breaking relay until your head feels like it’s about to explode. It’s being asked the question “Are you ready?” and giving a truthful “Absolutely!”

This year, the Sagehens enjoyed a little extra inspiration from the ski jumping and ice dancing in the Winter Olympics playing on the hotel TVs.

Prelims for each event take place in the morning. The top 16 in each event have another chance to swim the same event that night.

Nine out of sixteen swim in the consolation heat. As a consolation swimmer, you get a few points for your team and your name is announced over the speakers as you’re swimming. Unfortunately for consolation swimmers, but fortunately for some finalists, consolation swimmers cannot rise any higher than ninth place. A consolation swimmer could set a SCIAC record and still finish ninth because he didn’t swim his best that morning.

The top eight swim in the finals heat, whose participants get the privilege of walking out to the Mission Impossible theme song or some other such epic music playing over the loudspeaker as all their teammates cheer loudly from the bleachers behind the blocks. The announcer gives a one-sentence bio about each finalist, mentioning the swimmer’s success within the past few days or prior years. Those who place first through third after finals stand on top of raised blocks, wave to the crowd, and get their pictures taken, as though they just swam in the Olympics.

This is what Sagehen swimmers live for, when all the time and energy they have devoted finally pays off, when they look up at the scoreboard after their race to see their best time all season or a conference record. This is the SCIAC 2010, Feb. 21-23 in the Belmont Plaza in Long Beach.

Day 1, Sunday.:

“Men’s team, assemble!” came the war cry from Brian Borger PO ’10, followed by the launch of the “coooock rocket!” cheer from the men’s team.

Despite the pump-up cheer, the Sagehens needed all of the Sunday morning prelims to get rid of their pre-SCIAC jitters. As Assistant Coach Michael Wong reminded the swimmers after prelims, “You haven’t scored any points yet.” Good thing, too, otherwise many Sagehens would likely be less than pleased with their performance.

The explosive 4×50 free relay of Ryland Arnoldi PO ‘11, David Lee PO ’10, Chris Wright PO ’12, and Max Scholten PO’12 that jump-started finals Sunday night quickly dispelled all nervousness. Joe La- Briola PO ’12 finished fourth in the 500 Freestyle above ninth place consolation heat teammate J.P. Cumming PO’13, who actually clocked in almost three seconds ahead of LaBriola. In the 200 individual medley (IM), Tommy De Paoli PO ’13 dropped a second from his time that morning, rising to sixth place. Andrew Kinimaka PO ’11, who barely squeaked into the consolation heat at 16th place that morning, jumped to 11th. In the 50 freestyle, Scholten narrowly took second and Arnoldi and Lee tied for 14th. To close off the day, the 400 medley relay team of Scholten, Borger, DePaoli, and Lee smashed the school record with a time of 3:29.73, to the pure excitement of head coach Bruce Brown, who was bouncing off the walls.

Day 2, Monday:

On the tail feathers of the previous night’s relay, Monday’s finals commenced with the school-record breaking 4×50 medley relay of Scholten, Grant Gucinski PO ’10, DePaoli, and Arnoldi, which carried the team through the rest of the night. Cumming came through with a fourth place finish in the 400 IM, followed by Tyson Chihara PO ’10, who finished 12th. Sagehens dominated the final heat of the 100 butterfly, with DePaoli coming in fourth, Erik Peterson PI ‘11 in sixth, and Wright in seventh. Vincent Giannotti PI ’12 kept the Sagehens competitive in the 200 freestyle with his 15th place finish in the consolation heat. In the 100 breaststroke, Gucinski managed to sneak into the final heat in eighth place, while ninth place Kinimaka and 11th place Borger claimed the consolation heat. Scholten took first in the 100 backstroke with a finish that was much closer than the Sagehens would have appreciated.

The brutal 4×200 freestyle relay with LaBriola, Wright, Giannotti, and Cumming was the climax of the night, as the Sagehens came from behind in the final 100 to edge out Cal Lutheran.

Day 3, Tuesday:

The Sagehens had already lost their voices, but they still managed to belt out a chorus of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” after the tearful senior recognition that started off the finals on Tuesday.

Cumming finished second in the mile, destroying his previous time by almost a minute. The entire conference then watched in awe as Scholten shattered the SCIAC record by two full seconds in the 200 backstroke, clenching a NCAA A cut in the process. LaBriola rose from eighth to seventh in that event, followed by Cody Moore PO ’13 who hopped up to 15th. In the 100 Freestyle, Lee advanced from eighth to seventh, and Arnoldi took 16th. Gucinski jumped to sixth in the 200 breaststroke after Borger’s 11th place finish in the consolation heat. The destructive trio of Wright, DePaoli, and Peterson dominated the final heat of the 200 butterfly, coming in second, fourth, and sixth, respectively.

The night came to a fitting end with another school-record-breaking 400 freestyle relay of LaBriola, Lee, Arnoldi, and Scholten, which took third place. Coach Brown gave an exultant fist pump towards the score board as he greeted the triumphant relay, and the Sagehens gathered behind the blocks went wild.

The Hens ended the meet solidly in third with 479 points behind the University of Redlands (846.5 points) and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. PP handily defeated fourth place Occidental (250 points), fifth place Cal Lutheran, sixth place University of La Verne, seventh place Whittier College, and eighth place Cal Tech.

All Brown could manage to croak to the team, after all his cheering, was a heartfelt, “Can you imagine what it was like watching in the stands? All your dedication, all your hard work paid off. I’m really proud of you guys.”

Equally as hoarse and proud, Wong offered a short, sweet, and to the point, “I love all of you.”

Nobody expected him to say any more. Every Sagehen felt the spirit of celebration as they joined in singing “We are the Champions” all the way back to Claremont.

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