New Season, New Coach: Swimming Under the Iron Fist

Pomona-Pitzer swimming will kick off the season next week under the leadership of a new head coach. Michael “Iron Fist” Wong has succeeded the retired Coach Bruce Brown as Interim Head Coach for Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving.

The team will undoubtedly miss Brucey dearly for his bizarre jokes, weekly horoscope readings, and propensity for writing “woolgathering” and “stargazing” into the workouts. On a more meaningful note, Coach Bruce always provided a willing ear and was a constant source of compassionate support that was central to the aquatics community during his two years of coaching.

Wong will be the team’s fourth head coach in the past six years, and the team is getting used to seeing new coaches. “The P-P swim coach job is beginning to look a little like the position of Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Joe Labriola over Facebook upon Bruce’s retirement

Despite this loss, the overall climate on the pool deck and in the locker rooms is one of excitement mixed with a few smatterings of apprehension for the changes ushered in by the Wong Era. But Wong will have a lot on his plate this coming season. Although ultimately a great success, illness and injury plagued the 2009-2010 season. Swine Flu, hangovers, mono, a variety of respiratory problems and chemical burns, and widespread bleaching caused by apocalyptic chlorine levels all tested the team’s resilience. The usual swimming-related overuse injuries combined with a freak balcony climbing injury and other breaks and bruises also worked to sideline team members. Already, captain’s practices have been interrupted by a mild chlorine scare (although nothing compared to last year’s catastrophe, thankfully), not to mention the ever-present temptation to float or tan rather than work out. The men’s team suffered a pre-season blow when rising 200-fly star Tom “Taco” Cleveland PO ‘12 sustained a severe arm-wrestling injury and was out of the water for two weeks.

However, Coach Wong (Oxy ’09) and his flock of Sagehens/cocks remain optimistic. As the assistant coach last year, Wong comes into this season with no illusions, having spent the summer preparing for the task at hand. He worked at UCLA and USC swim camps and handcrafted a sweet rolling whiteboard for practices. At USC, Wong learned from renowned coach Dave Salo the importance of “intense, technically focused and race-oriented” training, which he plans to implement for P-P’s workouts. According to Wong, he and Salo also “became BFFs.”

To complement his training philosophy, Coach Wong has armed himself and the team with an impressive list of goals. His first priority is to “create an environment that is conducive to fast swimming.” Within this environment, Michael hopes to “raise expectations and continually improve.” He lists many specific benchmarks he wants the team to achieve, but wishes them to remain top-secret and unpublished. These goals include “demolishing” certain teams, and attaining very specific numbers of podium finishes, broken records and points scored. He also hopes to place at least 10 people on the 2012 Olympic team to top Salo. To cap off the lofty list, the men’s team added “V-cut abs” as a major priority.

As competitions start next month, keep an eye out for P-P Swimming and Diving’s conquests inspired by the strong leadership of Coach Wong and enacted by a stellar returning crew and an impressive freshman class. Also, feel free to ask men’s team members how their abs are doing.

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