Max Scholten PO ’12 is arguably one of the most accomplished athletes Pomona-Pitzer has ever seen. He currently holds six school records for the swim team—three individuals and three relays. He has also broken his own school records multiple times. One might call him the Michael Phelps of P-P.
Assuming he kept track of his impressive accomplishments, I asked Scholten, “You’ve broken six school records, how does that feel?”
He looked at me and laughed.
“Is that even true? I have no idea.”
He then proceeded to think for a while, as he tried to figure out which events I was talking about. I was a little taken aback by his reaction. How can someone not know how many school records he holds? After chatting with Scholten a little more, it became clear to me how characteristic that was of his humble demeanor.
One might wonder how such an impressive athlete ended up at Pomona, swimming at the Division III level. There are several reasons. For most of high school, Scholten only swam about three months a year on Boulder High School’s swim team.
“I was slow in high school,” he said. “At the time I was applying to colleges, I really wasn’t that fast.”
After Scholten submitted his college applications, he joined a year-round swim team. By the end of high school, he had gone from “not that fast” to a high school All-American, placing second in state.
While Scholten probably could have swum at many Division I programs, he is happy he ended up in sunny Southern California. Competing in the Division III SCIAC is not half bad either. Scholten had the opportunity to travel with the team and go to the NCAA National Championships as a freshman. As it turns out, there are actually plenty of Division I conferences that are not as good as the SCIAC in swimming. Additionally, Scholten was very attracted to Pomona’s laid-back atmosphere and the fact that his life does not need to revolve around swimming.
Another Division III perk for Scholten? He gets to be a normal guy on campus.
“Athletic success is fun, but I don’t necessarily want everyone to know about it,” he said. “It’s not like being the quarterback at USC where everyone knows who I am.”
Scholten’s refreshing humbleness is reflected in his race preferences as well. While he loves individual races (which he considers “racing against myself”), he prefers relays.
“It’s a lot more fun to celebrate with four people than one,” he said. “The other week [my team] set a pool record for the 400 free[style], and it was so much more exciting than winning SCIACs by myself.”
Scholten has a lot to look forward to on the conference—and national—level this year. In SCIACs he hopes to win all of his events, especially the 50 freestyle. In that race, he has lost to the same swimmer by just a hundredth of a second each of the the last two years and is ready to finally beat him.
As for the NCAA Championships, Scholten’s goal is to place in the top three in at least one of his events. Since he was the only P-P swimmer to go to nationals the last couple of years, he is especially excited that some teammates will likely be joining him this year. A few of his relay teams will probably make it, as well as some of the women’s relays, which will be joining him in training for the month-long gap between SCIACs and the NCAA Championships.
“It’d be nice to have some of my teammates there,” he said. “It’s not very fun training alone. Having a team with you makes it so much better.”
While placing in the top three at the NCAA Championships seems like an impressive goal, Scholten is not stopping there. He wants to qualify for and compete at the Olympic trials this summer. He only needs to drop 0.2 seconds from his 50 freestyle and two seconds from his 100 backstroke to qualify in both races. It seems like a long shot, but if he could drop five seconds from his 200 backstroke, he would qualify in that race as well.
“I just want to make it to the trials,” Scholten said. “I just want a chance to swim there and have fun.”
Given how quickly Scholten has managed to drop time from his races in the last few years, we could easily be seeing a P-P athlete in London this summer.