Pomona-Pitzer Swimming and Diving earned a second-place showing at the 2014 SCIAC Championships, a three-day battle over the weekend of Feb. 22-24 for spots at NCAA Nationals in March. The Sagehens saw quite a bit of success at the meet and collected 23 provisional “B” bids for NCAA Nationals. The women’s team amassed 925 points, well ahead of third-place University of Redlands, which had 607 points. They came in second to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, which rounded out the meet with 1152.5 points. CMS also placed first on the men’s side with a strong 1,229 points, but P-P men still pulled off an exciting second-place victory over Redlands, with 706.5 points to Redlands’ 622.
The defeat of Redlands complements an exciting regular season win for the men—a win that P-P has not pulled off since 1999. Coach Jean-Paul Gowdy said that beating Redlands was one of the big goals for the men’s team this season, and definitely a source of pride.
“The seniors really did a nice job, not just swimming fast, but leading the team, and it was pretty neat to see their reaction,” he said. “It is a fun moment as a coach to watch your team react to something they’ve been working toward all year.”
Nathan Yale PO ’14 said that the win was a indicative of strong inter-season improvement on the men’s side.
“It’s a sign of where the program is going,” he said. “Here are some really tangible results of where coach [Gowdy] is trying to take the team and how hard we’ve been working.”
On the other side of the team, the women had a strong showing of individual events at the SCIAC Championships. Kay Sterner PO ’17 set a strong tone with her first-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle, a win that proved crucial in establishing team momentum.
“She was going up against a really fast girl from CMS, and it was a very close race, neck-to-neck the entire time,” Ellena Basada PO ’16 said. “And she out-touched her at the very end, and it was amazing to see a freshman do such a great feat. After Kay’s race, I feel that it kind of set the mood for the rest of SCIACs. It grounded everyone. Beforehand, we were all so excited and nervous because it was such a new experience, but seeing Kay swim so well allowed everyone to get in their zone and perform to their abilities.”
Sterner also had third-place finishes in both the 200-yard and 1-mile freestyle races, helping her earn the SCIAC Newcomer of the Year award.
“That was a huge surprise because I didn’t even know the award existed,” Sterner said. “And so they were talking about [the award] and I was like, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ Then they announced it and they were like, ‘She got third in the 200, third in the mile, first in [the] 500.’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s me.’ It was really exciting. It was a surprise and so I am just really happy about it.”
Alex Lincoln PO ’14 also had a strong showing. She went out of her last SCIAC meet on a high note, clinching first place overall in the 100-yard freestyle and second in the 200-yard freestyle. Lincoln also led the 800-yard freestyle relay team, which also included Vicky Gyorffy PO ’15, Johanna Rayl PO ’16, and Sterner, to a first-place finish, setting a school record and earning the team a spot in the NCAA Division III Championships.
Mia Hahn PO ’16 also had an impressive performance, breaking her own school record in the 200-yard backstroke and placing second overall. Rounding out the fastest swims was Basada, who cruised her way to first place in the 800-yard individual medley in 4:31.08, breaking her own school record and coming in a full three seconds before the second-place finisher.
The men’s team also had an impressive string of personal bests. Kyle Dalrymple PZ ’17 broke a school record in the 200-yard breaststroke, while the 400-yard freestyle relay team beat their record from two years ago by more than a second.
The dominating highlight of the men’s side, though, was a personal best swim by Yale. Yale took on the 100-yard breaststroke with intensity, swimming his way to a second-place showing and shattering his seed time by a remarkable five seconds. He had previously never swam in a championship final before, and described the experience as “astonishing.”
“The evening is such an electric atmosphere,” Yale said. “The stands are filled and everyone’s super excited and yelling and it’s loud and they walk you out with music. I went in wanting to swim the best race I could and leave nothing in the pool.”
Upon realizing that he had placed second, Yale said, “I’m sure I was beaming, but I was really surprised. I’m really glad it happened, but I was also just really glad to be in finals—that was a dream within itself.”
Yale also described what it was like as a senior to see his four years of swimming add up to something so meaningful.
“I mean, to get second, that was not something I ever thought I would be a part of,” he said. “That was something I watched as a freshman and sophomore. I watched our top swimmers—they were the ones who got to stand on the podium. That was just something I’d always get to watch and think was cool. But it was such an honor to be able to do that myself.”
The SCIAC Championships marked the end of the season for most P-P swimmers, who are looking ahead to next year. For the seniors, though, the moment is bittersweet. Yale described the distinctive emotions surrounding the end of his time with P-P.
“Usually at the end of the swim season, it’s just complete relief,” he said. “You’re just so thrilled to be done—you just feel euphoric to be done with this huge monster of a meet. But as a senior, it’s much more bittersweet, with a lot of emphasis on the bitter. I think for most of us, being on the swim team has kind of defined our time at Pomona. It’s also kind of this signal that Pomona’s ending and these people that you’ve grown to love—we’re all going on to more things.”
After finishing the SCIAC meet, the team headed back to Pomona College for one final huddle, which Basada said brings forth cathartic emotions and reflection.
“When we got back to Haldeman [pool], we all huddled up. We do this at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year,” she said. “We got in this huge circle with all of our coaches and the team. Our coaches and our seniors deliberated on the year, said how much the team means to them. They really summarized the love and the family feel of our team, which is one of the dearest things about swim team. Because, really, I don’t feel as though we could get through September through February season without a group of a people that we love to death.”
NCAA Division III Nationals will be held March 19-22 in Indianapolis.