The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams ended a great season at the SCIAC La Mirada Splash! meet from Feb.18-21. CMS competed against eight other schools in the southern California league, all of whom the team faced during the regular season. Tensions were running high—this was the Athenas’ chance to win their 14th consecutive SCIAC championship, while the Stags were hoping to win to come out on top for the ninth straight year.
The men’s team pulled out the win with 1,044 points to preserve their status as the SCIAC champions. The Athenas came close, finishing second overall with 964 points, but the athletes were proud of their results.
Unlike other teams, every CMS swimmer and diver on the team had the opportunity to compete at La Mirada. SCIAC rules limit the number of scorers to 24, so most schools only send their top 24 athletes to the meet. CMS, on the other hand, put more of an emphasis on developing the team as a whole.
The four-day competition was long (needless to say), with preliminary races in the morning, finals in the evening, and relays at night. The team got to the pool around 8 a.m. every morning, and wouldn't leave until around 8 p.m. at night. However, Athena swimmer Madison Blumer SC '18 did not complain.
“Even though it's a long day, the energy is still pretty high because the relays are the last event, and those are the most fun to cheer for at the pool,” Blumer said. “Everyone else is done by that point if you're not in the relay, so they're ready to cheer. It's one of the best 'team' parts of swim because every other race is an individual battle, but this is four people trying to swim to get the best total time.”
To prepare for the big event, the teams balanced vigorous training and relaxation in the weeks leading up to the competition. Practices became shorter and they swam fewer yards each time so that they could focus on swimming at race pace. The coach wanted everyone to rest more in general, to eat well, and to get good sleep (all of which are difficult for college students to prioritize). But it paid off in the final meet.
Standout performances came from Stephanie Doi CM ’17, who was named SCIAC Female Athlete of the Year for her impressive season with the Athenas, and won the 200 IM (2:05.41). The Athenas relay team (Emma Stacy SC ’19, Lauren Rosenberger CM ’18, Elizabeth Carrade CM ’18, and Riley Hoffman CM ’19) took first in the 800-yard freestyle. Kelly Ngo CM ’17 qualified for the NCAA Diving Prelims with a first-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle (51.05).
For the Stags, Matthew Williams CM ’17 was named SCIAC Male Athlete of the Year, and won the 100-yard backstroke (49.11), the 200-yard backstroke (1:47.91), and the 100-yard fly (48.97). Matt Valentine HM ’16 also took first in the men’s 200-yard IM (23.89). Noah Deer CM ’18 won first in the 100-yard freestyle (44:94), and will also be competing in the Diving Prelims. Additionally, Alexander Poltash CM ’16 performed well, taking the 50-yard freestyle (20.51), and 200-yard freestyle (1:38.58). Aaron Lutzker also placed first in the 200-yard breastroke (2:03.76), helping the Stags take first for the event.
Although their SCIAC win streak snapped, Blumer was proud of the Athenas’ performance. “I haven't really competed at this level before, and it was really nice to see how everyone supported each other through the entire weekend,” she said. “Even though we didn't win the meet, we still won a lot of the individual battles. Even when it wasn't going our way, we still supported everybody on the team.”
That's the goal for next year: To continue supporting each other and building off one another to come out on top at SCIACs. Both the Athenas and Stags hope to finish first next season. Although it's typically seen as an individual sport, the CMS teams understand that the team is what matters most: Even when only one CMS swimmer or diver is in the pool, everyone else will be cheering them on. And that’s just what the CMS swimmers will be doing, as they watch Doi, Ngo, Deer, Poltash, Valentine, Williams, Zach Alleva CM ’16, and Zach Alleva CM ’16 compete in the NCAA Diving Prelims in Grinnell, Iowa, on Feb. 26 and 27.