Last weekend, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s and women’s swim and diving teams began their 2017-18 season competition at Pepperdine University’s Malibu Invitational, facing off against Division I, II, and III programs.
The Sagehens had a phenomenal start to the season, with a particularly strong showing from the newest additions to their teams.
On Friday, Bilguun Altantulkhuur PO '21 began his P-P career with the highest score in the Division III one- and three-meter diving events. Despite going into the competition relaxed after his coach told him the meet was more of an “introduction to the season,” the first-year diver still managed to emerge with scores of 164.35 and 158.45.
In the one-meter event, Altantulkhuur was followed by Michael Schuur PZ '19, who placed second with a score of 164.35.
In the women’s diving competition, Emma van der Veen PO '21 jumped to first place with scores of 196.15 in the one-meter and 192.35 in the three-meter events. “I came within one point of a [D-I] girl from Pepperdine in the three-meter competition, which was surprising and makes me want to try to get to that level of competition if I can,” she said. With this goal in mind, she added that she wanted to work on her “consistency and pushing [herself] to learn new, harder dives.”
On Saturday, P-P swimmers continued to produce impressive results. For the men, Lukas Menkhoff PO '21 recorded the fastest Division III times in the 200 yard freestyle, 50 breaststroke, and 100 freestyle events. “Coming into the meet, I had high expectations for myself despite being only three weeks into the season,” he said. “My goal at every competition is to swim as close to, or exceed my personal best time.”
For Menkhoff, who had military service commitments in Singapore for the past two years, swimming had “become a monotonous drawl … especially after not being able to train full-time.” He was excited by the prospect of the change that swimming with P-P would bring.
“I could not wait to experience a fresh perspective on swimming, from the change in competition length (from meters to yards), a renewed experience of team spirit, to the sense of pride and togetherness I strongly desired in a team,” he said.
The Sagehens’ “team camaraderie” has not disappointed him. “I’ve never experienced anything like it, from the way we encourage and support each other throughout practice, at meets and even out and about around campus,” he added.
The Sagehens' success extended to Greg Havton PZ '21, first-place finisher in the 50 butterfly and second in the 100 butterfly, Nikhil Kundu PO '21, who raced to first in 50 backstroke and second in the 100 individual medley (IM) and 200 backstroke events, and Conner Wells PZ '21, who landed in first of the 100 breaststroke.
Meanwhile, Will Abele PO '19 placed first in the 200 butterfly and third in the 100 butterfly. Right behind Abele in the 200 butterfly was Samuel To PO '18, who also won the 50 freestyle and 100 individual medley.
Coming first in the 100 and 200 breaststroke was Nathan Hahn PO '19, while Liam O’Shea PO '20 won the 100 and 200 backstroke and finished as as runner-up in the 50 freestyle and in third in the 200 freestyle and 100 IM events.
In the women’s races, Kirsten Mortimer PO '21 kickstarted her time as a Sagehen with a first place finish in the 200 freestyle and second place finish in the 100 freestyle. Her teammate Mikaela Nishida PO '21 also performed well with a first place finish in the 100 butterfly.
Veteran P-P swimmer Angela Ling PO '18 had a stellar day in the pool, taking first in the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke events. Sabrina Kwan PO '20 outswam teammate Anna Newman PO '21 by two seconds, while also taking first in the 100 IM and second in the 50 butterfly, right behind teammate Madison Kauahi PZ '19 who won the 50 and 100 freestyle events. Hannah Dorris PO '20 also had a strong outing, earning two second-place finishes in the 50 and 100 breaststroke races.
With three teams in the men’s 300 freestyle relay event, Menkhoff led teammates Ryan Drover PZ '19, Nick Lewis PO '19, and Erik Garcia PO '19 to a first place finish among all Division III teams, while also swimming an individual leg of 21.35, faster than any of the Division II and III swimmers in that event.
Relay success continued into the women’s 300 freestyle event as all three Sagehen teams ended up on the podium. The fastest P-P team was comprised of Kauahi, Kwan, Seidel, and Kate Denend PO '21. Kauahi cruised through the race with the lowest time of 24.96 for an individual leg of Division I, II, and III female athletes.
In fact, like Menkhoff and Kauahi, multiple P-P swimmers and divers outperformed their Division I and II counterparts. “This was incredibly inspiring to me and proves just how much talent and potential [the] team holds, especially with this year’s incredible group of freshman swimmers,” said Menkhoff.
Of P-P’s results as a whole, Seidel remarked, “The first couple of meets of the season are more about strategy and swimming the race well, as opposed to swimming best times. So the times aren’t there yet, but we had a great attitude and presence on deck which made for a really fun meet.”
Agostini elaborated on how the team had “[come] off a difficult week of training, so everyone was fairly exhausted going into the meet.” However, she was confident in the current team culture’s ability to guide them to strong results. As the only sport with co-ed training, “the men’s and women’s team are always together and supporting each other. That translates to our training and competition in a lot of ways. Whether it be a teammate encouraging to finish strong during a hard set, or someone cheering for you during a race, we take pride in the fact our priority is to support each other.”
With solid results to start off the season, the P-P swim and dive team hopes to capture the SCIAC title in February. “We were very close last year, and this year we intend to take it all the way,” said Altantulkhuur.
“As a team, we’re focusing on being mindful and doing the little things right,” Seidel added. “I think it takes a special kind of person to do what we do – to get up before the sun to hop in a cold pool and have our face in the water for the majority of practice, for what seems to be gazillion times a week sometimes – and to be smiling and giggling with your teammates the whole time.”
P-P’s swimmers and divers will be hosting Cal Baptist University in the afternoon on Friday, Oct. 27.