A four-day battle to determine the 2018 SCIAC swim and dive champions concluded Saturday at Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, California, and the Pomona-Pitzer men’s and women’s teams swam away with both titles.
The men’s 1086.5 to 998 victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was the first SCIAC championship in Pomona-Pitzer history, and snapped CMS’ impressive 10-year streak of conference titles.
“I was extremely excited, as was everybody on the team,” Mark Hallman PO ’18 wrote in a message to TSL. “Winning for the first time meant a lot to everybody involved, especially my fellow seniors who have been working so hard for this. We were even flooded with messages from alumni who were excited for us.”
Sagehen head coach Jean-Paul Gowdy said his team’s close loss in the 2017 SCIAC championship provided extra motivation this season.
“We only lost by eight [points] last year — it was crushing, it was really difficult last year,” he said. “To bounce back from that sort of win a little bit more emphatically, was pretty sweet.”
The victory would not have been possible without contributions from Hallman, who was named SCIAC Male Athlete of the Year, and Lukas Menkhoff PO ’21, the SCIAC Newcomer of the Year.
Menkhoff and Hallman went one-two in the 100-yard freestyle, with Menkhoff setting a new meet and school record of 44.16 in the process. Then, the duo, along with Samuel To PO ’18 and Ryan Drover PZ ’19, won the 400-yard freestyle relay in 2:59.65, also a meet and school record.
“Those are some of the ones that stand out in terms of winning events,” Gowdy said, but “when a swim team wins a championship … it’s the people, like Kyle Allison [PO ’18], he’s a senior, doesn’t stand out in terms of placing high, but scoring in his two events, or Peter Hanson [PZ ’18], who’s another senior, really had a purpose this year. Those guys don’t always get the headline, but it’s often those kind of guys that are the difference in a swim meet.”
Gowdy attributes much of the men’s and women’s success to the teams’ culture this year.
“I think we’re an inclusive bunch. The swim season is a grind,” he said. “It’s not always fun, but it needs to be rewarding and enjoyable. When you have leaders that can lead in the tough times, you typically get to a big end-of-season meet and things go well.”
Led by Maddie Kauahi PZ ’19, the Sagehen women won their second title in three years, pulling away from the Athenas for a comfortable 1166 to 1015 win.
Kauahi was named the SCIAC Female Athlete of the Year and won six events — the 50-yard freestyle in a SCIAC-record time of 23.30 seconds, the 100-yard freestyle in a meet record 50.82, the 400-yard medley relay, the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay, and the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Again, Gowdy credited swimmers who weren’t event winners, but performed well and scored points for the team, including Molly Weinstock PO ’18, Alex Seidel PO ’18, Sarah Jin PO ’19, and Mackenzie Cummings PO ’19.
“In a lot of ways, the women’s win was a bit more of a surprise,” he said. “The men, we knew we were close last year … the women, we lost by 250 or so. And so to come back and make up that difference speaks to a lot of good things happening throughout the year with training.”
Though CMS fell short last week, the Stags and Athenas still had plenty of individual performances to celebrate.
“Our team has a history of winning championships, so we’re never going to claim to be satisfied with anything short of that, but at the same time we give a lot of credit to Pomona-Pitzer, who earned that championship,” CMS head coach Charlie Griffiths said. “We fought as hard as we could and hold our heads high.”
The Stags were led by Kendall Hollimon CM ’20, who won the one- and three-meter dives, and has been “one of the outstanding divers in the country,” Griffiths said. “It’s always fun to watch him perform at a high level.”
Another highlight was Henry Limm HM ’20, who broke CMS’ oldest record by swimming 3:55.61 in the the 400-yard intermediate medley.
For the Athenas, Mia Syme CM ’21 swam 4:57.37 to break the conference’s oldest record: the 500-yard freestyle, which had stood since 1999. The 4×200 yard freestyle relay team broke the meet record, Maia Presti SC ’18 brought home a victory in the one-meter dive, and Claire Bacon-Brenes SC ’20 won the 200-yard breaststroke.
“[Bacon-Brenes] was defending champion in that event, so it was nice for her to be able to get on top of the podium for that one,” Griffiths said. “We had some really strong performances and plenty to feel good about.”
The season isn’t over for CMS or P-P; the NCAA diving prelims in San Antonio this weekend will determine which divers will compete at the NCAA championships, and both teams discovered Wednesday which swimmers qualified for NCAAs.
The P-P men and women will be represented by eight swimmers each, including Kauahi, Cummings, Jin, Seidel, Drover, Hallman, Menkhoff, and To.
While the Stags will have only one swimmer, Limm, at NCAAs, the Athenas will send nine, including Bacon-Brenes and Syme.
The NCAA championships begin March 21 in Indianapolis.