The SCIAC Championships begin next Saturday for the Occidental swimming and diving teams, marking the end of a difficult training season for both squads.
Reigning 200-yard breaststroke national champion Steven van Deventer (junior) has guided the men’s team by posting crucial wins in multiple events, remaining one of the top point-scorers for the black and orange.
With the league culminating event on the horizon, van Deventer is looking beyond his regular season success and instead channeling his focus on the defense of his title. He believes the Tiger teams have a competitive advantage over their opponents heading into the postseason.
“We are the only team in conference to wear drag or baggy suits, which create a lot of resistance, during our meets,” van Deventer said. “At SCIACs we will drop the most time of any team in the competition because we will take every measure to cut extra time.”
Head coach Shea Manning acknowledged that the regular season was geared toward preparation for SCIACs.
“Although our results at the dual meets have not been where we want them to be, it is understandable because we are more tired than the rest of the conference because we work harder in our training sessions,” Manning said. “However, we fully expect to taper well these next two weeks and have a great SCIAC Championship meet.”
Aside from van Deventer, the men’s team will also look to underclassman standout Alexander Najarian (sophomore) for additional support in the points column. Najarian, a specialist in the butterfly stroke, has been a regular on the men’s 400-yard medley relay team. Other members of the medley squad include Will Westwater (sophomore) and David Avery (first-year).
Outside the swimming lanes, Occidental acquired a mid-season addition in Aarron Hammer (junior), the Tigers’ lone male diver. Hammer competed over the weekend at Redlands and captured sixth place on the 3-meter diving board.
“Hammer has been doing a great job, and he has been a big acquisition for the swim team as [Occidental] was the only team not to have a diver,” van Deventer said.
There are also several standout performers on the women’s side. Seniors Caroline Chang and Juliet Suess have proven themselves as significant scorers, with Chang dominating the breaststroke and Suess finding success in the freestyle.
First-year Rose Seabrook and sophomores Lizzy Kosin and Zoe Namba prove that the younger athletes are just as capable.
Seabrook has already established herself as one of the Tigers’ premier threats in the long distance races, and Namba has become a regular member of several relay teams. Meanwhile, Kosin has primarily competed in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly.
“The women have been really solid throughout the year; the team is very deep in just about every event,” Manning said.
Senior diver Jessica Robson continues to boost the women’s scoring and is a returning favorite to win a conference championship on both boards.
The championship event has proven the best showcase for Occidental swimmers as of late, as both underclassmen and upperclassmen alike have set their personal records during the event.
“I am excited for the [first-years] to experience their first championship meet because they probably have not experienced a meet with so much energy,” Namba said.
The squads both travel to the City of Commerce Aquatorium on Feb. 21-23 for the SCIAC Championship meet.