The men’s and women’s swim season began Oct. 20 and 21 at the Malibu Invite, hosted by Pepperdine University, which included a mix of Division I, II and III schools. Both teams turned in successful performances, placing top three in multiple races.
Annika Moen (sophomore), who took first place in the 400-yard individual medley, was one of several scoring swimmers for the Tigers. Moen cites the challenge of racing against schools in other divisions as an enjoyable challenge of the event.
“It was nice getting a chance to compete against Division I and II schools because we don’t normally get to do that and a lot of the swimmers are really fast girls so it is a good challenge to swim against them,” Moen said.
The teams used this meet to measure the status of their performances at this stage of the season, women’s captain Joan Kronick (junior) said. According to Kronick, many returning swimmers recorded times similar to those seen in midseason in past years. Kronick credits this to the relatively new coaching staff. This is coach Steven Webb’s second year at Occidental and assistant coach Ricky Lane’s second year working with the team.
“Coach Webb is incredible. His practices are really productive and keep you positive,” Kronick said. “He is very understanding, keeps it light and doesn’t pit anyone against each other in a negative way, which is very common. Yes, you have to compete against your teammate but your goal isn’t to beat your teammate, it’s to move forward with your teammate.”
According to Webb, he purposefully designs practices to be fun, but constantly challenging, to make sure that practice time is well-spent.
“I always say ‘you are swimming the best when you’re having fun with it,’ so we try to create a fun environment,” Webb said. “We are also more high-intensity so they are enjoying it because it is more than just going through the motions — everything has a purpose, which gives them a reason to swim hard every day.”
According to Webb, the success of the team is due to students’ dedication, hard work during their offseason and team leadership—especially that of returning men’s captain and last year’s MVP, Austin Lashley (senior). According to Lashley and Kronick, the team holding each other accountable has made a noticeable difference in team culture and morale in attendance to weightlifting sessions, cheering at meets and general dedication to the team.
The drive to improve upon last year’s finishing rankings and the potential to do so with new talent and hard work has led to teammates pushing themselves and each other to improve, according to Lashley. One of Kronick’s goals for the season as a captain is to build this accountability.
“As a captain this season, I’m really looking forward to changing team culture to keep holding each other accountable and building team morale. I want to see more second swims in SCIACs and lifetime bests for upperclassmen,” Kronick said.
Moen, Lashley and Kronick have all noticed the change in the depth of the team, meaning the talent spread across athletes of different years.
“Last year, we did not have a lot of depth to the team with few first years and one senior so we now have a lot more depth and potential. We have an awesome first-year class this season who are all super passionate about swimming,” Lashley said.
This increase in roster size largely comes from 19 first years on the team this year, an unusually large addition that, according to Kronick, has already started to contribute to the team’s successes. This is the first first-year class that Webb recruited to Occidental. Kronick, Moen and Lashley all praised their coach’s ability to build such a large first-year roster and are excited for the impact it will have on their season.
“This year we are good from top to bottom and are definitely looking to climb the SCIAC this year,” Webb said. “Our first goal is to get everyone back to their lifetime best times and faster, but our season is a long one. Our ultimate goal is to be fastest at conference in February, where we hope to build upon our success last year.”
Occidental’s men and women’s swim teams will have their first home meet Nov. 11 at Taylor Pool.
The diving team was unavailable to comment for this story.