Over winter break, the Occidental men’s and women’s swim team edged out Chapman University and the University of Redlands. Occidental beat Chapman 151–143 and Redlands 159–129. According to women’s swim team captain Laura Chun (junior), this is the women’s first win over Redlands since 2006, and the men’s first win against the Bulldogs since 1988.
Women’s team co-captain Joan Kronick (junior) credited the recent success to the leadership of coaches Steven Webb, Ricky Lang and Jackie Hirsty. Chun said that Webb, Lang and Hirsty each emphasize one area of focus: intensity, power and attention to detail. Chun added that additional practice drills for turns, such as mid-pool twenty fives or mid-pool fifties, have also made for stronger performances during competitive races.
Men’s captain Austin Lashley (senior) is fond of the coaching staff’s new techniques.
“We focus a lot on speed with [Webb],” Lashley said. “A lot of swimming used to be garbage yardage: try to get as many yards as possible. Steve takes a more modern approach, with lower yardage, but higher intensity. My first two years, we had different coaches, but we were doing higher yardage, and we were being broken down as much as possible.”
Chun and Lashley also highlighted assistant coach Hirsty’s positive influence on the team, citing her emphasis on attention to detail as the contributing factor to improved turns and finishes.
Kronick expressed the importance of reciprocity between the coaches and the swimmers.
“Our athletes hold the [utmost] respect for our coaches, so we aim to impress,” Kronick said. “We want our coaches to be proud of us for each practice and performance, therefore we are swimming for something larger than ourselves. This holds our athletes accountable to work hard in every aspect of our sport, which at times is mundane and unforgiving, yet our coaches inspire us to stay engaged throughout our nearly [six-] month season.”
According to Webb, the team has gotten accustomed to the new high-intensity training techniques implemented last year when he joined the staff. Beyond physical techniques, Webb spoke about the importance of a team’s culture.
“A lot of people consider swimming an individual sport, but it’s really not,” Webb said. “Even though you get your specific time, it’s for the collective good for the team.”
In order to build team camaraderie, Webb looks to his captains. He highlighted their leadership in and outside the pool.
“We have great captains in leadership,” Webb said. “[The captains] set up their own team goal meetings within themselves, going beyond the ones I’ve set up. That’s how driven they are. They know they have the opportunity to do great things at conference.”
Both Chun and Kronick said that they are expecting high finishes at the upcoming Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). Recent victories over Chapman, Redlands, Cal Tech and La Verne have boosted the overall confidence of the swim team. Specifically, Chun expressed that coaches Webb and Hirsty have prepared them physically, emotionally and mentally through challenging practice and competition sets, such as the 400 individual medley and the 200 butterfly.
According to team captains Chun, Kronick and Lashley, they try to instill a sense of confidence, positivity and gratitude in their fellow teammates.
“As a captain, I have a positive influence,” Chun said. “During tough sets, I say encouraging things to my teammates. When someone is doubtful of their performance and how well they are doing during the season, I tell them they are doing well and to trust the process.”
With one final meet against Whittier, Webb said that he is confident that this season will be Occidental’s best performance in 30 years and that they may break upwards of 10 records this season. He also said that he hopes Lashley qualifies for the national team.
“I’ve been close the last few years, and it would be awesome in my senior year to make the team,” Lashley said. “I’ve been within hundredths of seconds. I think that would be a good way to go out.”
Looking ahead to the future, Webb said that he was excited about the new aquatic center slated for completion in 2018. According to Webb, Occidental will soon have a pool that is comparable to other schools in its league.
“The future is bright,” Webb said.