Claire Jang and Alex Zim make a splash to claim The Occidental’s Athlete of the Week

Claire Jang (first year) and Alex Zim, this week’s athletes of the week at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. Hope Fowler/The Occidental

Claire Jang (first year) won a 50 Free with a time of 24.45 seconds in a tri-meet at Whittier College against both Whittier and the defending SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer College Nov. 10. The time edged her just .07 seconds away from the school record, which she hopes to beat during her first season at Occidental.

“I want to break 24 seconds, hopefully, and maybe go to nationals,” Jang said. “But for relay, we’re pretty close.”

In addition to a first-place finish in the 50 Free, Jang placed third in the 100 Free with a time of 55.64. According to Jang, locking in mentally before her races is what drove her to successful finishes.

“30 minutes before the race, I zone up,” Jang said. “Sprinting is more mental and like focusing on the race, and making sure you don’t mess up.”

Head coach Steve Webb was happy to see Jang’s implementation of focus and concentration in her race, as it has been an important area of focus in her training.

“We have been working a lot on the mental side of things with Claire, and she has really improved with that,” Webb said. “She is starting to realize the potential she has, and she is ready to have a breakout meet at SCIACs.”

Jang noted how the unique team environment in the Occidental swim program has already proven to be a positive addition to her race-day preparation.

“Going into the meet, I feel like it’s so different from club,” Jang said. “The team is so much better connected that being with the team is like, ‘Oh, this is family.’ They’re here to support me.”

She also said that the excellent technical coaching from the Occidental staff has had a significant impact on her development as a swimmer.

“I think the difference between now and before when I was in high school is that the coaches actually care about you, and they will spend time to fix your stroke,” Jang said. “It’s not just some random swimming, this will actually help me, so it’s like every single lap I swim will make me a better swimmer.”

Webb said that Jang’s performance in only the second meet of the season hints at a very strong first year of her Occidental career.

“Claire is set up to have a great second half to the season, and we are excited to see what it has in store for her,” Webb said.

Jang said that she enjoys spending time in the varsity gym, and her favorite aquatic animal is the narwhal.

Alex Zim (senior) finished his collegiate water polo career in an 11–10 win at the University of La Verne Nov. 10, scoring two goals. In the last matchup between the two teams, Occidental fell to La Verne 13–12 and according to Zim, the rematch was hard-fought by both sides.

“It was one of the more chippy games,” Zim said. “There was a lot of physicality, and I’m just excited because everyone kind of stuck together and was very unified. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of red cards, stuff like that, but we stayed very poised and controlled.”

Although this was the conclusion of the season and Zim’s career at Occidental, he said that the victory over La Verne holds promise for what’s to come for the team next season.

“I think a lot of my teammates see the potential that we have as I’m the only senior, we’re a very young team,” Zim said. “So definitely to end on a win was a big mentality shift that I think will carry over into next year, so it’s very exciting.”

Closing the curtain on his senior season with a comeback win was very impactful for Zim, who said that the result will be a special way to look back on his time at Occidental.

“To end on a win for my career kind of cemented it,” Zim said. “It’s just how I’ll remember it. It changed a lot more because we won the last game and the fashion we did it. We stuck together throughout the adversity and physicality.”

Zim acknowledged the role his teammates played in building the team culture of the water polo program, which he said is on the up-and-up, especially with the completion of the Townsend Crosthwaite Pool on the horizon.

“In all my four years, this is the most together team we’ve had, and I think it will continue to be that way,” Zim said. “I felt a lot of change in the culture, and leaving a lot of the guys with something to look forward to.”

Zim is an economics major and math minor, and after graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in finance in New York City.