Athletes of the Week Drew Samson and Jacob Torres break personal and team records

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Athletes of the Week Drew Samson (senior) and Jacob Torres (junior) in front of the Gilman Fountain at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. April 7, 2022. Hudson Johnson/The Occidental.

Drew Samson

Drew Samson (senior) had two major goals for this year’s softball season: beating Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and improving team chemistry. With a month of the season still left to go, Samson said she believes both goals have been achieved.

Not only did Occidental outscore CMS by four runs in their 10-6 victory March 26, but it was also the first time that Occidental beat CMS in 15 years. Samson was a part of this historic win not only as the team’s starting catcher, but also as a member of the team’s leadership committee.

“I just want to be a mentor. I don’t want people to look up to me, I want to be able to help each other,” Samson said. “Like, I catch, but I also want the freshman catcher to be able to. We’re learning together and she’s better at things than I am and I’m better at things than she is. And so we can help each other, and that’s really what I wanted to do, rather than me telling people what to do.”

Sydney Crespo (first year) said Samson is a leader and supporter, both on the field and in the classroom.

“[Samson is] always super supportive of everyone on our team, and specifically I remember when I first got recruited I asked her a bunch of questions,” Crespo said. “I didn’t want it to seem like I was bothering her, but that’s not how she felt at all and she always responded to me or tried to connect me to the person who could answer my questions, whether it be about academics or athletics.”

More than anything, the team atmosphere of the sport is what Samson said she loves most. Samson said the lessons she has learned from the bond with her teammates have prepared her for post-graduation life, and that she sees something powerful in having teammates who are there to pick her up through successes or failures.

“I love that I have a group of sisters that I can fail with, honestly,” Samson said. “I have learned so much about how to fail and how to pick myself back up, and have a team to pick myself back up — I am not in an individual sport, I’m in a team sport.”

While Samson said she hopes to win against conference rivals like Pomona-Pitzer, the team’s determination to improve is more important than the record.

“As long as we come out playing hard and trying to get one percent better every single day? That is all that matters to me,” Samson said. “I live by a quote, ‘Let’s do today what others won’t, so tomorrow you can do what others can’t.’ And as long as, as a team, we’re doing that, that’s all that matters to me.”

Samson is currently hitting .384 through 29 games, with an OBP of .440 and a SLG of .475.

Jacob Torres

Jacob Torres (junior) ate a PB&J sandwich, tightened his spikes and hit a new personal best in the 400-meter hurdles April 2.

Occidental hosted CalTech, the University of Redlands and Whittier College in the second Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) multi-dual meet of the season. In the 400-meter hurdles, Torres raced to a time of 55.27 seconds.

Torres hadn’t competed in the 400-meters yet this season, other than in a preseason meet earlier in the year. Based on his training and preparation for the event, Torres said he felt good about the likelihood to hit his personal record (PR).

“It was a pretty exciting feeling,” Torres said. “Once you see that hard work being put into these PRs that you’re running, [the training] is definitely worth it. And [the coaches] want you to keep pushing the envelope, in training, because the harder you train, the better you’re gonna run.”

After losing a season and a half to the pandemic, Torres went from having few concrete goals to aiming for a national qualifying time.

“I was just really excited to compete,” Torres said. “Coming back and knowing that maybe we’ll compete and run against other teams and try and hit PRs was very exciting for me.”

In contrast to doing his workouts alone at home in New Orleans, LA, Torres said being back on campus with his teammates makes it much easier to work harder. When his other teammates succeed, he says it motivates him to improve too.

“I feel like from an outsider’s point of view just by looking at [track], you think it’s individual,” Torres said. “But what they don’t see is the practice that you had to put into that and just how much your teammates help you and push you in practice… and that’s the most exciting thing.”

The team culture and closeness within the hurdlers helps them grow and increase their skills, Torres said.

“It’s really nice just to be able to train with somebody with hurdles, because you can watch their form and pick up different things,” Torres said. “Everybody has their own little special technique to what they do — generally, it’s the same technique, but everybody has their own little thing that they’re very good at. Sometimes you can pick up on that in practice, and then kind of add that to your repertoire.”

Teammate and close friend Lukas Affeltranger (junior) said Torres is a great athlete and teammate.

“Torres is an incredibly hard worker on and off the track. He is passionate about improving and achieving his goals. Jacob is the definition of leading [by] example,” Affeltranger said via email. “He is one of my closest friends and inspires all of our friends and teammates to be the best they can be.”

Although Torres recently hit a PR, there is no sign of him slowing down. Torres said he especially enjoys the event’s challenges and finds the capacity for growth within the sport to be rewarding.

“In 400-hurdles, there’s so much room to PR just because the steps matter so much and you can chop on a hurdle and then waste so much time,” Torres said. “Perfecting that race is just so fun to me, you have so much room to improve that there’s really no ceiling.”