Endless Summer: Labor Day weekend at the Occidental pool

The Del Mandel Aquatics Center at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. __, 2022. Avery Ferrier/The Occidental

In response to the recent heat wave, Occidental Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) notified students via email about the extended hours of the De Mandel Aquatics Center over Labor Day weekend. With temperatures punching into the 100s, the student body took advantage of the aquatic facilities. According to lifeguard Jenny Desch (senior), approximately 100 students slipped into their swimsuits and headed down to the pool each day over the long weekend.

Eva Barbagelata (first year) said the pool offered an escape from the heat.

“It was just a nice way to spend my day over Labor Day weekend,” Barbagelata said. “I think that after going to the pool a few times I am definitely going to go back on hot days.”

Construction on the De Mandel Aquatics Center began in 2017 and was fully completed in 2020. There are three sections of the pool: the diving area, equipped with four diving boards, multiple lanes for lap swimming and a shallow section where students can lounge.

Koko Butcher (sophomore) and Nora (sophomore) sit by the De Mandel Aquatics Center pool at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. __, 2022. Avery Ferrier/The Occidental

Haley Merrill, the head swim and dive coach and director of aquatics, also noted the positive impact that the pool has had on recruiting for the swim and dive team.

“In recruiting, it is making a huge difference,” Merrill said. “We will look forward to an even more competitive improvement in the next four or five years here. I think it’s when you see the biggest change.”

While Merrill is mainly focused on athletic teams’ usage of the pool, she also said she appreciates the versatility of the aquatics center.

“I love that we can be open for students,” Merrill said. “My office is right in front of the diving boards so I get a kick out of the students just having a blast jumping off of the diving boards. It’s very childlike and joyous.”

The Del Mandel Aquatics Center at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. __, 2022. Avery Ferrier/The Occidental

The De Mandel Aquatics Center was originally renovated in 2017 with the intention of increasing performance and competitiveness for water polo and swimmers and divers. According to Desch, however, the heat wave incentivized students and even faculty members who would not normally spend their free time at the pool to venture down and test the waters.

“Since opening the new pool, there’s definitely space for that many people,” Desch said. “Back in Taylor pool, there was never really a huge crowd at the pool. There were maybe 40 or 50 people who would have come to Taylor and I think we had maybe 100 people at least come through last weekend on any given day, if not more.”

Barbagelata is from San Francisco, and she said the weather at home does not normally allow her to go swimming, but now she looks forward to visiting Occidental’s pool again.

“I feel like that was the first time I have felt the Occidental community coming together,” Barbagelata said. “Everyone from different grades was there and everyone was just there to have a good time and to enjoy the cold water on such a hot day.