Swim and Dive team more confident as 22-23 season starts up

Audra Baruch (sophomore) at diving practice at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct 27, 2022. Kawena Jacobs/The Occidental


Occidental’s Swim and Dive team began its season Oct. 15 at the University of Redlands Pentathlon, challenging Chapman University, Whittier College, the University of La Verne and Westcliff University. Isabella Phung (junior) said that after placing seventh for men’s and fourth for women’s at the SCIAC championships last season, the team is hoping to outdo themselves this season.

Phung said she mostly swims backstroke and freestyle, and that swimming more consistently is one of her goals for the season. She also said Haley Mitchell, the head coach, had the team do a goal-mapping session early on.

“She’s making us do a lot more work right off the bat, a lot more yards, but I think it’s going to eventually pay off,” Phung said.

A new member to the swim team, Nate Pittroff (first year), said he has seen similar pushes from Mitchell in pre-season training.

“From what I’ve heard one of the big takeaways from last season, before I got here, was that we kind of waited until too late in the season to ramp up the yardage and really get the good bulk of our training in,” Pittroff said. “When championship season rolled around, a lot of people didn’t really have the aerobic base to be really competitive in any kind of distance over a hundred, which at this level, is most races.”

Both Phung and Pittroff said the establishment of leadership on the team is another major change. Thomas Hoffman (senior) is one of four seniors appointed by the team to this leadership committee. According to Hoffman, the four lead cheers after practice and during competitions, mentor younger teammates and act as intermediaries between athletes and the coaching staff.

“We do these things called JEDI Talks, where we’ll have an article that we read and then we’ll come together in the pool and discuss it the next day,” Hoffman said. “We help facilitate those conversations.”

According to Hoffman, communication has been another big focus of the team this year. Whether it is between coaches and athletes, captains and athletes or between the athletes themselves, he said the team is working on connection.

“Creating an inclusive and comfortable environment,” Hoffman said. “That’s been something that has really been at the forefront of all of our discussions and meetings, and everything that we’ve done up to this point has been striving to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, heard; a place where everyone wants to be.”

Swim captain Thomas Hoffman (senior) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct 27, 2022. Kawena Jacobs/The Occidental

Phung also said that swimmers missed a season due to the pandemic, which was during her first year at Occidental.

“The general culture of the team is moving towards a better place,” Phung said. “Last year, half the team was new, first years and sophomores both didn’t swim [during the 2020-2021 season], so half of us didn’t know each other.”

Another team captain, Chanel Ng (senior), said the excitement level of the team is high this season, even at 6 a.m. practices.

“Having team captains is especially helpful for motivation because morning practices can get very lonely really quickly and very mentally hard to get through,” Ng said. “I feel like having captains out at practice, and small reminders to keep going or even phrases of encouragement, is really helpful in the morning.”

Both Hoffman and Ng said they are looking forward to the senior meet against Chapman Feb 4th. The college is also hosting an invitational for the first time Nov. 19 and 20. CalTech, University of Redlands, and California Lutheran University will be competing.

“I am looking forward to creating new memories with my team. Obviously, every season is a different team dynamic, so I’m really excited to see what memories I create this season, especially as a senior and being in a leadership role,” Ng said. “I feel like I’m definitely going to be hit with the feels a lot more by the end of this season.”

Contact Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@oxy.edu.