As the swim and dive team’s season nears an end, players and coaches reflect on their season. Occidental faced off against Chapman University Feb. 4 for the season finale before they travel to East LA College for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championships (Feb. 15-18). Five seniors competed in Occidental College’s pool for the final time and were honored for their dedication and hard work for their team.
Alyssa Pfitzer Price (senior), who competes in the 100 and 200-yard backstroke and the 400-yard freestyle relay, remembers her time on the team.
“There’s something really special about being on a team, being there for your teammates and showing up for yourself,” Price said.
Team captain Chanel Ng (senior) said she reflects on when she first joined Occidental’s swim and dive team — originally, Ng had not planned to continue swimming in college.
“I guess some part of me was not ready to close this chapter of my life and then I just decided why not walk onto this team, and that’s what I did and now here we are,” Ng said. “Thank God I did.”
The season kicked off Oct. 15 against Redlands, but the athletes train from September until February. These athletes train as early as six in the morning, according to Ng.
“Even though the 6:00 a.m.’s really suck, and practicing from September all the way until February is a really long time, I really like how I get to share this experience with other people and how we can all come together and complain about it together,” Ng said.
According to team captain Sam Walker (senior), the camaraderie within the swim and dive was evident ever since he first considered joining the team.
“I specifically wanted to join Oxy’s [swim and dive team] just because of the high level of inclusiveness,” Walker said. “Everyone gets along like when you’re in high school.”
According to Coach Jordan Morillo, the team has undergone a major transformation this season, as they said farewell to the 16 athletes from last year’s senior class, leaving five seniors on the team and the addition of 15 first years. Morillo said that despite the significant loss, the younger athletes on the team have risen to the occasion and that the team is doing well this season.
“Our program is pretty young to say the least… there’s a learning curve,” Morillo said. “It was very much a pleasant surprise to see how quickly a lot of them adapted and moving into Chapman it’s going to be a very competitive meet.”
Following a 216-64 win against Whittier the week before, the game against Chapman is garnering excitement. Occidental has 39 athletes, while Chapman has 68, giving Chapman a considerable advantage in certain events. However, according to Coach Morillo, the SCIAC Championships will be more of a level playing field.
“[Chapman has] a significantly larger team,” Morillo explained. “[But] at conference, we’re both only allowed to score 18 per gender… it doesn’t matter the depth that you have, you can only score 18.”
For Ng, the small number of seniors on the team makes this final game even more significant for them.
“I’m honestly excited to just celebrate with the other seniors because there’s so few of us now,” Ng said. “I’m really more excited about closing out our careers.”
According to Coach Morillo, the match generated a lot of excitement, and not just among players. Coaches, fans and athletes from both schools are well aware of the significance of this contest, which has led to some playful trash talk among the players.
“I think there’s been some playful banter and I think sometimes it goes a little too far,” Morillo said. “We definitely want to be successful. We want them to be successful. We just want to be more successful than they are.”
Ng puts it a different way.
“I don’t really know if I can say this, but let’s just say that we might have beef with Chapman.”
According to Walker, knowing the final regular season game is against their rival has served as extra motivation during training for him and his teammates.
“[Chapman serves as] a constant reminder that, hey, the last meet we have right before the SCIAC Championship, it’s our rivals… just keep that in the back of your head when you’re feeling really, really tired,” Walker said. “It’s definitely something that we’ve been kind of looking towards.”
For Occidental’s swim and dive team, the SCIAC Championships signify more than just the conclusion of the 2022-2023 season. According to Ng, it is a moment for the seniors to pass the torch to a new generation of young and talented swimmers and divers so they may step up and lead the team into the future.
“If I could have one final goal or dream, I would say being proud of what I’ve done and hopefully having a positive influence on the younger swimmers on our team,” Ng said.
Contact Malcom Schitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.