The small size of the CLU women’s swim and dive team makes it easy to underestimate them when other teams in SCIAC are outfitting over 50 participants. But the Regals are returning with key swimmers and divers that give the squad a great foundation to build on.
Key returners include sophomores Taylor Faust, Mimi Harbach and Mary Wakabayashi. The Cal Lutheran swim team also sports returning juniors Sheyenne Machida, Kelli Miller and Juliana Rios, as well as seniors Brooke Hubbard and USA Paralympian Cortney Jordan. Harbach, who specializes in the 400 IM, 500 free and 200 free, has a very positive outlook for this season.
“A lot of the girls specialize in different strokes and events, which makes our women’s team really well rounded,” said Harbach. “Besides last year’s graduating seniors, we are lucky to have pretty much the whole team return for this season. With the addition of some new freshmen, the team is shaping up to look really strong even for this early in the season.”
Two newcomers looking to make a difference this year for the Regals are Katie Kochalko and Danielle Warmuth.
According to head coach Tom Dodd, Kochalko will be a huge contributor in the butterfly and breaststroke events. Warmuth is a much-needed addition to the diving squad, which currently only has three participants.
One of these divers, Machida, will lead the Regals this season from the diving board. With such a small group, Machida made sure she would be diving her best coming into this year’s season.
“I dove throughout the summer at home with my high school coach and tried to keep the degree of difficulty on my dives up to what they were at the end of the season last year. But the strength I gained from lifting weights with coach [Pat] Holmberg has been making the biggest difference in my performance this season,” said Machida.
Like Machida, the whole team works really hard at their craft, but for the Regals to make an impact in SCIAC this year, it’s all about staying close as a team.
“The biggest thing we need to work on is just staying positive and continuing to motivate each other to do better,” said Harbach. “The more our team is able to bond in the upcoming months, the better and stronger we will be. Our captains have done a really good job thus far organizing events for the team to all be with each other and socialize and become closer.”
Dodd looks at his team’s time away from school as an indicator of how the season will play out.
“Our whole season hinges on what they do during finals week and when they go home for Christmas. That is our ‘make it or break’ it time. If they train over finals week and train hard when they are home for almost two weeks, then they will have a good season when they come back,” said Dodd.
Because the diving squad is so small, it’s difficult for them to carry the load at meets. Machida and the other divers need to do everything they can to contribute.
“As a team, we try to place as high as possible in competitions to contribute those points to the swimmers’ score. A big goal for everyone is to make the cut at SCIAC prelims to qualify for SCIAC finals at the end of the season,” said Machida.
Along with her personal goals of winning SCIAC and going to nationals, Harbach would treasure the opportunity to see her team do the same.
“I’d love to see us place higher in SCIAC overall come championships, which I believe is totally achievable,” said Harbach. “The women’s team is really stepping it up this year and we have the potential to do really well in all competitions.”
When Dodd looks at SCIAC and sees colleges like Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Redlands, who have very rich histories in swim and dive, he knows his team has a tough road ahead. They have to overcome big teams, but in no way does he believe that CLU should be counted out.
“I think they’re going to surprise a lot of people,” said Dodd. “We have enough good women that we can win a lot of races. We can win a lot of dual meets by winning a bunch of individual events and we have enough quality swimmers to do that.”
Dodd is entering his ninth season as the head of coach of swim and dive and wants his team to succeed in winning the program’s first SCIAC chamipionship. He views chemistry and having fun as a big part of the season as well.
“On top of performing well, I want them to have a fun time this year and enjoy what they do. That’ll make the year easier for them and hopefully help them compete better overall,” said Dodd.
The Regals will open SCIAC play this Saturday, Dec. 8, at the University of La Verne, at 10:30 a.m.
Published Dec. 5, 2012