The University of La Verne’s best kept secret has to be the first-year swimming teams.
With all of the hype surrounding the success of the men’s basketball team in recent weeks, the Leopards, more apt to water than the hard court, have been overshadowed in their inaugural season.
ULV has proven to be a force in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), and this comes in its rookie season.
The Leopards, before they took their first dip in the pool at Las Flores Park, felt they would use the 1998-99 season as a building block for future success.
But as John Hallman, head coach, soon found out, his group of pioneers was doing more than linking itself to next generations; it was making sure squads of the new millennium are compared to the first-year victors.
“I knew we were going to be strong in certain events, but in the sense of what we accomplished at the end [of the season], every single swimmer bettered their time,” Hallman said. “It is a credit to the team.
“Looking at the team’s drop in time, as a team, we dropped eight minutes off our best time. On the average, we dropped a half a second per 50 [yards]. It was really exciting to see that.”
At the SCIAC Championships in Cerritos this past weekend, La Verne again raised the bar, as the Leopards held their own, finishing fourth in SCIAC.
However, more importantly than that, the ULV women’s 200 freestyle relay team, comprised of freshmen Summer Hammons, Katie Aimone, Tandis Morgan and Tiffany Yates, established a new SCIAC record in that event with a time of 1 minute, 38.99 seconds, breaking the old mark of 1:39.7, set by Pomona-Pitzer in 1992.
“I lost my voice the first event. I wasn’t expecting that [the record],” Hallman said. “I was hoping we were going to get under a 1:40. The swimmers who were on that relay team really get up for big meets.
“[The record-setting relay team] really set the tone for the team for the rest of the meet.”
The tone was felt by ULV, as two Leopards won their events (Aimone, with her time of 1:00.43 in the women’s 100 backstroke, and freshman Ryan MacDonald, with his 1:00.22 in the men’s 100 breast stroke); and La Verne, including the women’s 200 freestyle relay team, nearly sent swimmers in seven different events to Nationals.
Perhaps, the Leopards of the pool do not get the support they so justly deserve because ULV fans, aside from parents and relatives of the swimmers, are not familiar with the swim meet scene.
For the uninitiated, or for those now-crazed fans who are going to support the Leopards next year, since ULV was shut out from Nationals, here is how to root for La Verne at a meet:
1.) Swimmers love the “hoot.” It is like the noise an owl makes, only deeper. The “hoot” can penetrate deep into the water, allowing the swimmers to hear they are getting support from the deck.
2.) Be in charge of starting the wave. Doesn’t it make sense to have the wave in the stands where the event is in the water?
3.) Bring face paint, chants and streamers, as long as they do not get in the water. If the sixth man can work in the Supertents when the Leopards play Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the crowd would definitely be a factor poolside.
Note: Remember to apply plenty of sunblock and wear those big straw hats when supporting the Leopards. One can forget about the effects of the sun while cheering nonstop for hours at a meet.
These may be extreme examples, but how many times has the men’s basketball team pulled out a tough victory at home when the gym is packed? The same can be said about the swim teams if students, faculty and fans unite, as they do for important basketball games. And at the same time, everyone can get a tan.
Even though the swimming teams were not supported and recognized as much as they should have been, ULV should be proud of its first season – congratulations to the entire team. As for the fans, there is always next year.
Greg MacDonald, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.