by Matt Cresto
University of La Verne swimming and diving teams are learning their ABC’s all over again. Third year head coach John Hallman believes they have learned from A to Y, but have not quite learned that all-important last letter.
“Right now they are at the “Y”, and they are about to realize the “Z” aspect,” says Hallman. “They are on the bubble, but are giving themselves a chance to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Last year the women’s team sent five swimmers to nationals in Atlanta and is looking to send five more back this year.
Juniors Katie Aimone, Summer Hammons, and sophomore Katie Lyons are returning from their national performance a year ago. Aimone and Hammons were recognized as All-Americans last year in the 400-medley relays. Junior Allison Alastuey, freshman Carlen Sentak and Lyons will fill in nicely to try to help the Leopards return to the national event once again. All five women combine to swim in four different relays. Each of the five swimmers also compete individually in three races. Competition this year has become very tight in the women’s division of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The team to beat in the Conference Championships will be the team from the University of Redlands, but do not underestimate the Leopards’ pride.
This year has been a breakthrough performance for the men’s swim team. They have a chance to place second this year at Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
“This is our first year to have guys in a top contenders spot,” said Hallman.
Freshman Jason Walters has provided to be a spark for La Verne this year in the backstroke and the individual medley. He may have the chance to become swimmer of the meet if he can keep his momentum into the final conference challenge.
Junior Ryan MacDonald returns this year as the Leos All-Conference and individual champion in the breaststroke from a year ago. Juniors John Chon, Jason Cooper, Rey Lopez and sophomore co-captain Roger Garcia have helped the Leopards move their way to the top of the conference. Tyler Morgan and Gage Fisher are the lone seniors on the team and have made top contributions to this year’s team. Fisher is also diving for La Verne along with senior Mario Guerrero.
The diving program has been taken over by first year head coach Toby Reclusado. He was the 2000 South Coast Conference coach of the year and has nine years of coaching experience under his belt. A four-time Big West Conference Champion and Big West record holder at UC Santa Barbara. Reclusado has the program headed in the right direction and looks to take La Verne to the top.
“Toby has done a great job in recruiting divers for us next year,” said Hallman.
The teams are in taper right now and beginning to realize the importance of the final conference meet. It becomes a stressful time for the swimmers but more so for the coach in the mind of Hallman.
“It is a nervous time for me,” says Hallman. “Things are tapering down.”
Swimmers are focusing on the mental aspects of swimming. They are told to imagine themselves in the pool and try to shrink the size of each lap, said Hallman.
“A poor athlete looks at each lap as a journey,” says Hallman. “A top athlete just looks at each lap as a step.”
The Leopards head into the championships this week at Cerritos College. The meet started yesterday with the finals today and tomorrow.