by Ryan MacDonald
On Nov. 16, the University of La Verne women’s swimming and diving team handed Penny Dean, head coach of Pomona-Pitzer swimming/diving, and her team their first dual meet loss of the season.
The Leopards upset the Sagehens in a score of 124-114.
Dean has complied an impressive career record in dual meet action which includes only a handful of loses during her fifteen years of coaching for the Pomona-Pitzer.
And in its four years of existence, the Leopards swimming and diving team has never been one of the teams to defeat the Sagehens.
In all of the meetings between the two teams, the Sagehens have dominated the races and the outcome of the meets, with the victories always being in favor of the women from Pomona-Pitzer.
Though the Leopards had come close in the past, they never had enough steam at the end of their races in order to pull out a victory.
This season, however, the Leopards’ head coach John Hallman understood what kind of challenge he and his team was facing in their opponents, and he informed the team that every race could determine the outcome of the meet.
“I let the swimmers know what type of competition is was going to be,” said Hallman. “On paper, I went through five different meet scenarios, and out of those five, I had us coming out ahead on three of them.”
In other words, every participant in the meet had the opportunity to change the outcome of the meet.
“I saw the team looking at Pomona and the their numbers. I told them, though, that we have the advantage of quality not quantity. I asked everyone to step up,” he added.
The dual meet, which was battled out in every race and event, came down to the final event of the day, and the Leopards needed a first-place finish in the 4×200-yard freestyle relay in order to defeat the Sagehens.
“Having a meet end in that fashion puts a lot of pressure on us, and it seems like John always does this to us,” said senior Katie Aimone. “But that is what swimming is about, and we understand that when meets are close, you have to perform to the best of your ability. You have to step up and want to win.”
With that confidence, the Leopards easily won the final relay, giving them enough points to also win the meet.
Seniors Summer Hammons, Allison Alasteuy and Aimnoe lead the team on the final relay. Freshman Gabi Bahlo was the fourth member of the team.
“This was an amazing win because when you look at our team and their team, you can see that they have double our numbers,” Aimone said. “It was a great win, and especially coming during our senior year because every year we come so close to winning. But in the past, we always fall a little bit short. I am so happy for our team’s ability to win and our accomplishments today.”
Throughout the meet, the team had other races that provided momentum and confidence for the victory.
Alasteuy started the meet off strongly with an individual victory in the mile swim. Alasteuy came from behind to win the event, and with this victory, she provided the Leopards with a very early lead.
“Winning the mile surprised the Pomona team, and after that things went according to plans. There were no disappointments, and I saw the other coach getting very uptight,” Hallman said.
This momentum then carried over into other events.
“A key swim early on was the B medley relay. I knew that we would win the A relay, but we needed the second relay to get third place, and it came down to Delarie Sutton touching out the team from Pomona,” Hallman said. “We needed those points.”
In the one and three-meter diving events, the Leopards dominated with junior Crystal Marks placing first in both events, and senior Debbee Lewis placing second in both.
“The divers contributed; they were a big plus for us,” Hallman said.
Other key victories came from Aimone in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of :56.66, and in the 4×200 medley relay, with the Leopards defeating the field.
Junior Katie Lyons gave the team a boost in points when she won the 200-yard butterfly. Lyons victory was crucial to the outcome of the meet.
In the 200-yard backstroke, Hammons and freshman Jennifer Wesloski placed first and third, respectively.
Aimone was impressed with her teammates efforts, and she applauded the unity expressed by all of the members of the squad.
“I was very surprised by a lot of people’s performances. Everyone knew that in order to win the meet, we had to be tough and fight for every race,” Aimone said.
“Maria De Santis was one of the swimmers who did this. She is a great teammate because everything she does, she puts the team first. She was also there to motivate us and cheer everyone on,” she said.
The Leopards are hoping to continue to be victorious in dual meet action. However, all of the meets are going to be as close as this one, said Hallman.
“Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps are identical on paper. So we have the capability of doing this type of meet again,” Hallman said.
“Redlands will be tough, even though we might be better at the dual meet because we have more talent than numbers. But Claremont is going to be extremely close,” he said.
The women’s swimming and diving team is traveling to Las Vegas with the men’s teams this weekend to compete in the Las Vegas Invitational.
The Leopards will face all of the conference teams on Dec. 7-8 at the Claremont Winter Invitational.