COOS BAY — The conclusion of the Southwestern Oregon Community College swim season has head coach Sandra Bullock eagerly anticipating the future for the Lakers.
“It’s so exciting to see the program continue to grow and thrive. That's the rewarding part, seeing these kids step up,” said Bullock on Monday afternoon. “I believed in them, they had some doubts when they saw the (heat) sheet and then step up and really achieve a lot of their goals. And kind of set the program up for a great future.”
Earlier this month the SWOCC men’s and women’s teams competed at the NJCAA National Championships in Florida where the women took third place and the men claimed fourth as a team.
It was all part of the evolution of the program that started in 2014. This year’s swimmers continued to reset team expectations as there were 36 school records set this season out of 46 possible events. Twenty-seven of those school-best times came at Nationals.
“To see those kids give everything they have to give for their teammates, they’re not talking about the guy that is going to win the race always but every one of them gave everything they had to give and that’s the culture. That’s my big motto. Give all you have to give all the time and we can’t ask anything more,” said Bullock.
For the Lakers, it’s not just that the team was seeing improvements but that these improvements are leading to competitive times. There is no better example than for sophomore James Camp who took home a national title while in Florida after four second-place finishes a season ago at Nationals.
“I won the 50-yard butterfly and it was very exciting because last year I barely came in second in that by just touched out. So actually getting first in it this year, I’m very, very happy about it. I’m very excited,” said Camp who earned his first personal best time of the season at Nationals with his new record in the 100 freestyle (45.29).
While Camp was pleased with his individual time, he was thrilled about how his team had performed.
“As far as how everyone did and competition wise, that was — I don’t know how to explain it, it was awesome. People going well and I can’t really express it in words. It was just exciting. It was good fun. I don’t know how to express it in words,” he said.
While Camp was the only SWOCC champion at the meet, the Lakers had 12 second-place performances over the weekend.
Included in those individual finishes was Camp in the 100 butterfly, James Smith in the 50 and 200 breaststroke, Patricija Ozola in the 100 IM and 200 backstroke, Anna Hutchins in the 50 butterfly, Jacqueline Feurtado in the 100 freestyle and Alejandro Robles Ruiz in the 200 backstroke.
In the relays, SWOCC had second-place finishes in the 400 yard medley (Ozola, Feurtado, Hutchins and Elisa Strepenne), 400 freestyle (Hutchins, Strepenne, Ozola and Feurtado) and the 800 freestyle (Feurtado, Ozola, Hutchins and Verity Vogel-Rigler). The men’s 200 medley (Robles Ruiz, Smith, Camp and Emerson Zaplatar) also took second.
Hutchins set school records at the national meet in the 200 freestyle (1:54.90), 500 freestyle (5:09.30), 1000 freestyle (10:40.17) and 50 butterfly (26.07). Earlier in the year, she set the record in the 1650 freestyle (18:08.92).
Feurtado broke the recrod in the 100 freestyle (52.49), 100 butterfly (58.21) and 200 individual medley (2:10.30) at the national meet and in the 200 butterfly (2:11.31) earlier in the season.
Ozola broke the mark in the 200 backstroke (2:06.45) and 100 individual medley (1:00.04) at the national meet. Strepenne set a new mark in the 50 breaststroke (30.82) at nationals and in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.22) and the 200 breaststroke (2:25.36) earlier in the year.
The new relay records set at the NJCAA championships were 3:35.212 in the 400 freestyle, 7:51.10 in the 800 freestyle, 1:46.93 in the 200 medley and 3:55.90 in the 400 medley. The group of Ozola, Vogel-Rigler, Feurtado and Hutchins set a new record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:40.36) back in October.
For the men, Robles Ruiz set new records at the national meet for the 200 freestyle (1:41.96), 50 backstroke (23.66), 100 backstroke (50.75), 200 backstroke (1:50.16) and 200 individual medley (1:54.79).
Smith set records in the 50 breaststoke (25.23) and 200 breaststroke (2:00.90). Marques set a new record in the 400 individual medley (4:04.20) at the national meet and in the 200 butterfly (1:53.88) earlier in the season.
Relay records for the men set at the nationals included Robles Ruiz, Zaplatar, Smith and Camp in the 400 freestyle (3:04.35) and 200 medley (1:31.06), Robles Ruiz, Elliot Steward, Zaplatar and Marques in the 800 freestyle (6:57.90) and Maxence Liboz, Zaplatar, Robles Ruiz and Smith in the 400 medley (3:25.90).
The group of Zaplatar, Steward, Nathan James and Camp set a record in the 200 freestyle (1:24.87) earlier in the season.
“It was a very rewarding trip. Not everyone had an awesome meet but we came together as a team,” said Bullock who was pleased with what the team accomplished but not satisfied.
“The reality is clear when you see the times and the other teams that to be competitive, we have to continue to grow. We have to continue to grow and have to continue to have more steps in our program.”
But before the SWOCC swimmers can head back in the pool, students were sent home for spring term to take courses online due to the coronavirus.
“It’s a level playing field. Everybody is in the same boat so it is how do we manage it and who does their job of staying fit and staying committed and staying motivated and making sure they come back,” said Bullock. “That’s the biggest challenge (for us) with this world crisis that we’re facing.”