COOS BAY — What has been a terribly challenging season for the Southwestern Oregon Community College swim team ends next week with what should be a rewarding finish, a trip to the NJCAA national meet in Florida.
“We are excited,” SWOCC coach Sandra Bullock said. “I’m really proud of this team and all we’ve overcome and the resilience in the midst of the pandemic.”
The meet runs Wednesday through Saturday and is hosted this year by Indian River State College, the dominant NJCAA swim program for many years and heavy favorites again this year — Indian River is the only school that can boast the maximum of 18 individual swimmers for both the men and women.
The Lakers hope to be in the mix for second place for both the men and the women. They bring 13 men and 13 women, which makes them one of the larger women’s teams.
“We could do very well,” Bullock said.
The Lakers could also bring home a couple of individual champions — they have had two over the years and could double that this year.
Jacqueline Feurtado has the best time in the NJCAA ranks in one women’s event and Alejandro Robles Ruiz has the best time in three events for the men.
The trip to nationals is a reward for the entire squad.
“They have worked hard for this,” Bullock said. “We have embraced the journey. It’s been a year of great sacrifice.”
The biggest sacrifice has been socially, embracing the team culture and staying safe during the pandemic.
“The team that is going has been willing to make that sacrifice,” the coach said.
The Lakers have had a series of meets to prepare for the national meet, but all have been virtual, competing at the same time as other teams in different pools.
“It will be our first live meet of the year,” Bullock said. “It will be our first overnight trip.”
It will be a fun venture, including a chance to dip toes in the Atlantic Ocean, but Bullock plans to keep the squad focused.
“It’s a business trip,” she said. “They know that. It’s an amazing business trip.”
Since the national meet is later in the year because of the pandemic, it comes right during the midterm season for spring term and in addition to the competition, the team will have study halls Monday and Tuesday in Florida.
The academics are important, and Bullock noted that the men and women have the best combined team grade point averages in the history of SWOCC’s program — 3.52 for the women and 3.51 for the men.
Then comes the action in the pool, which will be busy as well.
All of SWOCC’s swimmers are entered in four individual events. They can each compete in up to four of the five relays as well.
Aside from the two distance races — the 1,000 and 1,650 — all the individual races also include prelims in the morning and finals in the evening.
Bullock expects the squad to do well.
“It should be a fun journey,” she said.