After a season of rebuilding, head swimming and diving coach Pat Skehan and the Leopards are ready to make a splash in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The swimming and diving team is entering the 2012-2013 season with a roster full of youth and talent.
Skehan, entering her second season as head coach for the Leopards, spoke with every student-athlete about what they wanted to achieve, both individually and as a team, and reassured them she has high expectations.
“I always expect a lot,” Skehan said. “We now have a full program where everyone can participate in every event. There will be no tippy-toeing this year.”
Since the summer, Skehan had the team involved in various strength workouts, instructed by strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Durant, and run in order to build their endurance more.
Marc Okimura, junior theater major, emphasizes that when someone wants to succeed in swimming, there are no breaks.
“Swimming is a continuous sport and you need to practice every day,” Okimura said. “If you even take a couple days off, it can set you back.”
Last year, Okimura finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke, 57.40, and made the NCAA B-cut qualifying mark. Although he did not qualify further into Nationals, he said having the team achieve this goal will be great.
“Nationals is our main priority this year,” Okimura said. “I think that is a good stepping stone to start with.”
Madeline Lovrensky, sophomore biology major, has big goals after having a successful season last year.
“I want to reclaim my title, make it to Nationals and become an All-American,” Lovrensky said.
As a freshman she made the NCAA B-cut qualifying mark but also earned the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference crown in both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke.
She holds the school record for both of these events: 57.46 for the 100-yard; 2:06.1 for the 200-yard.
She just fell short into making Nationals, 0.1 away from achieving a spot. However, this does not discourage her and with Skehan’s new training regimen, Lovrensky is confident she can obtain her goals.
“Pat knows what is good for me,” Lovrensky said. “If I do what I know, I think I can do it again.”
Despite having 10 seniors graduating last year, including all-around athlete Andrew Mackay, Lovrensky said they had helped her with her successful freshman season and she would not be here without them.
Now looking forward, the returners and newcomers have adapted well with the transition and are excited for this season.
Troy Williams, freshman and psychology major, said he not only wants to bring in hard work but make sure everyone is tight with one another.
Okimura could not agree more, saying he takes pride in the spirit the team brings to every meet.
“Feeding off the team’s energy is the most important part in this sport,” Okimura said. “ We are the loudest team on deck and team-cheering helps our teammates a lot.”
The swimming and diving team started its season Oct. 20 at the Redlands Invitational, where the men placed fifth and the women sixth.
Lovrensky finishing first in the 100-yard backstroke, Okimura finishing second in the 100-yard breaststroke.
With these highlights, Skehan believes the program is on the right track.
“I think we are off to an awesome start,” Okimura said. “I think we have a solid chance of doing something great this year.”
The La Verne swimming and diving team has been training hard these last couple of weeks to prepare for their next challenge, the Bulldog Pentathlon, hosted by Redlands, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Alex Forbess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.