After a yearlong hiatus that grounded the Dons, the women’s swim team dove back into the waters Friday afternoon at Riverside.
The team is not at full strength. Freshmen Daneyra Ortega, Sabina Ochoa and Nikole Facklam will make up the team, in a sport that needs four swimmers to compete in a relay race, a signature team event at state meets.
“We’re building,” Assistant Coach Al Reyes said. “The girls swimming for us in spring are the same girls who played water polo in the fall.”
In the meantime, the Dons will have to automatically take a loss in dual meets, for lack of swimmers to field. Golden West College, an Orange Empire Conference rival, has 24 swimmers on its team.
“Swimming is a lot like track and field. You need numbers,” Reyes said.
The coaching staff knows what it takes to re-establish SAC’s aquatics program.
“We have a small team this year,” Ochoa said. “Hopefully we do well in our individual events.”
Ortega swims the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events, “the marquee events,” Reyes said.
She’s clear about her goals in the months ahead.
“I’d like to break a school record, and be under a minute for the 100-freestyle,” Ortega said. “And finish the 50-freestyle under 24 seconds.”
Facklam swims the 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter backstroke.
Ochoa’s main event is the 100-meter breaststroke.
The Dons hired coach Michelle Welsh late last season, and she didn’t have time to recruit student athletes. Most freshmen recruits had already made up their minds long before
Welsh arrived at SAC, in the middle of fall semester. Hired away from Long Beach Milliken High School, Welsh spent fall as Reyes’ assistant coach in water polo.
Still, Welsh found three swimmers. Injuries, and a thin pool to choose from, caused the team to sit out one season, if only to save the freshmen status of the swimmers, said Avery Bridges, dean of athletics, after making the decision last year.
“It’ll take a while, but I’m confident with what we’re doing right now. It is setting the building blocks for years to come,” Welsh said.
While the Dons won’t be competing in team events, both coaching staff and swimmers are enthused about the experience, and about individual milestones the women can reach, or even surpass, this season.
“We expect the individual races to be very close,” said Reyes.
ROLLING IN THE DEEP
As they forego team meets, the swimmers will instead focus on individual goals.