Swimming may be seen to some as an activity and not a sport, but for American River College men’s and women’s swim teams you get a much difference response. So far this season, both have managed to find success with such a small number of athletes on each.
“One of the things about having a little bit smaller of a team is that effort level across the board is a little bit higher, and there’s less room to hide in the pool,” said men’s head coach Eric Black.
The standout players for the men’s side of the pool consist of freshmen Jake Lear (Lodi HS), Stephen Imbach, Scott Stirling, and sophomore Andras Kovacs. With the Big Eight conference championship meet April 19-21 and the state championship meet the following weekend, the men’s team gears up to make some noise despite the low number of competitors.
“In spite of our lack in depth, I think at the end of the year we’ll be able to get some relays into the state championship meet, and some individuals will qualify as well,” said Eric Black. “So depending on where those guys get in and how our relay teams do we have a shot at maybe finishing in the top 12 at states (the state competition), which would be pretty good for a team this size.”
With the state meet being the finale of the season, the team will be looking at the freshmen to build on. As the team’s captain, Lear will be seen as the anchor of the team, and his desire to break school records is an example of his sheer motivation to be successful.
“There’s a record up there I would like to break, but there’s still another year for that,” said Lear as he looked across the pool at the record board.
With coach Black also being the water polo coach, he is able to use players from his polo team in the pool as well.
“Even though I’m going to redshirt next years polo season, swimming can help me stay in very good shape to be able to play for a whole game, and be able to swim as fast as I can during it,” said Kovacs.
The women’s team is also performing at a high level despite also having a small team. Where the team lacks roster positions, they don’t lack heart and focus to win their individual races.
“As a whole, the team has exceeded my expectations that I had in the beginning of the season,” said women’s head coach Bethani Black. “They’ve worked really hard and done a really nice job, so they’re swimming even better than I thought they would be at this point.”
The team is led by freshman Hailie Struckmeyer (Del Campo), and sophomores Cailin Jope (Rio Americano) and 48-year-old captain Denise Steeb, who is also a standout player for the women’s water polo team here at ARC. As of now, it looks like the only scholarship offer will be given to Jope, who is still uncertain of where she will continue her swimming career.
With the championship meets approaching, there are many things the women will be looking to improve on heading into each.
“I think we can always work on discipline and staying focused,” said Bethani Black. “It’s easy to get to the end of the season and not want to work as hard, or you have other things on your mind, and not seeing the end before it’s there.”
It’s certain that both teams will be looking for strong finishes at the conference and state meets, and only time will tell if their predictions will play out as planned. If they want to make a splash at the championship meets, they will need to remain focused till the end, and not let up short of the wall.