swimming and diving

Swim team focuses more on growth than competition

The Laney Women’s Swimming and Diving team’s competitive season began in January. Unlike past years, the team’s focus is more on individual swimmer’s growth than winning competitions, said coach Sarah Stretch.

The team is operating at half-strength after several members quit early in the semester. Swimming and diving teams usually have 12 or more members. This season, Laney’s current roster of seven includes two second-year students.

Stretch recognizes that student-athletes can face challenges that limit their ability to compete. “Sometimes life gets in the way,” she said. “We lost more than usual this year.”

For some, she said, work schedules conflicted with practice and swim meets, where swimmers race individually and as a team over two or more days. The competitions take place one weekend per month during the season and can involve several hours of travel time.

The meets are run in an invitational format and typically feature five schools competing in timed individual and team relay races. Times are then ranked and points are awarded to each swimmer or team. Having a larger team is beneficial, since everyone who competes earns points.

“The more people you have, generally the more points you’re gonna score whether they’re [swimming] strong or not,” Stretch said.

Laney will probably not be able to amass enough points to compete with other schools for overall score, in the Bay Valley Conference Championship she said, especially since the relays count for twice as many points as the individual races.

“It won’t be as strong of a showing for the team but the girls will still be improving and progressing and having their individual goals,” Stretch said.

In the individual races, each swimmer races for best time, and the top 24 swimmers continue to the second round.

“A lot of our girls will get a second swim even if they’re at beginner level or intermediate level,” Stretch said. The extra time in the water should help each swimmer hone her competitive skills.

Some swimmers, such as Amanda Chai, also compete with the Laney women’s water polo team in fall semester.

Chai was “an outstanding water polo player this year,” Stretch said. “I’d like to see her drop some time and do well and maybe score in the top eight.”

Stretch hopes to see everyone on the team score as many points as they can and improve their times as the season progresses.

Many members of the team come from a background in competitive swimming, but unlike most community college sports, beginners without competitive experience can join the team and learn to race.

Beginners learn how to pace themselves and improve their speed. People of a wide range of ages and experience have joined the team in years past.

“Some of the girls come in swimming for schools or recreationally,” Stretch said. “There’s others who know the basics but we develop and work on technique, turns, and even diving.”

The team is hoping to talk more to local high schools to get the word out about the available summer concurrent enrollment in their water polo and swimming classes for potential participants.

Laney’s next meet is March 31-April 1, at the Solano College Swimming and Diving Invitational. The start time each day is 10 a.m. The San Mateo meet on March 14 has been cancelled.

Eva Hannan is sports editor for the Laney Tower.

End of an era

Greg Smith, the respected athletic trainer for the Laney Eagles’ athletic teams for over 37 years, will be retiring on July 31. He will be missed by students and faculty alike.

At the 2017 Spring Sports Awards Banquet Athletic Director John Beam called Smith up to be recognized for his work over the years and presented him with an Eagles letterman jacket.

Smith was a baseball player at Pinole Valley high school before going on to play ball for Contra Costa College and later went to Cal, where he majored in chemistry.

As an athlete Smith had been around athletic trainers and had received treatment for an ankle injury. Smith was struggling with his major, so he decided to weigh his options, and he switched his major from chemistry to physical education.

“I knew what I wanted to do. These trainers didn’t have any grease under their nails and they were wearing the latest athletic gear,” he said.

He started his career with Peralta in 1980 at the College of Alameda, but would also cover games at both Merritt and Laney. As funding for sports programs at COA became shakier, he began to work full-time at Laney in 1986.

“Working with young people, you feel like you’re about their age”

Greg Smith, Laney Eagles’ athletic trainer

His job title was athletic trainer and equipment manager. At that time there was no certification required to be an athletic trainer. Smith could see the future was going to be about rehabbing injured athletes. He got certified as an athletic trainer.

Over the years he has helped countless athletes. He works with all of the sports at Laney. When asked what sport he liked to work with the best, he replied, “That’s too tough a question. I like being a ‘team’ player for each sport as it’s in season.”
Laney Head Baseball Coach Francisco Zapata remembered being worked on by Smith when he played baseball here in the mid-80s and broke his arm.

Smith says that he always enjoyed working at Laney because the students kept him feeling young.

“Working with young people, you feel like you’re about their age,” he said.

Smith is retiring as the Athletic Trainer/Equipment Manager, but he will still be around campus teaching Health Ed, First Aid and CPR.