Amanda Chai

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.