Azusa Pacific’s swimming and diving team officially started its season Saturday, Oct. 12 and welcomed back senior and captain Tink Gibb, who missed all of last year but won the opening event of the PCSC Pentathlon with a 1:57.2 time in the 200 free. She finished in the top five in each of the pentathlon’s five events.
Gibb took fifth place in the 500 free and set a new personal best (5:17.50). After spending all of last year as a redshirt due to an injury, she has battled her way back to the pool and is working hard to be better than she was before.
“I was really nervous coming back and seeing how I would perform, but I won this pentathlon my junior year, so my goal was to win it again,” Gibb said. “I was really pleased with how I performed [Saturday]. I put in a lot of hard work over the summer, so that definitely paid off. As a team, I was really proud of the girls. We’ve been working really hard since the beginning of school and it definitely showed in that meet.”
Head coach Tim Kyle felt that the meet went well and it was a great way to start the season. Kyle said the team met his high expectations.
“I think we had a good showing,” Kyle said. “This year is a little bit of a different year for us because it’s our last year in transition to the NCAA, so we are redshirting a couple of pretty talented swimmers, but even with that, we have a really talented freshman group this year and girls that aren’t redshirting that are very talented. I think overall, we did as well as expected.”
Gibb’s comeback this summer and performance in the first meet reflects her mentality of never letting up and continuing to work hard.
“Personally coming to APU as a transfer last semester and she was a redshirt, I didn’t know where she was — I just knew she was training really hard all summer,” junior Ingrid Cardenas said. “I’m really proud of how hard she worked and how she’s been working at practice. She definitely deserved winning the events that she did and getting first place in the pentathlon.”
Swimming and diving is a very team-oriented sport and Kyle said that not one swimmer is more important than the other on this team. Every participant is important and contributes to the final score at the end of the meet.
“Swimming can go down to one point in an event, so you have to be a well-rounded team at all events and you have to be 18-deep,” Kyle said. “Eighteen individuals score [in the meets].”
Even though each team member participates individually, team support is essential since each swimmer’s score contributes to the team’s overall number. Bible studies the team holds serve as a major source of the team’s chemistry.
“We come together as a team and I give the girls’ team time to reach out and have team prayer,” Kyle said. “My assistant coach is a chaplain with the U.S. Army reserves, so he does a great job leading the ministry side. He has a blog site titled, ‘The Word of the Day,’ that is accessible to the athletes on the team and their parents. It has a Bible verse with that word in it and ties it into your [spiritual] walk. We talk about that and pray about that and everything we do as a team, we give it up to God.”
Cardenas said the team Bible studies keep the team focused on the right things. At her previous school, a Division I, faith was not something that was openly shared. But now she is at a Christian university with the motto, “God First.”
“Because of the Bible studies, I already feel a huge improvement in how the team is now and how we’re more together,” Cardenas said. “That’s one of the things I enjoy the most because we’re able to be together as a team but also in our relationship with Christ, we can relate to one another and help each other out in that way.”
The swimming and diving season is a long and grueling one, starting in the beginning of September and going through March. After a lot of hard work and preparation in the offseason, the team was sore and “hurting,” according to Gibb. Because of this, the team will not be capable of giving 100 percent at some of its meets.
“We have to look at some of these meets saying we’re torn down, we’re broken down, and we’re just doing our best to try and get that race feeling and the right mentality to go out and compete at a high level,” Kyle said.
The team’s next meet, the second of the year, is the Malibu Invitational on Oct. 25 and 26.
“We’re on the right track as a program,” Kyle said. “We’ve progressed every year, we’ve gotten more talented athletes, we’ve been able to bring our team closer in their walk with God, we’ve been able to implement different aspects into practice that I think makes a well-rounded, bonded team. In all aspects, we’re on the right track, and I see great things as we continue to compete.”