Youth lead the way for swimming and diving

Last season, Azuas Pacific’s swimming and diving team claimed its first individual Pacific Coast Swimming Conference (PCSC) championship in school history, placing fourth in the 12-team league. Also, three APU athletes qualified and competed in the NCAA Division II National Championship.

Even with last year’s successes, the swimming and diving team is focused on performing at the PCSC championship meet, and is aiming to send more athletes to the Division II National Championship meet.

“One of our biggest goals is to get more girls to the NCAA nationals in March,” said team captain Erica Knudsen, a senior journalism major. “We also want the opportunity to compete in the NCAA relays. This year, our overall goal as a team is to come together and really encourage each other to get to the next level. The competition is getting harder within our team, which is great because we’re raising the bar.”

Swimming and diving is considered an individual sport by many, but all of the swimmers and divers on APU’s team rely heavily on each other.

“Teamwork is huge for us,” senior exercise science major and captain Lindsay Luebker said. “Without each other, we don’t make a team at all. We build each other up both mentally and physically.”

For both Knudsen and Luebker, this sense of unity is more important than ever before. They would like to end their final year in the pool on a high note—a championship. They both strongly believe that this goal is possible with the amount of talent on the team.

Head Coach Tim Kyle believes that this young team may be the strogest swiming and divingi team that he has ever coached.

“I would say that this is the most cohesive team that we’ve ever had,” Kyle said. “We have eight freshmen this year […] but I think that’s one of our biggest strengths. We had a great recruiting class, and I think we’re going to be stronger on the boards for both swimming and diving. All around, we are more of a solid team.”

Freshman finance major Elodie Poo Cheong was competitive in the sprint events during the Cougars’ dual meets against Alaska Fairbanks. Freshman diver Rachel Johns turned in a strong outing at the PCSC Relay Invitational and finished second, after sophomore teammate Kianna Mourer.

“All of the [freshmen] understand our direction for this season and the next four years,” Kyle said. “They’re all adapting well and are going to be a huge part of what we do.”

Mourer, who competed at last season’s NCAA National Championship meet and currently holds the school record for the one-meter (256.06) and three-meter (295.50) dives, explains how well these freshmen have adjusted to college life.

“They came in super motivated,” Mourer said. “Last year, I did not expect the college workload that I came into, and they [have] all eased into it with such style and grace. A lot of times, freshmen come in and are so overwhelmed by the responsibility of a college sport that their personality and ability don’t always shine through right away. But with these girls, it’s as if they came in as sophomores and know what to do.”

Teammates have also expressed how inspired they are by sophomore distance swimmer Rosalee Mira Santa Ana.

As a freshman last season, Santa Ana broke the school record in the 500-yard, 1000-yard and 1650-yard freestyle events, and was part of the 4×200-yard freestyle relay team. Last March she qualified for four events in the NCAA National Championship meet. In June, she competed in the 28th Annual Southeast Asian Games in Singapore where she represented the Philippines.

Through all of this success, Santa Ana remains humble, determined to improve every day. Her teammates and coaches have labeled her as devoted, motivated, confident and—through her faith—a leader by example.

“My number-one motivation is my Lord, Jesus Christ,” Santa Ana said. “Without Him, my journey would not have gone this far. He has recently opened so many doors that I would not have thought of or even expected. My family, my coaches, teammates and friends who are my prayer warriors and supporters are the ones that help me keep pushing, especially when times have been hardest.”

For Santa Ana, swimming is more than a passion—it’s a calling. Santa Ana practices seven days a week, multiple times a day with both her APU team and her national team. She hopes to compete in the Olympics one day.

“She leads athletically, but she also understands the true mission in life,” Kyle said. “That brings so much to our team. She’s dedicated to the sport and goes above and beyond every day.”

The Cougars split a pair of dual meets against Alaska Fairbanks on Oct. 16 and 17, and will compete until the NCAA National Championship Meet in March. On Nov. 7, APU will compete against PCSC rival Biola.

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