Vanguard University’s swim team started its second season strong and steady, yet the program will be done with at the end of the season as the school has decided to cut the aquatics in the entirety.
The Lions are determined to accomplish big goals this year, with Nationals being the priority. It has been a landmark season for Vanguard’s Aquatic Director, Ed Carrera, since he took the helm for his first, and last season as swim coach.
It is assistant coach, Kaylen Carrera’s, first season as well with the Lions. The swim program looks to send swimmers to Nationals in Oklahoma City at the end of February.
Despite having lost a few of their numbers throughout the season for various reasons, the Lions rallied together and became a tight-knit group that has been determined to send as many swimmers to Nationals as possible. “The only reason I want to attend Nationals is to perform for some of the most inspiring coaches that I have ever had,” junior Sean Little said, “Not for a school that does not have the confidence to keep us around for another year.” Little qualified for Nationals, and still has the option to compete, despite having been sanctioned by NAIA.
“We all want to be there for each other at Nationals, to support and cheer each other on,” junior Christian Carillo said.
Vanguard’s last chance to have the Lions qualify for Nationals came and went with the PCSC Championships. Held in Long Beach, the Lions looked to add to the list of swimmers going to Nationals, which already included the men’s 200 Medley relay, consisting of senior David Buckalew, freshman Drew Viehmann, sophomore Josh Roe, and senior Isreal Perez.
“Ed and Kaylen have been a great inspiration to me, and the team. It has been a pleasure and an honor to swim with such great individuals and under such great coaching. Everyone has inspired me to go harder, go faster and get stronger. This aquatics program has instilled virtues in my character that I will carry with me throughout my life, and the memories I have made in the pool are something I will cherish forever more,” Buckalew said.
The women’s team is sending senior Samantha Hawkins, freshman Rachel Gray, senior Lindsey McCance, senior Ektaa Nijjar, and freshman Lyndsi Bell, along with the relay teams, all to Nationals. If any other female swimmers are to qualify for Nationals, it will have to be done at the PSCS Championship, which is a four-day meet and gives each swimmer his or her last chance to make the time he or she needs.
“Last year was the first for polo and second year for swim, so we are all trying to get to know one another and trying to come together as a team. The highlight of this year was having our team culture established. For me, a true teammate is as close to my heart as family, and this year we were able to strengthen the bond of our aquatic family. Even though our program did not have a chance to flourish, my Vanguard experience would not have been the same without the genuine hearts like those of my teammates. That’s why my team is the highlight of my season, and it’s a shame that Vanguard is losing its most compassionate and self-sacrificing group,” Hawkins said.
The Lions have to face teams like UCSD, UC Santa Cruz, Biola, and Fresno Pacific. Fresno Pacific seems to be the most immediate threat to the Lions, being ranked first in the nation, and Cal Baptist is ranked third.
Nationals will test the Lions’ readiness to compete and desire to win, since they will be facing the top swimmers in each event. The core group that makes up the Vanguard swim program believes that they are indeed up to this challenge and are looking to make a name for themselves at the National level.
Correction: Samantha Hawkins and Ektaa Nijjar were erroneously listed as juniors; they are in fact seniors.
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