PASADENA (Nov. 6, 2019) – The Caltech swimming & diving team will be striving to uphold the positive team culture and hard-working environment that has yielded successful careers and experiences in recent years.
Coming off a season in which the program lept to sixth in the SCIAC standings for its best conference finish of all time, the Beavers graduated two of the best swimmers in the history of the program in Brittany Percin '19 and Gemma Takahashi '19. Both swimmers have SCIAC Championships to their name and in Percin's case multiple appearances at the national meet. While the departures of Percin and Takahashi will be felt, the Beavers have some talented swimmers looking to step up into leadership roles while forging a swimming legacy of their own.
"We're looking for a lot of our swimmers and divers to step up and replace some of what we lost from last season," Head Coach Andy Brabson said. "Brittany and Gemma were stalwarts of the programming but not having them also creates an opportunity for the rest of the group and I'm excited for what's to come."
Sophomore Isabel Swafford (Boise, Id. / Boise) and graduate student Danica Adams (Novato, Calif. / UC Berkeley) are expected to contribute significantly after posting strong debut seasons in Pasadena last year. Both swimmers are highly prolific backstrokers, having swapped program records throughout various points of 2018-19. Currently, Adams possesses the 100 and 200 records as well as records in the 1000 and 1650 Free. Swafford, meanwhile holds the 50 Free record and could be in a good position to add to her resume as one of the team's two captains. She has also contributed to all five relay records, combining with teammate Adams on three of them.
Another key contributor on the women's side will be junior Jessica Sun (York, Penn. / Red Lion Area Senior). Sun joins Swafford as captain of this year's squad and has shown an ability to contribute in a variety of strokes. The junior already has the 400 IM record to her name and is considered to be the best breaststroker in program history by virtue of her records in the 100 and 200 Breast. All three records were set back in 2018, however, leaving plenty of room for the third-year swimmer to take a big leap forward this season. Classmate Stella Wang (Greensboro, N.C. / North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics) and senior Tzarina Shippee (San Diego, Calif. / La Jolla) will provide added depth and experience to the distance and sprint free corps while the versatility of sophomores such as Olivia Grobowsky (Houston, Texas / Westside) and Isabella Dula (Tuscaloosa, Ala. / Maggie L. Walker) will be utilized across the board and especially in relay events.
This year's freshman class, while small, will have a chance to become immediate contributors for the women's program. Maddie Swint (Charleston, W. Va. / George Washington) is coming off a strong senior year of high school and brings with her championship-level experience. The West Virginian could be an impact player on the relay teams while also making strong contributions in the 100 Fly, where her lifetime-best time ranks fifth all-time. Classmate Katherine Pan (Livonia, Mich. / Detroit Country Day School) will add to the team's depth in sprint freestyle events while being counted on to contribute in the sprint relays as well. She will have the chance to develop quickly alongside some of the strongest swimmers the program has ever seen.
Caltech will also have a new look to the diving team, which consists of several athletes new to the sport, but eager to learn and grow under Head Diving Coach Ute Zimmerman. Junior Olivia Durrett (Charlotte, NC / Phillips Academy Andover) is returning with a full year of diving experience under her belt, and freshman Anastasia Popova (Tarrytown, N.Y. / Hackley School) has proven to be a quick learner on the boards. Both divers, along with freshman Grace Liu will have a chance to make a meaningful difference in dual meets for the Beavers if they continue to progress over the course of the season. Pan and Swint are also expected to give diving a try.
"We have a group of passionate first-years who are looking to make a contribution on the boards," Brabson said. "Ute Zimmerman, our diving coach does a great job with making sure our divers are prepared to compete and I'm excited to monitor their development."
This year's women's team is a small, tight-knit group with a healthy blend of talent, experience, and potential. Time will tell if the Beavers' are able to successfully meet their goals and qualify one or multiple women for the national meet, set to be held in Greensboro, N.C, but their development along the way will be worth watching as the team looks to make more history this upcoming season.
"The big thing for our women is we want to get everybody to a point where they can hit a lifetime best during the season. "We have some accomplishments from the prior season to build on, but our main focus is simply improvement. Regardless of how the team looks from year to year, our goal is always going to be creating a cohesive and collaborative environment which I think also lends itself to a fun experience."
Brabson and the Beavers will kick off their season at home against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 10:00 a.m.