The Cal Poly swimming and diving team is off to a promising start. “I’ve never been this proud to be on any team before,” men’s team captain Aaron McKinnon said.
The Cal Poly swimming and diving team is off to a promising start. “I’ve never been this proud to be on any team before,” men’s team captain Aaron McKinnon said.

Jacob Lauing
jacoblauing.md@gmail.com

The Cal Poly swimming and diving team is off to a promising start, and the story so far is the underclassmen.

“We have a very big freshman class,” senior Angie Haven said. “They are all very talented and very dedicated. It’s our fastest and most dedicated team we’ve had so far. The season is going very well.”

Freshman Ian Sinclair won the men’s 1,000-yard freestyle (9 minutes, 26.24 seconds) at UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 3, two events at the Mustang Invitational on Nov. 9 and advanced to the championship finals at the Arena Invitational in Long Beach this weekend, while qualifying for an NCAA B cut.

“To get an NCAA B cut is basically the second hardest meet to qualify for,” men’s team captain Aaron McKinnon said. “Only a handful of swimmers get to go to that meet. They might be chosen because of the times that they’ve already put forth this early in the season.”

On the diving front, new Mustangs are also leading the way.

Sophomore transfer student Grace Greenwood was a double-event winner at the Mustang Invitational, dominating both the 1- and 3-meter dives with scores of 248.20 and 246.60, respectively. Greenwood also advanced to the finals and finished 12th at USC and placed second against UC Santa Barbara with a score of 224.25.

“I just want to improve those this year,” Greenwood said. “I’ve gotten some new dives that I’m excited about. I feel if I don’t think about what’s going on and just think about one simple correction on each dive that helps me. If I overthink, then everything goes wrong.”

Sophomore Elliot Adams also advanced to the finals at USC and finished the event in sixth place with a score 224.65.

It’s clearly a different brand of Mustangs swimming this year. The team is large and full of youngsters, yet team chemistry is through the roof. Dedication and work ethic are high, giving the Mustangs an edge.

“Our team is so much stronger,” McKinnon said. “A big part of swimming fast is putting in that hard work every single day, which every single person on our team does. Our team has really put a lot of effort into every facet of this sport, and that’s what making us a lot more competitive than we have been in the past. The camaraderie is super essential.”

But the camaraderie couldn’t help the Mustangs beat the Gauchos on Nov. 3.

Greenwood’s strong performance, Sinclair’s first-place finish in the men’s 1,000-yard freestyle and senior Katrina Anderson’s victory in the 200 freestyle at UC Santa Barbara all weren’t enough, as both the men’s and women’s squads were defeated, 191-107 and 167-133, respectively.

“(Losing) made us a little hungrier to go faster,” McKinnon said. “They got us on the last meet and we have a new understand(ing) of what it takes. This time they’ll be in our pool. We have a lot of confidence.”

The Mustangs will host the Gauchos on Feb. 9 at the Anderson Aquatic Center in a much-anticipated Blue-Green Rivalry rematch and senior meet.

“It’s the last meet for all of our seniors,” Haven said. “That one is always a big one. UCSB is one of our biggest rivals. The girl’s team has beaten them at home the last two years. The men’s team has been extremely close.”

Before their shot at revenge against the Gauchos, conference competition will continue with the UCLA Diving Invitational on Jan. 13 and meets against UC San Diego, Pacific and UC Santa Cruz.

“I’ve never been this proud to be on any team before,” McKinnon said. “Everyone is willing to put in the hard work by themselves but everyone looks out for each other at the same time. That’s what makes us so special; we’re there for each other.”