Photo by Michael Wong
COMMERCE, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2018) – Head Coach Paul Hughes and the Caltech men's and women's swim & dive teams head to Commerce for this weekend's SCIAC Championships looking to improve on last season's fifth- and ninth-place finishes.
Location: Commerce! Brenda Villa Aquatic Center, 5600 Harbor St, Commerce, CA 90040
Juniors Brittany Percin (Lake Tahoe, Calif. / Stanford Online) and Gemma Takahashi (San Jose, Calif. / Leland) headline the women's squad once again after scoring in all three individual events both years of their career thus far. Both earned All-SCIAC honors via third-place finishes as sophomores, with Takahashi making her debut on the podium and Percin reaching her third. Percin also made the 'A' final heat in the 200 Free, in which she placed seventh, and rounded out her scoring with an 11th-place finish in the 500 Free, while Takahashi placed 14th in both the 100 and 200 Back. The pair owns a combined 10 program records, including the 1000 Free mark, which Percin set earlier this season.
Sophomore Angelina Pan (Toronto, Canada / Havergal Coll.) is the team's lone other returning scorer from last year, having placed 16th in the 100 Free. Rookie Jessica Sun (York, Pa. / Red Lion Area Sr.) joins that trio on the tail-end of a stellar rookie campaign that has seen her claim three individual program records in both breaststroke events and the 400 IM. The quartet has also teamed up to set a new 200 Medley Relay mark, while Sun, Takahashi and Pan, together with freshman Stella Wang (Greensboro, N.C. / N.C. School of Science & Math), can also lay claim to the 400 Medley Relay record.
This year's psych sheet illustrates some of the best coverage across events the team has had in years. A total of 12 entries are already ranked among the Top 12 in their respective event, including a high of third for Percin in the 200 Free – the event she won as a freshman to become Caltech's first female swimming SCIAC champion. The junior is also seeded seventh in the 1650 Free and ninth in the 500, although her personal-best time from freshman year would place her as high as fifth. Takahashi is in a similar position, having earned the eighth seed in the 100 Fly but with a PR that would rank as the top time in the same event she won during the preliminary session in her first year.
Rookie divers Krystin Brown (Lake Forest, Calif. / Trabuco Hills) and Nerys Huffman (Broomfield, Colo. / Peak to Peak Charter) are also likely to be significant sources of points, with Brown ticketed for seventh on the 1-meter board (behind five regional qualifiers) and eighth on the 3-meter while Huffman is ranked 12th on each. Sun rounds out the expected scorers with a 10th-place billing in the 100 Breast, 11th in the 200 and 12th in the 400 IM, although Pan is in a familiar position seeded just outside the finals at 24th in her scoring event, the 100 Free.
With all but one scorer from last year returning and the core of the team over the past two years entering its third championship meet, opportunity is ripe for the men's team to continue its push toward the upper echelon of the conference. The 2016-17 squad's close sixth-place finish marked the program's best since 1999 – when just seven teams competed in the SCIAC – with its highest point total since the 1988-89 season, and this year's team will be eyeing at least a handful of NCAA 'B' cuts heading into the meet.
Sophomore Thomas Gallup (Houston, Texas / Phillips Exeter Acad.) was a key addition to that team as a rookie. The program's first NCAA participant since 1983 and first individual SCIAC champion since 1996 claimed a rare 100-200 Breast double while also providing a key leg on the third-place 400 Medley Relay that marked the program's first All-SCIAC quartet since 1993. Juniors Dylan Lu (Kingwood, Texas / Kingwood), Henry Steiner (Petaluma, Calif. Casa Grande) and Jonathan Willett (Edina, Minn. / Edina) joined Gallup on that historic relay as well as the fourth-place 200 Medley Relay team in addition to scoring a slew of points individually and playing a part in a combined total of 13 team records.
Steiner fronted the pack last year with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishes in the 100 Fly, 200 IM and 200 Fly, while Lu and Willett each also cracked the finals heat with eighth-place results in the 100 Back and 100 Free, respectively. Classmate Adam Dai (Santa Barbara, Calif. / Dos Pueblos) and senior Avikar Periwal (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair) also joined the scoring ranks in the breaststroke and distance freestyle events.
Going off the psych sheet, Caltech is well positioned to continue its recent run of incredible success coming off taper. A fourth-place billing in the 200 Medley Relay marks the highest for a relay entering the meet on record, while the 400 Medley, 400 Free and 800 Free Relays all are tabbed sixth, with the jump in seeding for the 'A' squads expected to filter down to the 'B' teams in the consolation heats as well. Unsurprisingly, Gallup claims the highest seed at No. 2 in the 100 Breast, although his winning time from last year is a mere .01 faster than this year's top seed. He holds two of 12 expected scoring positions, although several others are major threats to drop significant time in events they swam sparingly during the regular season. Steiner and Willett in particular are poised to garner a slew of points as they enter the meet seeded outside the Top 8 in each of their three events (Steiner: ninth 100 Fly, 16th 200 Fly, 28th 200 IM; Willett: 12th 50 Free, 13th 100 Free, 38th 200 Free), but boasting personal-best times that would place them among the Top 6 in all six, including a pair of thirds for Willett and another third for Steiner.
Lu is seeded just outside the 'A' final heat at 12th in the 200 Back and 15th in the 100 while set to contribute on all five relays. Junior diver Danny Park (Savannah, Ga. / Savannah Country Day) should bring in a handful of points thanks to an 11th-place positioning on the 1-meter board, while rookies Alex Janosi (Ann Arbor, Mich. / Dexter), Adam Kogan (Clifton Park, N.Y. / Shenendehowa East) and Andy Rothstein (Potomac, Md. / Winston Churchill) are each seeded among the 18 scorers in one event and well within striking distance in their other two apiece. Classmates Michael Yao (San Ramon, Calif. / Dougherty Valley) and JD Walker (Grand Blanc, Mich. / Grand Blanc) also will be looking to crack the scoring lineup, particularly in the 100 Fly, while it will be no surprise whatsoever should Periwal turn in yet another trademark performance on the highest stage, where he routinely has recorded the most significant time drops of any member on the team in his first three years.
The SCIAC Championships will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 21 with the men's 3-meter diving finals, women's 1m prelims, the 200 Medley Relay and the 800 Free Relay.