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Natalia Orbach-Mandel will have a key role this weekend as a relay anchor
Natalia Orbach-Mandel will have a key role this weekend as a relay anchor

CMS Women's Swimming and Diving Aims to Win Back SCIAC Title This Weekend

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CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's swimming and diving team will try to earn back the SCIAC title this weekend when it heads to the Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, Calif. for the four-day league championships, beginning on Thursday evening at 6 p.m.

After an historic run of dominance that saw 13 straight league titles from 2003 to 2015, the Athenas have finished as the runner-up in each of the last two seasons, but they stand poised to earn their way back to the top of the team leaderboard this winter. CMS went undefeated in conference duals this year, and is ranked No. 13 in the nation, just ahead of No. 15 Pomona-Pitzer, which will once again provide the toughest competition for the league title. 

Leading the way for the Athenas will be the defending SCIAC Swimmer of the Year, sophomore Augusta Lewis, who has an excellent chance of earning that award for the second time, with her dominance in the IM and the breaststroke. Lewis ranks in the top 15 nationally in Division III in four different events as she looks to earn multiple SCIAC titles and All-America honors this winter. 

Here is an event-by-event look a the top contenders for CMS (note: swimmers are allowed to compete in a maximum of three individual events, which means several Athenas will not be able to swim in every event they rank highly).

Individual Medley

Lewis dominated both IM events last year in SCIAC-record times, earning a 10th place finish nationally in the 400 IM. Her 4:24.74 time in the 400 IM this year is almost 10 seconds better than the second-fastest in the SCIAC. and ranks her ninth nationally, while her 200 IM time of 2:03.14 also places her ninth in the country and first in the SCIAC (by almost five seconds). 

CMS has several other swimmers with All-SCIAC hopes in the IM. In fact, the Athenas have four of the top five times in the league in the 400 IM, with sophomore Natalie Larsen in third, first-year Lexi Lee in fourth and first-year Annie Johnson in fifth. In the 200 IM, Larsen and Lee are tied for the fourth-best time in league competition this year, with sophomore Ava Sealander close behind in sixth, and senior Liv Baker right in the mix for the top nine spots (which qualify for finals) in 11th place, only a half-second out of ninth. 


Lewis has the top 200-yard breaststroke time in SCIAC this year at 2:17.24 (a three-second difference between her and second place), which is the seventh-best time in Division III. She was a close runner-up a year ago at SCIACs, and will be trying to add the event to her list of SCIAC Championships this winter. Sophomore Rachel Wander is in fourth in the 200 breast and has strong hopes of earning All-SCIAC honors (which go to the top three), while first-years Caroline Sundal (eighth) and Suzanne Starzyk (tenth), and Baker (11th) will be in the mix to qualify for the finals. 

The Athenas are equally poised for a strong showing in the 100-yard breaststroke, where Lewis (first), Starzyk (third) and Wander (fourth) place in the top five, although Lewis will likely not have it as one of her three individual events in order to swim the two IMs and the 200 breast. Sundal also places ninth in the 100 breast and will be looking to reach the finals.


The butterfly events will see Sealander as a top contender in the 100 fly, after winning the SCIAC title and qualifying for nationals in the event last winter. Sealander comes into this year's championships with the top time in the SCIAC at 55.75, which places her No. 18 in the nation.

The 200 fly sees the Athenas with three of the top four times in the league, with Johnson and first-year Arisa Cowe placing second and third coming into the weekend, and Sealander in fourth. Lewis is seventh but won't compete in the butterfly, and junior Christina Campbell is eighth, and her primary event is the backstroke. Junior Allie Umemoto, who studied abroad in the fall, places 12th this year, but finished sixth last year, and has the strong potential to outperform her seed due to missing the first semester.


The backstroke also has CMS looking for significant points, with Campbell coming in as the top seed in the 200 (2:03.88). Larsen is fourth in the 200 back, first-year Jameson Mitchum is fifth, junior Stephanie Lewis is eighth and Baker is tenth, which gives the potential for a lot of CMS caps in the nine-swimmer finals. 

Campbell is also seeded third in the 100 back and Larsen seventh, with Mitchum (12th), Baker (13th) and Stephanie Lewis (14th) all in the hunt for finals spots as well. Mitchum did not compete in the fall due to injury, missing the Pomona-Pitzer meet when both teams put on their fastest racing suits and tried to earn NCAA qualifying times, but has been healthy for the spring semester and will be a strong candidate to exceed her seeding and potentially compete for All-SCIAC honors.

Sprint Freestyle

The freestyle sprints will see Sealander as one of the top contenders in the 50, coming in with a top time of 24.04, just .08 behind top seed Jessica Argelander of La Verne. Starzyk is fourth among SCIAC swimmers in the 50, with junior Janet Tran in fifth, junior Natalia Orbach-Mandel in 10th and junior Laura Dickinson in 11th. 

In the 100 free, Orbach-Mandel is a close second with a top time of 52.42, which will also have her in a key role as a relay anchor. Tran is in fifth in the 100-free seedings, first-year Emily Warner is seventh, and Starzyk is in ninth. 

The 200 free sees incredible depth from the Athenas, who actually have nine of the top 12 swimmers in the league in the event. First-year Ella Blake places second in 1:53.53, followed by Orbach-Mandel in third. Campell, Augusta Lewis, sophomore Leila El Masri, Warner and first-year Gracey Hiebert place fifth through ninth, while junior Allie Umemoto and Mitchum are in the No. 11 and No. 12 spots. 

Distance Freestyle

The distance events see junior Mia Syme returning after setting SCIAC records and qualifying for nationals. Syme missed the fall semester studying abroad and actually isn't among the top three seeds this year, although she hopes to be peaking at the right time to defend her titles.

With Syme away in the fall, Blake filled the gap and emerged as the top seed in both the 500 and the 1650, while Cowe is third in the 1650, Syme is fourth, Hiebert is sixth, Johnson 10th and El Masri 11th. Blake, Campbell and Hiebert are 1-2-3 in the 500 with El Masri sixth, Cowe eighth, Syme ninth and Johnson 10th. 

Schedule of Events

The schedule of events will feature a pair of relays in a short schedule on Thursday, with the 200 medley realy followed by the 800 freestyle relay. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will feature morning prelims and evening finals, with the Friday events including the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free and the 200 free relay. Saturday will include the 400 IM, the 100 fly, the 200 free, the 100 breast and the 100 back, and conclude with the 400 medley relay. Sunday's final day will have the 200 back, 100 free, 200 breast, 200 fly, the 1650, and will conclude with the 400 free relay.