Lakers Swim Big at Nationals
Southwestern may appear to be small college on the map, but its swim team made a big splash at the national level. We are the Lakers, after all.
At this year’s NJCAA National Championships, Southwestern swimmers finished on top:
- First place in women’s 100-yard individual medley.
- First place in men’s 50 backstroke, 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke.
- Second top-scoring college nationwide.
- The teams brought home a total of 85 medals.
“It was a phenomenal meet for us as far as results go. The best year ever,” Coach Sandra Bullock said.
Jacqueline Feurtado, a sophmore from Wahroonga, Australia, earned the honor of first national champion and NJCAA All-American for the women’s program with a first-place finish in the individual medley. She set a school record time of 58.52.
Practice was tough this year, with COVID and masking. Social distancing rules reached even into the water. Feurtado and teammates endured. She found the strength to excel through the support of her team.
“It’s just like through hard sets; you’re just always encouraging and positive. … We’re just working through it, because you want to go to nationals. You just have to look at the bigger picture in the end,” she said.
Sophomore Alejandro Robles Ruiz from Almuñecar, Spain, brought home three individual National Champion titles. He also set new school records in all three events during the meet. He was the highest scoring Laker in program history with 76 points.
And, Coach Bullock? She is the NJCAA Women’s Coach of the Year. Not bad for a small college, from a small town on the southern Oregon coast.
A global team
2020-21 has been challenging. Academically, the swimmers excelled. These men and women have a team overall GPA of 3.52. But, swimmers dove into a season not knowing whether they could compete.
“I swim through things, so swimming helps me stay focused on everything,” said freshman Wyatt Smith. “I came hoping to compete. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.”
Words from a man who literally drove last fall for three days through fires from Albequerque, New Mexico, to get to Oregon to swim.
Ultimately, swimmers come for a chance to excel with Coach Bullock’s leadership and join a winning team, and a team that forms an incredibly tight bond.
“The first day of nationals was really nerve-racking for me,” said Libbey Ketchum. “After my long distance event, I got a really good time. And, I got hugs from everyone, even the coach and the team. Then, the last day, the last two relays of the night, everyone was cheering so loud. It was just an amazing feeling to know that we were all there together and ending it on a really good note.”
“We’re really close together. … We’re all in the bleachers supporting one another. We’re there for one another. We get really excited seeing each other succeed,” said Connor Spanos.
Spanos came to Southwestern by way of Seward, Alaska, and Ketchum from Roseburg, Oregon. Other swimmers come from around the world. Many of Southwestern’s swimmers reach out to agencies for help finding a good college fit.
“With COVID it was quite difficult. Coach Bullock reached out to me. We had good conversations, so I felt comfortable coming,” said Emile Dost, who crossed an ocean from The Netherlands to compete.
Southwestern is a launching point
“I’m a freshman. I’m coming back!” said Ximena Lucio Calzada, who will travel home to Mexico City over the summer. Lucio loved it here this year, traveling to nationals and getting to meet new people.
Out of this year’s 26-member swim program, 19 are freshmen. Community college is an opportunity to compete and an affordable step forward, offering opportunities to grow. Coach Bullock already has firm commitments from several to return for fall 2021. She is pleased with the team dynamics. Six of the seven sophomores are headed to NCAA and NAIA universities to swim.
“We have a great culture. It’s built upon positivity and encouragement. Everyone has a role, a place, no matter how talented you are,” she said.
To connect with Coach Sandra Bullock and learn more about Southwestern and our swim team, go to www.socc.edu or call 541-297-2158. Or, connect with Coach Bullock directly through the Lakers Recruit Questionnaire.