Women keep Corsair swim team afloat in Citrus Invitational

Last Saturday, the Corsair swim team competed in the Citrus College Invitational against rival schools Citrus and Pasadena College. While SMC didn't win the meet, they displayed an impressive resolve and certainly proved to be a force worth reckoning with come conference finals in late April.

The meet consisted of a fast-paced preliminary round followed by a short break, and then went immediately into finals, forcing competitors to demonstrate both speed and stamina.

The Corsairs spent the day completing in the Glendora-held invite that lasted a strenuous eight hours. While the meet was intentionally grueling, it gave the Corsairs a chance to show their prowess, as well as an opportunity to test their mettle against the opposing Citrus Fighting Owls and Pasadena Lancers.

The meet's scoring system, based on cumulative wins, automatically put SMC at a disadvantage due in large part to the number of Corsair swimmers who were unable to attend. Despite the drawback of having fewer participants, the Corsairs valiantly engaged the opposition, compensating for their handicap with a brilliant display of team unity and chemistry.

Despite the men's aggressive swimming and multiple first-place slots, they finished with a disheartening third place relay time and forfeited any possibility of a winning cumulative score. In contrast, the Lady Corsairs absolutely torpedoed the competition, taking first place in everything from 50-yard medleys to 400-yard relays, esseintially keeping the team's head above water.

The highlight of this three-team invite was newcomer Katya Shatalova, the Corsair distance swimmer who made waves by winning her first 1650 yard freestyle event by an astounding margin: Shatalova finished her debut mile race more than twenty seconds before the next opponent. The Corsairs lined the pool along Shatalova's 25 meter route, cheering and encouraging her throughout the 66 required laps. Her victory time of 19:29:20 electrified the team, but left Shatalova understandably drained.

"I just want to eat. I'm so hungry," said Shatalova after the significant achievement.

Despite her exhaustion, Shatalova returned to help the Corsairs win the women's 400-yard relay, and took first in the 200-yard freestyle, posting a one-second improvement over her preliminary time. Her versatility and impressive endurance has secured Shatalova's position as one of SMC's top performers preparing for the Western State Conference Swimming Finals in Santa Clara on April 22-24.

Shatalova's results automatically qualify her for state, and with a team as motivated as head coach Steve Contarsy's Corsairs, they're sure to make a splash in future competitions.

According to Contarsy, Saturday's Citrus College invite was an exercise in exactly what state-level preparation is. "The whole purpose of this meet is to give you the feeling of three days of swimming prelims and finals," he said to his team, stressing the importance of mental and physical stamina throughout the event.

"You have to learn how to swim exhausted, so you know what it's like when you're doing it for three days at conference," said Contarsy. "You're beat up. You're tired. But you gotta get up on those blocks, and you gotta swim fast."