The LMU women’s swim team has concluded a season filled with ups and downs, but the swimmers preferred to discuss the positives of their team's journey.
“This sport is very demanding, which can cause people to have somewhat of a negative attitude. But if we, as a team, all stand behind one another and push each other, then we come out stronger,” sophomore backstroke and distance freestyle swimmer Audrey Hixon said. “If I had one main takeaway from this season, it would be that your teammates will always have your back and will always be there to support you.”
Though the Lions, led by 16-year head coach Bonnie Adair, recorded a losing record for the sixth straight season, this year came with several high points for both the team as a whole and for several individual swimmers. One such team-wide highlight was winning against Pepperdine, both in a standard meet and in the two-day Lions Cup event, the latter of which also included Alaska-Fairbanks as a competitor. Beating Pepperdine was a primary goal for the team coming into the season, so the swimmers found satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment after doing so.
“This season, I think we all wanted to improve, not only as individuals but as a team. And, for us, that starts with beating Pepperdine, which we were successful at,” senior sprint freestyle swimmer Marley Abbott said.
Several players also received individual accolades throughout the year. Three different players received the Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference (PCSC) Swimmer of the Week Award. Senior Abby Chopp, who swims backstroke, butterfly and individual medley, earned it twice.
One of the awards came as a result of her performance in the Lions Cup. Abbott and senior distance freestyle swimmer Keara Reilly each won the award once this season.
As with any sport, the season was defined not only by wins, losses and awards, but also by the smaller individual moments that the swimmers will remember for much longer than they will remember their win-loss record.
Chopp recalled two particular swims by her teammates that stood out to her during the season. The first was Abbott’s performance in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Collegiate Winter Invitational, a tournament for Southern California schools held in the middle of the season.
Abbott’s time of 1:06.05, the eighth-best 100-yard breaststroke time in program history, earned her second place in the event and was the highest individual finish for any LMU swimmer at the tournament. The second memorable moment was the performance of sophomore butterfly and distance freestyle swimmer Taylor Pajunen in a 110-94 win over Alaska-Fairbanks toward the end of the regular season. Pajunen made the finals in the 1,650-yard freestyle and turned in a time of 19:44.85, which proved to be a key factor in the victory. Chopp praised Pajunen’s commitment to the Lions and her focus on winning.
“Swims like those really get the team pumped up and show how much people like [Pajunen] care about the team,” Chopp said.
The next step for the team is preparing for the PCSC Championships, which will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 13, in La Mirada, Calif., lasting four days. Hixon expressed excitement about the opportunity to swim and the competitive drive that such a tournament creates.
“I am really looking forward to the fast racing ... along with the high energy that everyone brings,” Hixon said. “Knowing that we are at the finish line pushes everyone [to] go out and give it their all.”
Abbott, who will be swimming at the collegiate level for the last time, had similar feelings as Hixon about the tournament and even used a similar turn of phrase.
“I’m looking forward to giving it my all and really taking in the events and emotions that go along with the weekend,” Abbott said.
Amid all of the preparation, Abbott was able to take a moment to reflect on her time at LMU, her swim career and the ways in which the two have overlapped and impacted her.
“This program has made more of an impact than I could have imagined,” Abbott said. “Not only have I met some amazing people, but I’ve learned skills that will hopefully carry me far in life.”