First year coach helps seven qualify for CIF Finals

The swimming team sent seven athletes to the CIF Finals meet in Head Coach Jonathan Carroll’s first year at the helm. Kassie Shannon ’13 represented the girls’ team while Matt Chen ’13, John Chu ’14,   Henry Copses ’14, John Copses ’14, Alex Hsing ’16 and Colin Lynch ’14 represented the boys’ team.

“For my first year, the change in the expectation and the culture, it’s always going to be a struggle to get the students at a place like Harvard-Westlake to make the commitment that it takes to improve in swimming given all the other activities they are involved in,” Carroll said. “We are really still trying to have our athletes understand that to develop on the swim team, there is a minimal level of commitment that we need to get where we want to go and accomplish our goals.”

Carroll said most of the swimmers who qualified for CIF are club swimmers and the next step is adding depth to the team. He said the ultimate goal is placing in the top 20 of CIF as a team.

John Copses cited attending practice and a lack of team spirit as issues for the team this year.

Copses thought that Carroll fared well in leading the team his first year.

“I think it was excellent,” Copses said. “Despite minor setbacks a few times with missing events, I think he handled it incredibly well and made us feel as though we were part of a program like Loyola’s, where we are actually not a recreational high school team. We are actually here to win and compete and I think that was really well articulated.”

Shannon, who made it to CIF Preliminaries last year in the same event, broke through and placed fifth in the 100 freestyle this year.

“I think it was a huge accomplishment considering last year I only made it to Prelims,” Shannon said. “I set a goal for myself that I wanted to make top 10 in CIF this year. I joined a club swim team last summer, so that helped a lot in getting a lot more swim training in.”

Shannon also owns two CIF titles for winning the championship in 2011 and 2012 with the girls’ water polo team. Shannon will attend Davidson next year and join the swim team.

“The fact that [Shannon] got fifth in Division I CIF is amazing and she hasn’t even been swimming that long,” swimmer Sydney Cheong ’14 said. “Her times are so fast, I am so proud of her and she deserves it.”

Shannon said she feels that the swim program is heading in the right direction. She believes in a few years there will be a lot more swimmers going to CIF because of Carroll’s plan for the program.

Chen, Lynch and Henry Copses set school records in the 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and 500 meter freestyle, respectively.

The team was faced with adversity following the tragic death of swimmer Justin Carr ’14 in February.

“[Justin] was a huge part of the swim team,” Cheong said. “He was such a big part of the team and we thought of him at every meet and all the time.”

There is optimism among swimmers and coaches alike heading into next season. Cheong believes many of the strongest swimmers are returning and the program is on the upswing.

“I am excited about having the summer to get the ball rolling and keep the momentum rolling into the fall,” Carroll said. “I’m excited about our camps for the summer and also being able to go out and really beat the drum and hopefully be able to attract more committed swimmers to apply to Harvard-Westlake and hopefully get in.”

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