Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Owls Swim Team Caps Off Historic Season

Foothill’s representatives at states: Kaylin Welch, Amelia Peyton, Sonia Khan, Olivia Khan, Karla Serafin-Medina, and Brandon Wang.

The 3C2A State Swimming Championships, which took place during the first weekend of May, proved to be a historic and record-setting weekend for the Foothill Swim team. Not only did the team send six athletes to the competition, but the women’s team also clinched a tenth-place finish, therefore placing them as one of the top contenders in California.

Amazingly, it was only two weeks prior that the men had achieved a second place finish at the Coast Conference Championships, while the women mirrored the achievement by a nail-biting one point margin. The Owl’s astounding performance at the Coast Conference Championships allowed the team to send six athletes to the state championship meet. These six athletes included Amelia Peyton, Kaylin Welch, Karla Serafin-Medina, Sonia Khan, Olivia Khan, and Brandon Wang.

The first school records to fall were the 400 Medley Relay and the 200 Medley Relay. The women were able to secure fifth place finishes in both events with times of 4:03.14 and 1:50.57 respectively.

The next couple of records to fall were during the backstroke and butterfly events, during which Sonia Khan shattered a 32-year-standing 100 butterfly record with a third place time of 58.73, and at the same time smashing the previous 200 butterfly record in 2:20.21. Her sister Olivia followed in a similar fashion when it came to the 100 and 200 backstroke, and ended up taking 3rd in the 100 and set a new school best of 2:05.85 in the 200.

On the men’s side, Brandon Wang also put up top tier performances with a 6th place finish in the 100 breaststroke and 8th in the 200 breaststroke. He also tore down the former 200 Individual Medley Record in a time of 1:55.35, which had been standing since 2003.

This may come as a surprise, but the 2023-2024 season didn’t get off to such a smooth start. As soon as the season started, the Owls were confronted with the problem of not having a home pool to practice in. The Foothill pool hasn’t had water in it for two years, meaning practices had to be held at De Anza for the entirety of the season. The necessity of early practices, as well as the added commute time forced many of the athletes to wake up around 5:30 a.m. just to make it to practice on time.

“A lot of people didn’t have the transportation they needed to get [there], and we would miss out on crucial practice times during the season without access to a pool on our campus,” Amelia Peyton noted.

The trouble did not stop there though. The athletes would then have to go to class, take care of homework, work a shift, and still find time to sleep before they had to do it all over again. When it came to classes themselves, some of the swimmers were not even able to sign up for the classes they wanted and needed for their academic goals. These factors meant that their schedule had to be built around practices rather than school.

Aidan Gaither touched on some of this frustration when asked about his experience: “The biggest thing for me…was mostly just classes. There were classes where I just couldn’t sign up for them because they would conflict with our practice times, so that was really inconvenient.”

Despite having to put up with this logistical nightmare, Coach Bissell, the head swim coach, did everything he could to make the situation better. To solve the practice problem he turned to a new system of what he called “alternate practices.” These sessions ensured that those athletes who couldn’t make the afternoon training had a different option on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Such a schedule meant that Coach Bissell was coaching 8 separate practices each week – something he had never done before over the course of his career. This investment of extra time and energy into his athletes had massive payoffs however, and the team’s performance throughout the season goes to show it.

“I knew with some of the talent that we had, we weren’t going to reach our full potential if some of those kids were only making two to three swim practices a week,” Bissell reflected.

Coach Bissell’s implacable determination and ceaseless concern for his athletes is nothing new. As a coach at Foothill since 2001, his success and dedication speaks for itself. During his eighteen year stint as the head women’s water polo coach, he won all but three of the Coast Conference Championships and took first place at the 2012 Northern CA Championships.

Additionally, as the Foothill swim coach, Bissell has won three Coast Conference Championships and sent a myriad of athletes to the CA State Championships.

Although the Owls had a number of awe-inspiring performances, the team could not have performed at such a high level without the help of every single athlete. In championship swimming, every point is added to the overall total of the team, and the team with the highest amount of points wins.

Karla Serafin-Medina, Sonia Khan, Olivia Khan, and Kaylin Welch pose with their medals.

“I told them, ‘it doesn’t matter if you score one point or sixty points; every score matters,’” Coach Bissell recollected with a smile.

As evidenced by the scoring system, ability does not dictate an athlete’s value on the team. Many of the swimmers started the season with little to no experience in the pool, but by its close they had made massive improvements with respect to their technique and times. At the end of the day, every athlete had to come together and do their part while simultaneously backing each other up.

This type of support was present both in and out of the water throughout much of the season, therefore contributing to a tight-knit group filled with comradery and friends. When asked about these bonds Aldo Gonzalez Navarrete, a member of the men’s team, stated he felt proud of how far the team had come.

“In the preseason I don’t think anyone would talk to each other, except for the people who already knew each other. So, I feel proud of how, as the season started and came to end, we became friends…everyone stuck together and we even hung out together outside of practices.”

In general, it can be difficult to meet new people and form close relationships with others, especially at a commuter school. Everyone is juggling a million things at once, and sometimes it’s hard to form meaningful connections and make memories when you’re not always on campus. The swim team has blown this stereotype out of the water and established a water-tight group that’s ready to welcome anyone of any ability.

Moreover, Coach Bissell is always ready to go above and beyond for his athletes, no matter the situation. Whether it be creating extra practices, funding the athlete’s suits, going out into the community to fundraise, or working with a swimmer one on one, he’s ready to do it.

If you’re interested in joining the team or finding out more about the program feel free to reach out to Coach Bissell on the Foothill Athletics Page.

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About the Contributor
Greg Tobias
Greg Tobias, Campus Life Editor
Greg Tobias is a first year student majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics and is hoping to transfer to a CSU or a UC. Although his focus lies in the neurobiological, psychological, and anatomical processes behind alimentation, he loves to write and explore nature on the side. To him, writing is critical for self expression and understanding the world around us. If you catch him out in the wild, he’s probably reading a thick book to make it seem like he’s smarter than he is.

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