By Jesse Muñoz
For The Signal
College of the Canyons swim & dive celebrated a historically momentous day on the deck at last Friday’s Western State Conference (WSC) meet hosted by L.A. Valley College.
COC’s men’s team swam to a first place finish in a school-record six events to also claim the program’s first win at a conference meet.
But it wasn’t until after wading through the excitement of recording his first win as COC head coach that Sean Kakumu realized the win represented a program first. Pressed to recall when Canyons had last swam to victory Kakumu, who is in his seventh season at COC, looked back through the program archives before discovering that this team had made history.
COC finished runner-up at the first WSC meet of the season back on March 1, then claimed third at its home conference meet on March 16 at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center.
The timing of Friday’s meet on the backend of the Cougars’ schedule combined with a series of nagging injuries affecting Canyons swimmers perhaps didn’t bode well for COC’s hopes of victory.
But when the Cougars hit the water none of that seemed to matter.
“This meet, and win, was more about character than numbers,” said Kakumu. “Heading into the day we all knew it was going to be a tough meet, one of the hardest of the season. For us, it was all about finishing races and battling for points. At the end of the day we did that better than anyone else.”
The historic win came by the slimmest of margins with the Cougars able to edge out second-place Bakersfield 130-129. Host L.A. Valley was third at 95 followed by Citrus College with 57.
“We competed and won against teams almost twice our size,” said Kakumu about his roster of just nine swimmers compared to the contingent of 14 entered by Bakersfield. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team and the win they pulled off.”
Canyons scored its first points of the day in the 400-yard medley relay with the time of Emilio Santoyo, Rowdy Feather, Miguel Martinez and Ian Werner posting a time of 3:49.43.
Sophomore Kenny Payne was next to score with his win in the 1,650-yard freestyle (18:50.01), finishing nearly seven seconds quicker than the next competitor.
Feather was one of two swimmers to win multiple events for the Cougars. He took first in the 400-yard IM at a pace of 4:28.04 and also won the 200-yard backstroke at 2:02.57, just ahead of Santoyo (2:02.94) in second place.
Martinez was the other dual event winner for COC. His victories came in the 200-yard butterfly (2:07.36) and 200-yard breaststroke (2:24.51). Martinez’ time in the butterfly topped the field by more than eight seconds.
Elsewhere, Werner narrowly missed a victory in the 50-yard freestyle with his time of 23.49. The sophomore had to settle for third behind a first-place tie at 23.40. Werner was also fourth in the 100-yard freestyle to pick up points that proved crucial in the final tally.
COC’s 400-yard freestyle relay team of Payne, Kevin Hanratty, Kellen Bulmer and Martinez was fourth at 3:43.62. The 800-yard freestyle combo of Payne, Santoyo, Werner and Feather was third at 8:14.67.
“(This success) was the result of hard work. We didn’t have best times, best races, or even healthy swimmers,” Kakumu said.
“Pulling a win off like this before our championship sets up well for a run at a WSC championship, which would be another program first,” added Kakumu. “Once these guys are rested, it’s going to be scary for the competition.”
Canyons has won nine individual WSC titles on the men’s side and five for the women’s program, but has never won a team conference title. In 2016 COC’s men’s team finished a school-best third in the WSC standings.
“We all know what we want, which is a conference championship,” Kakumu said. “The team knows they still have work to do. It’s always been on them to make this happen, and so far they are taking care of business.”
Canyons next competes at the 19th Pasadena City College Invitational April 5-6.
The WSC Championships will be held April 18-20 at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center.
COC Softball Rolls to Sixth Straight Victory
The Lady Cougars made quick work of visiting L.A. Valley on Tuesday, churning out 18 hits to top the Monarchs 10-2 in six innings.
Sierra Boyajian knocked in the first run of the game with an RBI single in the opening frame. But Canyons did the bulk of its damage with a four-run outburst in the third inning that included RBI singles from Valerie Rivas and Alondra Torres to make it a 5-0 COC advantage.
LAVC plated a pair on a two-run home run in the fourth to stay within striking distance, but Canyons quickly responded with a three-run rally just an inning later, capped by Boyajian’s RBI double.
Boyajian finished the game 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs and leads the club with a .425 batting average.
COC starting pitcher Kaitlyn Post (7-3) did not allow a hit until the fourth inning, and surrendered just three in the game, while walking one and striking out three.
The win was the second in as many games for Post, who has also been a force at the plate. The freshman dual-threat player, who prepped at Canyon High School, also went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored a pair of runs on Tuesday.
During the Cougars’ current six-game streak Post is batting .600 (12-of-20) with four doubles, two triples, 11 runs and 11 RBIs. She has also walked twice and struck out once during that span.
Canyons was able to end things early with a bunt single by Brianna Vazquez that helped Micayla Aguilar come around to score an unearned run to put the game at 10-2 after six innings.
COC (18-10, 8-2) has now won six straight and 9 of its last 11 contests to remain behind first place Antelope Valley College in the conference standings. The Marauders have played two fewer conference games than COC, with the two programs still slated to meet one more time on April 16.
Canyons is the defending WSC, East Division champions.