Spring Sports Program Underway with Swimmers Taking Center Stage

The three coaches for the boys and girls varsity swim team, from left, girls head coach Sydney Kanne; boys head coach Patrick Armstrong; boys and girls assistant coach Michael Gonzales, believe this year’s group of swimmers are some of the strongest ever fielded by the South Pasadena High School Aquatics program. Photo by Steve Whitmore

As winter turns to spring, South Pasadena High School sports programs enter the busiest time of the year with more students engaged in athletic pursuits than anytime during the year.

Spring sports at So Pas High feature boys tennis, badminton, baseball, boys golf, softball,  track &field, boys volleyball, boys and girls swimming.

More Kids Participate

“More kids participate in a wider variety of sports during the spring,” said Greg Luna, athletic director at So Pas High School. “Fall is second and winter is third.”

Right out of the gates this past Thursday was the girls varsity swim team, who went up against Arcadia in a preseason meet. Baseball has already begun preseason play as has boys volleyball. The other sports programs also started this past Thursday as spring is certainly heating up.

Although the girls swim team did well last season, coach Sydney Kanne is hoping for an even better showing this year. Last season was Kanne’s first as head coach. They are in Division 2 of CIF and have 16 varsity and 18 junior varsity swimmers.

“Last year was a rebuilding year and we did all right,” Kanne said during a recent telephone interview at a practice session at the So Pas aquatic center. “The goal here is to build back up the aquatics program.”

The last time, the swim program hoisted a championship banner was in 1989, Kanne said, and she believes it’s overdue for another one.

Intelligent and Determined

“These girls have the intelligence and the determination to accomplish that but it takes a 100 percent commitment,” she said. “We have strong swimmers in every event. My kids are very confident and that’s important in swimming.”

Kanne also said that it’s important for the team to work as a unit because even though swimming can be a singular sport, teamwork is vital.

“The  unification process is essential,” she said. “It’s important to have teammates cheering for you behind the blocks and each swimmer can score points that goes toward winning the meet.”

She looks at San Marino and La Cañada as the perennial rivals that always have competitive swimmers. She also pointed to Temple City as a strong team.

Ready to Race

“I want my kids to be ready to race, not just swim but race, as soon as they are on the blocks,” she said. “I want them to be able to focus and not overthink things.”

She said that sometimes swimmers can get “trapped in their own minds” away from the event at hand and that can be a losing proposition.

“I want the kids to think about the race at hand,” she said. “I want them to focus on one stroke, one breath, and concentrate just on the race in front of them. If they do that, we are going to be very competitive.”

Boys Swim Team Strong

The same can be said about the boys varsity swim team as well, according to their coach, Patrick Armstrong.

“We have a strong team this year,” Armstrong said recently during a practice session at the So Pas High School Aquatic Center. “It looks like we are going to be able to contend with a lot of tougher teams like La Cañada, San Marino, Arcadia. “

Although last year the boys came in third in league, which he was pleased with, Armstrong would like to see his squad improve on that.

“Obviously, you want to be near the top,” Armstrong said. “I don’t want to put expectations on them right now. I would love to improve on it. I think they’re capable of it. I think they have a lot of strength in them this year.”

Armstrong said his squad is good at sprints and “coming out of the gates fast.”

“We have a strength coach we are working with right now,” he said. “That’s helping them get stronger.”

Not Easily Distracted

Moreover, his swimmers are not easily distracted. Their focus is strong and they are ready to race when the time comes.

“They’re young but a lot of them have been swimming for so long to where they don’t let the nerves kind of dwell,” Armstrong said. “They get past that quicker and they go race and do their thing and have fun.”

However, there is always room for improvement and his squad can at times become intimidated by teams with a strong reputation.

“When we get with the bigger teams, the faster teams, I don’t want the  status of the other team affect their mindset,” he said. “They need to realize they are there, and are just as capable, and just as fast, and not let any team affect how they swim.”

Boys varsity also is Div. 2 in CIF and have 18 varsity swimmers.

Swim, Water Polo Synergy

Meanwhile, the assistant coach for both boys and girls swim teams is the head coach for So Pas High water polo, Michael Gonzales, who says the swim teams benefit the water polo squads as well as beef up the overall aquatics program at So Pas High School.

“It’s just an ongoing culture of combining both water polo and swim,” Gonzales said. “It’s being able to maximize on all the aquatics and being on staff the last couple of years has helped bring more kinds into the program and we’re hopeful we can build up the program.”

He also touted the swimmers as being ready to compete at the highest level.

“They look good,” he said. “We have a lot of experienced swimmers. We have a lot of kids that are coming in with club-swim backgrounds. We have a host of kids that are returning from last year. We’re excited.”

Gonzales echoed Kanne’s sentiments about commitment, however.

“Commitment. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Especially as a head coach. You want to see commitment. We want to see our JV swimmers buy into fundamentals, buying into technique. For our varsity swimmers we want them to be competing every time, every race.”

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