Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 6
The 'Dogs are going swimmingEarly this month Hancock announced the addition of a women's swim team to its sports arsenal
By KRISTINA SEWELL
The Allan Hancock College swimming pool is empty—no swimmers, no water—while it awaits some needed repairs. But soon enough, the light blue liquid will return, and come spring 2014, the pool will become home to the Hancock swim team.
A press release distributed earlier this month announced that the local community college would be adding a swim team to its lineup; aquatics is one of the few sports currently unavailable to athletes at Hancock. The team is set to begin practice in January of next year and compete in the Western State Conference.
The decision to add a swim team came largely from student interest. Swimming was frequently requested on the student application forms and has been a recurring request within the athletic department for years, said Athletic Director Kim Ensing.
“Women’s swimming has been identified over the past two years as a sport which could support a large population of students who have indicated interest,” she explained.
The survey, according to Ensing, has been embedded in the application for the last five years as a part of compliance with Title IX, aiming to identify “interest and ability” on behalf of the underrepresented gender.
With the ball already rolling, Hancock athletics also announced the hiring of Mike Ashmore as head coach for the swim team. Ashmore, who currently acts as head coach and general manager of the Santa Maria Swim Club and part-time physical education instructor for Hancock, has more than 20 years of experience as a swim coach.
“Mike Ashmore is an outstanding individual. He has an excellent résumé specific to women’s swimming and providing expertise to nationally competitive swimmers,” Ensing said. “We are fortunate to have a person with his qualifications introduce intercollegiate women’s swimming to Allan Hancock College.”
Ashmore, who’s coached at least one athlete in the last four Olympic trials, is excited to coach a slightly different kind of athlete and help members of the team reach their four-year goals.
He got his start in the swimming world in high school, swimming for his school team before going on to swim at a community college in the Bay Area. Eventually, he went on to swim at Whitworth University in Washington. For the instructor, community college swimming was especially important.
“Community college swimming was pretty integral to me to be able to move on to a four-year school,” Ashmore said. “It worked out for me, and I was able to enjoy a full swimming career.”
With that in mind, it was hard for him to pass up an opportunity to help community college athletes achieve their university dreams. Ashmore wants to help his future athletes further develop their character and work ethic.
“I want them to continue at a four-year with academic aspirations and swimming,” he said, adding that community college is a great way to develop student athletes who are coming out of high school.
Working primarily with high school students at the swim club, Ashmore said his role will change as a college coach because the athletes tend to be more independent at the higher level.
“I’ll be trying to help develop them as people and as athletes,” he said.
Ashmore is looking forward to developing the swim program for Hancock and determining how it will be set up. For now, the coach has three main goals for the upcoming team: “I want to recruit a full squad of excited swimmers, I want to be competitive, and I want to provide opportunities for athletes to transfer and swim for four-year universities.”
According to the swim coach, he has one swimmer already committed for next season; he’s hoping to recruit eight to 10 swimmers by next year.
High school senior Leanna Bramble is in her fifth year of swimming. Although she said she started late at age 13, she fell in love with the sport and progressed. She now competes in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke and has been working with Ashmore for three years.
“He is a great coach—he focuses in on your strengths as a swimmer,” Bramble said. “He gives you lots of ways to work on the areas you need to improve.”
Going into the first season, Bramble said she wants to be a good team leader, help recruit more swimmers, and do well in conference.
“My ultimate goal is to transfer to San Diego State with some kind of a swimming scholarship,” she said.
Above all else, Bramble is excited to be a part of a new program and meeting new people.
“Hancock is one of the better community colleges around and will be a good stepping stone towards my bigger goal,” she said.
While the senior athlete said the biggest challenge with the team will be experience level, the first year will be a learning process the team can go through together. Ashmore said that his competitive expectation coming out of the gate is going to be getting his swimmers to make improvements.
“Once we get a full squad, then we can decide how to move forward,” he explained. “My first priority is recruiting kids for the team.”
For Ashmore, adding swimming will be a perfect fit at Hancock, which will compete in one of the better swimming conferences in the state; both Cuesta and Ventura colleges have solid programs. While this situation will present some unique challenges, Ashmore believes the Hancock swim program has the potential for success.
“There have been several nationally competitive swimmers from our local community and now they will have an opportunity,” Ensing said. “I am looking forward to embracing the great local quality swimmers who finally have an opportunity to compete at AHC.”
In the last three years, according to Ashmore, he’s coached nine athletes who’ve attended Hancock and trained with the Santa Maria Swim Club before going on to receive scholarships.
“We hold our own nationally at the high school level,” he said. “We have plenty of talented swimmers here; it’s an opportunity for people to go to Hancock and develop academically and athletically.”
The addition of a swim team has been a long time coming for Hancock. According to Ashmore, who agreed that there was a need for a college swim program in Santa Maria, there has always been a lot of talk about such a program, but it was Ensing who took the initiative and made it happen.
“She really wants the athletic department to be successful, and part of that is more sports and opportunities—especially for women,” Ashmore said. “Now we can offer swimmers a team, and they’ll be able to identify as collegiate athletes while they train.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell is a fish out of water. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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