A year that started with a perfect 7-0 South Coast Conference dual record ended with a sixth place finish, the best ever under head coach Terry Stoddard, by the Pasadena City College men's swimming team at the 2018 CCCAA State Swimming and Diving Championships held May 3-5 at De Anza College.
Samuel Jo led the way by breaking his own school record in repeating as the 100-yard backstroke state champion. Jo swam 50.02, breaking his mark of 2017 by .18 of a second. Jo later would wipe out his 200 backstroke school record on Saturday's final day of the meet, but his explosive 1:48.27 turned out to be only good enough for the silver medal against speed demon Hayden Hemmens of state champion team-winning Orange Coast College as Hemmens won the race with a remarkable 1:46.36. Despite being 1.72 seconds faster than his '17 state title swim, Jo could not repeat as a double state champ.
"We knew how hard it was going to be to win one title, let alone two, but Samuel was just awesome," said Stoddard, whose previous Lancers team best was eighth place (2008 and 2011) in his 19 years coaching at PCC. "In the 100 back, his first 50 yards, even I was like wow he was flying (23.95). Certainly a sign of coming up big. He picked up three state titles in two years and shattered several school records. Like Melissa Cienega on the women's side the past two years, no PCC men's swimmer that I've coached has had the success that Samuel accomplished."
PCC scored 273 total team points and were just two points behind fifth-place San Diego Mesa.
The men's team had many other highlights throughout the three days, but maybe none with more impact than what happened in the 100 butterfly. While Mesa's Brandon Crabtree was breaking the state meet record in the event (46.49), freshman Roman Rostomyan swam to fourth place in 49.49. In the process, Rostomyan broke a 40-year-old school record set by PCC Hall of Famer Eric Marks (1978, 49.53, matched by Tai Nuntapramote in 2009). Ironically, Marks not only set the initial record during a year the Lancers won their last state team championship, but he set the mark at the same De Anza College pool that Rostomyan broke it.
Rostomyan had the highest finish other than Jo with his silver medal in the 200 butterfly as his 1:50.92 was just .40 of a second behind winner Javier Bernal of Riverside CC. Rostomyan's mark is the third fastest in school history.
Last year, current sophomore Sydney Odent beat a 39-year-old record in the 200 individual medley (set by Glen Aikin in 1978) with a 1:54.47 at the 2017 state meet. On Thursday's Day 1, freshman Lancer Ryan Wang shattered Odent's record with a 1:53.44 that landed Wang a fifth place medal. In Friday's 400 IM, both Wang and Odent busted Cario Liu's seven-year-old school record in the event (4:03.92). Wang will be the official record holder with his bronze medal in 4:01.68 while Odent, who had been No. 2 on the list from a year earlier, stayed at No. 2 with a 4:02.39 for fourth place.
Wang swam to a fourth place medal in the 200 breaststroke as his 2:04.88 is the second-fastest ever at PCC. Odent, who finished with three top 8 medals, scored fifth in the 1,650 freestyle at 16:23.33 and seventh in the 500 freestyle at 4:40.29.
PCC had some strong performances as part of their five relays. The Lancers scored bronze medals in both the 800 freestyle relay (Jo, Wang, Odent and Rostomyan, 6:52.91, third best in school history) and meet-ending 400 freestyle relay (same foursome, 3:08.45, third fastest and speediest since the school record of 3:03.40 set 40 years earlier). The Lancers also tallied a fifth place in the 400 medley relay (same four, 3:25.61, just .17 of breaking another 40-year-old record). The quartet notched a seventh place medal with a school record in the 200 medley relay in 1:35.22. That scorched a 10-year-old school record (1:37.69).
"We were blessed with four talented guys in the relays who really swam with a lot of heart and desire," Stoddard said. "We had top 8 medals in 14 of the 18 swim events. We don't have the type of depth that the usual big scorers have like Orange Coast, Diablo Valley, Sierra and Golden West. To have that many high places is a testament to our talent. I'm so proud that we excelled to our highest score since those great state title teams of the 70s."