Rookie Athletes Shine in Oberlin Invitational


Photo by Amanda Phillips

A student dives during the Oberlin Swim Invitational.

While most of campus was cramming for midterms and preparing for Thanksgiving break, the Oberlin swim and dive team spent Nov. 18–20 competing against ten other colleges at the Oberlin Invitational.

The Yeowomen rose to the occasion with a first-place finish overall after a close loss to Ashland University two weeks before. First-year Bella Sites earned fourth place in the 200-yard backstroke, while clocking the ninth-fastest time in school history (2:13.89). 

Ava Peyton, a first-year specializing in backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle, was proud of her first-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:00:53 seconds.

“I had a close race with someone I tied with in prelims,” Peyton said. “I was so nervous before the race, but cheering on my teammates and being in the positive atmosphere on deck helped me feel prepared and confident.” 

After already securing a top-10 time in program history in the event, Peyton is hoping to break the school record of 58.29 seconds later this season. 

Third-year and first-time diving competitor Lucas Draper took a fifth-place overall finish in diving. He originally swam for Oberlin as a first-year but began diving in the 2020–2021 season, which was entirely virtual. Draper looks to continue achieving personal goals. 

“I want to be able to learn more dives on 1-meter before conference championships to score better,” Draper said. “Obviously, I want to keep improving my technique, … and I also want to learn dives on the 3-meter to begin to compete in another event.”

While the first-years have certainly contributed a lot to the team’s success, Head Coach Alex de la Peña knows they couldn’t do it without a strong set of values in training.

“Our core values as a program are cohesiveness, hard work, accountability, and resiliency, and they work hard each day to keep those in focus for themselves and their teammates,” de la Peña said. 

In addition to their rigorous training, Peyton feels there is a strong team atmosphere that improves everyone’s performance.

“My teammates are some of my best friends on campus and I’m so grateful for them,” Peyton said. “The first-year swimmers are super friendly, and I feel comfortable with them, especially because of the few weeks we spent together before classes started. They’re great at checking in during practice and meets and supporting me if I’m having a hard day. It’s a fun, inclusive, and challenging environment.” 

Coach de la Peña highlights the importance of the roles the captains play on the team.

“With such a young team, their leadership is critically important to our success and we are very lucky to have [fourth-years] Rachel Maxwell, Kate Raphaely, Richard Ellis, and Jonathan Hupfeld in those positions,” de la Peña said. “They have been through the ups and downs of rebuilding this program and are happy to see their hard work paying off.” 

For the rest of the season, Coach de la Peña hopes to win as many meets as possible before competing in the North Coast Athletic Conference Championships in February. Specifically, he hopes to win on the women’s side and place in the top three on the men’s side. However, win or lose, de la Peña emphasizes the team’s culture and attitude above all else.

“The goal as a team was simple … have fun and swim fast,” de la Peña said. “We wanted 100 percent season-best times and as many lifetime-best swims as possible. We also continue to work hard sticking to our core values and strengthening the overall team culture.” 

The team hopes to continue their momentum in the next meet against John Carroll University on Dec. 17.