This past December, Southern California got soaked in a string of storms that lasted for weeks. Most students had gone home for Winter Break while rain poured over Claremont, but the CMS—Claremont, Mudd, and Scripps—swimming and diving team was on campus for their annual training camp.
“Swimming in the rain is kind of nice, actually. It’s very quiet, it’s intense, and when you’re one of the only sports teams willing to brave it outside, it definitely puts you to the test,” says Ava Sealander ’22, a first-year student who swims butterfly on the CMS women’s swimming and diving team and was named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) “Swimmer of the Week” early in the season.
Sealander is one of 74 student athletes on the women’s rosters participating in the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletic program, which includes 11 women’s varsity teams that are members of the SCIAC, a Division III conference in the NCAA. (CMS also includes men’s Division III teams, and The Claremont Colleges sponsor five women’s club sports and five co-ed club sports).
The women’s program—the Athena’s—joined what was then the Claremont-Mudd athletics department in 1976–77, the same year that SCIAC began sponsoring women’s sports. Since then, the Athena’s have won 121 SCIAC titles, and three NCAA National Championships—the most among SCIAC programs. The CMS women’s program has further won 23 SCIAC All-Sports Trophies, including 21 of the last 26, and CMS has won the combined All-Sports Trophy 30 times, with victories in 29 of the last 33 years.
For Sealander, the competitive edge of CMS athletics is part of what drew her to Scripps: She began competing on a club team when she was six years old in her hometown of Brooklin, Maine, traveling for competitions throughout high school.
“I knew I wanted to continue to swim in college, so I intentionally looked for schools that had a good team I would fit with, but that search was difficult because I knew I wanted to go to a women’s college,” she said. “Women’s colleges in particular sometimes struggle to have their sports teams recognized because they tend to have smaller student populations, so it’s harder to be competitive at higher levels. But because Scripps is part of the larger CMS sports program, which includes the student populations of three colleges, Scripps really presented the best of both worlds with competitive sports and an all-women environment.”
Remaining a competitive swimmer was a top priority for Sealander, but not more so than her school work. She plans to major in physics and eventually pursue a career in engineering and knew that a life of balance was the key to her future happiness and success.
“When I was club swimming in high school, people would tell me that I was going to go to a NCAA Division I college to swim. But while I knew that I would love swimming forever, I needed to do certain things academically for my future. Scripps is where I could do both—swim at a level where I feel competitive and where I can also devote myself to my work in the classroom. School comes first for me, but there’s still room for serious athletics.”
Things got more serious for Sealander when she finished first in the 100-yard butterfly at the conference championship, setting a new SCIAC meet record. She will have a full schedule when competing in the NCAA Division III National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, this March in her specialty, the 100-yard butterfly, plus the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, the 200 -yard freestyle relay, and 200- and 400-yard medley relays.
“Ava entered the SCIAC championships as the fastest 100-yard butterflier, and she delivered!” says Michael Sutton, interim director of physical education and athletics for CMS athletics. “We have some star athletes in the class of 2022, but none brighter so far than Ava.”
He continues, “These athletes choose Scripps College for the opportunity to combine outstanding academics with an equally outstanding opportunity to compete in their sport. CMS coaches strive to help them maximize their college educational experience through quality experiences offered through the athletic program.”