College of Marin teammates Tessa Pares (left) and Sasha Urban challenge each other in the women’s 200 meter IM at the IVC pool recently.
By Derek Wilson
Sasha Urban is back in a Mariners swimsuit for her sophomore season after the 2020 season was lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The competition is such a great pleasure,” said Urban, who last competed for College of Marin in 2019. “Practice is one thing, but the competition is great.”
Urban is one of the stars hoping to rebuild the COM swim program. The team currently lists eight swimmers on the roster — five women and three men — leaving the Mariners at a disadvantage against bigger teams that can field more swimmers in more events.
Although the numbers are small, head coach Steve Carrera believes the talent is strong. That talent showed in the relay lineups of Urban, Remy Pelzman, Tessa Pares and Chabeli Huinac Paxtor.
“After high school I didn’t really plan on continuing my swimming career,” Pares said. “(Carrera) asked me to join the team and he made me feel welcome. It’s been since Spring 2019 when I last competed, so I had a lot of anxiety leading up to the past few weeks just because I was insecure whether I was going to be good enough and if I was going to be as good as I was in high school.”
COM has a history of success, most recently in 2018 when Nick Cruse and Dominique Duro represented the Mariners at the State Championships.
Carrera was thrown the challenge of trying to build a winning team after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the program.
“It wasn’t difficult finding swimmers,” Carrera said. “There were a lot student athletes ready for some activity. When we embarked on this, we didn’t know if we would have any competitions. But mental health played a part in this. People wanted to get out and do something. The people I was already in contact with were ready for this and then we had a few late additions who wanted to exercise and be outdoors… I hope after this year we’ll have a bigger team.”
Said Urban, “If I hit my peak at this point then that’s OK. I just feel lucky to be able to be out here and have a team that I’m able to work alongside to both inspire and be inspired.”
“We have such small numbers, but there’s so much motivation in each of us,” Pelzman said. “It’s great to come out here and, even though there are only two or three of us practicing, it’s super-motivating.”
Carrera points to Paxtor as an inspiration to her teammates and coaches, saying “she’s my big surprise. She’s so tough.”
Paxtor hasn’t been a competitive swimmer for roughly seven years since she graduated from San Rafael High School.
“She’s a young mom, a full-time student and she works,” Carrera said. “She joined the team and is absolutely crushing it every day. She’s a perfect example of balancing life, academics and athletics. She’s pursuing her goals at full force. “
“As a coach I am very much equal opportunity. I’ve never cut anyone in my entire career,” Carrera said. “It’s natural for someone less experienced to look up to someone more experienced and I think we see that here. We’re creating a culture of what COM swimming is and what it should be and where it is going. I have big goals of where COM swimming is going. I have a vision and these swimmers are helping me carry that out.”