Three Pepperdine Swimmers Gain PCSC Honors

Tori Occhipinti

Outstanding performances in a diverse range of events during the first half of the season have gained three members of the Pepperdine swim and dive team — Jessica Mosbaugh, Joie Eckhard and Tori Occhipinti — Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference (PCSC) Athlete of the Week honors.

The Waves wrapped up competition for 2015 (except for Mosbaugh, who will be competing at winter nationals) at this past weekend’s A3 Performance Invitational, which took place on Nov. 19-21 in East Los Angeles. Multiple Waves made finals on each day of the meet, and the squad was led by Mosbaugh and freshman Allie Carter, who broke a school record in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:04.53. 

Head coach Nick Rodionoff said that the 35-member team, the largest Pepperdine has seen in recent years, is exceeding his expectations.

“We looked at A3 as a chance to swim fast times in prelims, but the girls kept making it back to finals,” he said.

PCSC Championship in mid-February is the next major competition for the Waves, who now have their sights set on championship season. The team has four regular-season meets remaining upon returning from holiday break in 2016, which they plan to use as preparation for conference.

The Malibu Times had the chance to talk with the three Waves PCSC standouts about their season goals, time as a Wave and PCSC Athlete of The Week honors.

Jessica Mosbaugh

Mosbaugh has been writing the Pepperdine record books in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events since her her freshman year. The senior was awarded PCSC Swimmer of the Meet after her first conference meet as a Wave, and is a two-time PCSC champion in the 200-yard breaststroke. 

A strong showing at the Malibu Invite in October gained Mosbaugh PCSC Athlete of the Week honors. She said that the meet was her best competition of the season, with solid performances in a variety of strokes.

Mosbaugh took third in the 200 at A3, clocking a 2:16.09 — her second best time ever in the event. “I told myself I was just going to race it and that the time didn’t matter,” she said. “I got a good rest [after prelims] and came back ready for finals.”

“A3 is the best meet I’ve ever seen Jessica swim, experience-wise,” Rodionoff said. “She knew exactly what she wanted to do and came close to her best time without letting it all out.”

USA Swimming Winter Nationals in Federal Way, Washington is next on the agenda for Mosbaugh on Dec. 3-5. Her ultimate goal is to drop two seconds in her 200, which would qualify her for this summer’s Olympic Trial meet.

With only a few meets remaining as a Wave, Mosbaugh has her sights set on qualifying for NCAAs and leading the team to a top-three finish at PCSC Championships.

“I became more confident as a both a swimmer and a person as my time at Pepperdine went on,” she said. “Once I figured out what I had to offer the team, I was able to step into more of a leadership role.”

Joie Eckhard

Eckhard gained PCSC’s attention after an outstanding meet against Cal Poly earlier this month. The freshman middle-distance freestyler has transitioned to college swimming nicely — swimming near her personal best times in the 500-yard freestyle for the first time since her sophomore year of high school.

“Being named Athlete of the Week was really cool and a really big surprise,” she said.

Eckhard says she was pleased with her 500 performance at A3, which allowed her to finish 41st with a time of 5:16.47. “The swim reassured me that I’m getting where I’m supposed to be,” she said.

“Joie is a really good example of what happens when you go all out everyday,” Rodionoff said. “Her times are dropping because of her work ethic.” 

Breaking 5:10.00 in the 500 has been Eckhard’s goal since her sophomore year of high school, and one she hopes to achieve at this year’s PCSC Championships.

Tori Occhipinti

Junior diver Occhipinti is in her first year on Pepperdine’s swim and dive team, as well as her third year on the track team, and trains for the two sports simultaneously.

Occhipinti returned to diving this fall after recovering from a back injury sustained her freshman year of high school, and she has quickly proved her ability. She was named PCSC Athlete of the Week after the Waves’ first meet of the season in La Mirada. 

“I was so grateful for this honor because it helped me realize my potential and that I could go somewhere with diving,” she said. 

Muscle memory allows Occhipinti to relearn old dives while fixing negative habits. Rodionoff has also allowed her to focus on her specialty — the one-meter board.

“In high school, there was a lot of pressure and stress from competing,” she said. “Now I enjoy it a lot more and it’s been really fun to try my old dives again.”

NCAAs are a possibility for Occhipinti, who is a mere five points away from the qualifying one-meter score of 265.

“It is amazing for Tori to be able to come back to the sport within a couple points of nationals,” Rodionoff said. “She is a super athlete.”