Haneen Eltaib/Courier Michael Humphrey swims the 1000 yard freestyle at the South Coast Conference Dual Lancers v. Chaffey at the PCC Aquatic Center on Friday, March 6, 2020.
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Michael Humphrey is from Pasadena, California, and has been swimming his whole life. He participated in swim clubs growing up and as a young adult he joined the men’s swimming and diving team at Pasadena City College. The last swim meet at PCC was in March against Chaffey. Lancers won with the score of 194-49 and Humphrey gained three wins: the 1000 yard freestyle (10:25.49), the 100 yard butterfly (56.11), and the 200 yard individual medley (2:09.33). 

From the numbers it’s evident that Humphrey found success in his choice of sport. Becoming the swimmer he is today, had a lot to do with the encouragement given by his swimmates and his coach. The record he’s laid is a culmination of training, persistence, and discovery.

Humphrey’s life as a swimmer didn’t begin at PCC. He had been part of club teams in the past at the Rose Bowl and St. Francis High School but in his eyes it wasn’t really a team environment. 

“When I got to PCC it was more of a team. I enjoyed swimming with my teammates. It motivated me, they pushed me every single practice and every single meet. I would say I learned more about [sportsmanship] at PCC,” said Humphrey.

Once at PCC he and coach Terry Stoddard reached out to one another and talked about him joining the team. Humphrey wanted to add extra curricular activities to his college experience and he already had the confidence in his swimming ability. Joining the Lancer athlete life was, in Humphrey’s words, “inevitable.”

In turn, joining the team inevitably led him to meet his teammates. During training and practice Humphrey learned what it felt like to be on, well, a team. Something he didn’t experience in his former swim clubs. Two swimmers who contributed greatly to Humphrey’s confidence and encouragement were Carmen Ung and Harrison Tin.

Carmen Ung is a sophomore Lancer on the women’s swimming and diving team. She took lessons when very young and began swimming competitively since the eighth grade. 

“He’s definitely one of the better swimmers on the team that had a lot of experience and you could tell by his technique,” said Ung, “he could do every stroke pretty well.”

Harrison Tin, also in his sophomore year, began swimming at age seven. He and Humphrey first met while swimming in the same lane where he had a chance to observe his stroke and movement in the water.

“His technique is definitely a lot better than most of us ‘cause he had a lot of experience,” said Tin.

Humphrey’s performance as a competitor had a lot to do with the comradery he developed with Ung and Tin. When he got to PCC there was a stark difference to what Humphrey experienced in his past swim clubs. Everyday they would be with him training and pushing him. Tin was always in his lane and Ung was in the lane next to him, both saying encouraging words to him. 

“‘Go harder,’ stuff like that, and, I had never heard motivation before,” said Humphrey, “I was like, ‘What is this?’ and it just made me feel better. It definitely helped.”

Humphrey also learned how to give back encouragement telling them, “Great job on that set,” or, “Keep pushing, keep pushing.” This new practice of exchanging encouragement and motivation helped boost Humphrey’s confidence. It helped knowing that someone believed in him.

Humphrey stated that his coach also contributed encouragement by showing his confidence in him. Stoddard gave him the freedom to do his own thing. Before a race the coach expressed that Humphrey has it under control. 

‘“I’m gonna let you do what you want to do,”’ said Humphrey, quoting his coach.

Knowing that his coach trusted and believed in him reinforced Humphrey’s belief in himself and it shows in his performance. After the race he and his coach discussed what Humphrey did and what the coach observed. Humphrey would use the feedback on what he could do to improve on the next practice.

The community in his team is balanced with competition. Racing with teammates makes a better athlete so Humphrey liked to match against a teammate who had a different strength and it would make him better if he could keep up with them. Competition didn’t get in the middle of the comradery because they wanted to make each other better and push each other. This is also true of swim meets.

“I don’t care if I get second place as long as someone from PCC gets first place,” said Humphrey.

Swim practice and teamwork are important elements to life as a competitive swimmer. It isn’t all aquatics, though. Weight-lifting, too, is important for maintaining a competitive edge. The lancers’ routine for lifting weights was always Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays if there was a meet. 

The men and women swimming and diving teams anticipated two meets this spring: the South Coast Conference (SCC) Championships scheduled for April 16-18 at ELAC and the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championships scheduled for April 30 – May 2 at ELAC. 

The SCC championships is a conference meet, or competition, between community college swim athletes from PCC, Chaffey, ELAC, Rio Hondo, El Camino, and Mt. San Antonio College. The CCCAA state meet is a competition of all the community colleges in the state of California.

Both were cancelled.

“We wanted to win our conference meet this year,” said Humphrey. 

Humphrey isn’t held back by the sad news. Humphrey continues to take care of his fitness by running two to three miles every day; this helps him stay motivated. He doesn’t have a home gym to help him keep his body mass; his conscientious attention to his physique is his whole motivation for running even when he really doesn’t feel like it.

“I get up and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to run today.’ I get up and I see doughnuts on the counter and I’m like, ‘Yeah, no, okay, I’ll go run. I’m not gonna just sit here and eat doughnuts.’ So I’ll just go on a run and try to eat clean, too,” said Humphrey.

What is next for Michael Humphrey?

Humphrey is not going to continue swimming competitively after PCC. He decided to go to UCLA and got accepted – they don’t have a men’s swim team. 

“…I think it’s time for me to move on from swimming even though our season was cancelled and we get another year of eligibility. I think it’s time for me to move on.” said Humphrey.

At PCC Humphrey’s journey as a competitive swimmer opened up the opportunity for him to win swim meets, push himself and his teammates, and learn the powerful influence of challenge, trust, and sportsmanship.

Shantal Saborio

Shantal Saborio is a writer for the Courier. She enjoys exploring metaphysics, linguistics, and entomology. Beetles are her favorite.

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