Interview with Occidental’s New Coach

Shea Manning is the new coach at Occidental. So like we’ve done a lot this summer (now fall), we sent over some questions and got answers. Those answers are below. Best of luck this season coach!

You’re rooted in the SCIAC, how does it feel to be back?

Surreal.  Leaving CMS was one of the hardest career decisions I’ve had to make, having been involved with the program as a swimmer and Assistant Coach for seven years.  To think of where the Conference was when I was a recruit and what it has evolved into today, it was really hard to let go—especially given the fact that I was not sure I would ever have the opportunity to be a part of the SCIAC again.  It is such an honor to have the opportunity to be back this soon, and at the institution that is the best match for my background and skill-set.  I’m a lucky guy.

There has been a very strong national presence in recent years from the SCIAC, is this something that Occidental can be a part of in the near future?

Absolutely.  It hasn’t been that long since the Men had a strong national presence.  Before Redlands finished 7th last season, the highest finishing Men’s SCIAC team in the past decade had been Occidental’s 13th place finish in 2007.  We have a strong group of returning upperclassmen, as well as a substantial incoming class—so we are definitely moving in the right direction.  For the Women, this past season was a breakout year in the conference.  Additionally, Caroline Chang was the first female swimmer from Oxy to qualify to NCAA’s since the 80’s.  Breaking that barrier is obviously the first challenge in creating a presence.  Now we’ve got our eyes set on qualifying a relay.

How easy will it be to pick up the phone and call Charlie for some occasional advice knowing you’re competing against the Stags and Athenas now?

I am hoping it will be pretty easy for me.  I know Charlie would be pretty disappointed if I said it was hard, because I know he’s open to those conversations.  He was my coach and my boss, but what many people do not know was that he was a co-reader/grader on my Senior Thesis to boot.  Charlie has had a hand in literally every piece of my development (personal, athletic, academic, professional)—that doesn’t change now that we are competing coaches.

What type of student athlete is going to be the most successful at Occidental?

One that understands the importance of every aspect of their education here at Occidental and finds the perfect balance between academics, athletics and his/her social life.

How does that student fit into your program?

Very well—they are role models for the rest of the team.

Both of your rosters appear to be very sophomore heavy heading into your first season.  What message would you want to send that group given the opportunity?

There is certainly no overlooking the sophomore class in terms of size and talent–I am excited to have the opportunity to help them build on their successful first season.  I cannot think about the team as just that class, however.  We have a great [albeit smaller] group of upperclassmen whom have already impressed me with their character and enthusiasm for the coming season.  They all still have a huge amount of potential.  I believe their ability to lead and capitalize on that potential will dictate the success of the season–especially since we have another large and talented group of newcomers.  They will need the strong leadership of the upperclassmen along with the recent, successful, first-year experience of the sophomores.

If you could have a sandwich with anything on it for lunch, what would it be?

At the risk of sounding like the east-coast transplant that I am, it would have to be a double-double with grilled onions from In-N-Out.  I’m also embarrassed to say that I have recently taken to ordering it Atkins’ style (lettuce instead of bun).

Do you think any of those sophomores are going to show up with that sandwich for you?

I actually think the seniors are more likely to pick up on any of this… but we’ll see.

Three of the five relay records for the men were set in the 1970’s.  I guess that’s not a question but would you like to respond to that statement?

Correct, the 400 Freestyle, 800 Freestyle, and 400 Medley were all set in 1977, when each of those relays were National Champions.  I do not say that to speak to the speed of the relays, but to make the point that this program has some impressive history.  History that will only help in our ability to sell the program and the direction in which we are taking it.  We have the talent on our roster and with our in-coming class to take down each of those relays… and records that old, regardless of their speed, ignite a team and alumni population when they are broken.

What is the best race you’ve ever witnessed?

SUCH a tough question!  There are so many of them… hmm… GWU Men’s 400 Free Relay winning the 2011 A-10 Championship from the outside lane after over a decade at the bottom… CMS’ Whitney Dawson going from one of the last 2009 NCAA invitees to a 3rd place finish in the mile… experiencing the quietest and loudest bar atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed within 3 seconds of each other during the Men’s 100M Butterfly of the 2008 Olympic Games (obviously was not there… but it still gives me chills to think about the energy level in that bar when literally every person was so invested in our sport and pulling for the same person)… and every race ever swam by the Fairfax Station Flyers when I was a kid (it’s a little crazy how much families care about their neighborhood teams in Northern Virginia—but MAN was it exciting).

What is your favorite d3 username?

I’ve both agreed and disagreed with the most outspoken users.  I just appreciate the conversation and debate—so I have respect for all the users that help feed that with interesting talking points.

Do you have one?  A yes or no is fine, we don’t need you to reveal your identity.

I’m an avid reader, but think I would get carried away with responses if I had a secret identity—so I refrain… for now.

Are there certain things we can come to expect from your program?

As a competitor, I learned to expect Oxy to always have a positive energy and demeanor in the manner in which they competed.  I am hoping that will continue to be a staple of the program—and that more teams will be able to witness it through our becoming more competitive at NCAA’s.  More generally, I think the entire Division III community can expect to hear more chatter about the SCIAC Conference.  Obviously CMS and Redlands have established programs that make noise at NCAA’s each year.  Whittier and Cal Lutheran are emerging programs.  Pomona-Pitzer and La Verne both added new coaches with a proven history of success in other conferences.  Not even Caltech can be overlooked with the addition of Betsy Mitchell as their Athletic Director.  I think the conference is in for some really intense growth in competition across the next several years—and I fully expect Oxy to be a big part of that.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Justice Beaver

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