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SMC Swim Coach Has Made a Big Splash for Years

April 25, 1985|PAUL SMITH | Times Staff Writer

It's probably no surprise that Coach John Joseph will take his undefeated Santa Monica College women's swim team and his men's team, tied for first place in the Metropolitan Conference, to the junior college state championship meet May 2-4 at Hartnell College in Salinas.

Joseph's dual meet record in 35 years as head coach is a mystery, because no one at the school has been keeping track. But it's no mystery that he has been a winner.

By Joseph's estimate, his teams have won 80% of their meets since he came to the school in 1950. As far as finding out exactly what his record is, he said, "I really don't give a damn."

But rival coaches do, and they have named him state community college coach of the year for their sport twice and conference coach of the year four times.

9 Straight for Women

This year his women swimmers have won nine straight meets, and the men have lost only to Ventura. The conference's final dual meet standings show the SMC women in first place and, in the men's competition, a tie among Santa Monica, Ventura and Cuesta.

Joseph said he expects the conference meet at Long Beach today through Saturday to be hotly contested by those three schools.

"It'll be a close meet," the coach said. "We beat Cuesta, 60-44, this year, but that score doesn't show how competitive they are. Ventura has got good team depth. They beat us by two points in the last relay of an early-season meet. The other conference teams just aren't as strong as we are."

As for the state finals, Joseph said he expects his swimmers to end up in the top 10 but not to take the state flag because of lack of depth in individual events.

"Our relay teams are our strongest suits," he said. "In the 200- and 400-yard women's medley relay we're a little weak in the backstroke and the breaststroke, but we've got a terrific butterflyer in Libby Neal and a good sprinter in Erika Sellegshon."

Both All-Americans

Neal and Sellegshon are sophomores who made the junior college All-American team last year. Neal also swims the third leg of the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays and Sellegshon anchors all of the relays.

The first two legs of the 200-yard medley relay are handled by freshman Kathleen Alexander (backstroke) and sophomore junior college All-American Patsy Smith (breaststroke). In the 400-yard medley All-American Carolyn Lehne is the Corsair backstroker and Smith is again in the breaststroke slot.

"The men's team might have a better chance than the women to win the conference meet," Joseph said.

His tentative choices for the 400-yard men's medley relay are sophomore junior college All-American Ken Whittle (backstroke), freshman Mike Crews (breaststroke), sophomore Eric Harter (butterfly) and sophomore Mike Richman (freestyle). Freshmen Louis Chao and Mike Collins might swim in the 400- and 800-yard freestyle medleys, the coach said.

Expects Much From Neal

In women's individual events, Joseph is high on Neal, who has set school records in the 50- and 100-yard butterfly and has also qualified to race at the state finals in the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle. "I think she'll be one of the state finalists in all her events. She's worked hard and it's paid off.

"I knew she was a surfer, but she'd never swum competitively before she came here a year ago. If you get a person who's fresh to competitive swimming and she's got natural ability, you've got a real nugget."

The coach is keen on Whittle in the men's individual events. "There's no doubt he'll be our big gun at the conference meet in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke." Whittle posted his best time (55.9) in the 100-yard backstroke against Canyons in the last dual meet of the season two weeks ago.

Other Corsair men expected to do well at the conference and state finals are Crews in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, Collins in the 1,650-yard freestyle and Richman in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyles.

Many All-Americans

Under Joseph, SMC's men's teams have averaged four junior college All-Americans a year and have always had at least one. Between 1950 and 1972 the Corsairs won the Metropolitan dual and conference titles four times.

SMC moved into the Southern California Conference between 1973 and 1984 and during that period took three SCC championships. This is SMC's first year back in the Metro Conference.

"We've never been a state champion though," Joseph said with a note of regret. "We've been second or third in the state--but never champion. Championships take tremendous team depth."

For the first quarter-century of his 35-year tenure at the college, Joseph doubled on the football coaching staff. In 1950 he started as an assistant coach, took on head football coaching duties between 1952 and 1955 and was the offensive line coach from 1956 until 1974.

"I played football for UCLA and that's what SMC hired me for--football.

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