Women's Swimming & Diving

Living In a Sports Shutdown--Awards, state meet goals dashed for Pasadena City swimmer Carmen Ung

Lancer swimmer Carmen Ung had her hopes of winning a state title erased in 2020 with the shutdown of all California Community College Spring sports due to the Covid-19 health crisis. (Photo courtesy PCC Athletics)
Lancer swimmer Carmen Ung had her hopes of winning a state title erased in 2020 with the shutdown of all California Community College Spring sports due to the Covid-19 health crisis. (Photo courtesy PCC Athletics)

(The third installment in the Living in a Sports Shutdown series from Robert Lewis, Pasadena City College Sports Information Office. Sophomores from PCC Spring Sports teams are profiled)

PASADENA - Last year, Pasadena CIty College women's swim phenom Carmen Ung set three school records, was named South Coast Conference Co-Swimmer of the Year, and scored a silver medal in the 100-yard breaststroke at the 2019 CCCAA State Championship Meet. Ung was poised to break more records and possibly earn a coveted state title in two breaststroke events before the season was cancelled last month due to the worldwide health crisis. 

Ung had already established herself in her sophomore season having competed in four meets. She was ranked in the state top 5 in six different events, including #2 in her two best events the 100 breaststroke (1:06.67) and 200 breastroke (2:26.26). Her #4 time of 2:18.82 in the 200 butterfly was also the second fastest in PCC history, a time she posted in the Lancers final meet of the year, a South Coast Conference dual meet win over Chaffey on March 7. She was undefeated, winning all six of her events in her two conference meets.

Things were on course for Ung but circumstances beyond her and all California Community College Spring student-athletes control cut short the 2020 season. No chance for back-to-back conference Swimmer of the Year, no new school records, and no state meet, which this year was scheduled virtually at her doorstep at East Los Angeles College in May. 

Now, Ung, who attended Mark Keppel High before arriving at PCC, is living at home with her father and sister in Monterey Park as she copes with being away from PCC and the pool.

The following is a Q&A with Ung

Q: You were having a strong sophomore season, how did you initially handle the news of the shutdown of the 2020 schedule and was it a shock to you and your teammates?
Carmen: Things were starting to come along during the start of my second season. In the beginning, I was still trying to adjust to my schedule. I was mentally exhausted from my Winter semester where I took two difficult classes along with practice. I was starting to feel my groove after the Mt. SAC and El Camino double dual meet (Feb. 28). Coach Terry Stoddard and I were starting to see great things in my 100 and 200 breaststroke. I was on top of the water, had great flow, good stats. So yes, I was in shock but not surprised that our season ended so abruptly. I received the news from my teammates who sent me the tweet that PCC Athletics had posted that the Spring season ended. I was in tears because I felt so sorry for my sophomore teammates, like Matthew and Brandon (members of the PCC men's team). Right from the start of the season, I saw that they were determined to qualify for State as they had barely missed it last year. I was so upset that for all of their hard work, they won't ever have the chance to compete at State. This was not how I wanted to end my last season with PCC. I was hopeful that I was going to break another record and perhaps win a state title. 

Q: What has been the biggest thing you've missed as a college student-athlete since the season was shut down?
: What I miss most right now are my teammates. I miss cheering for them. I miss my relay team. I miss the high fives we would give after every grueling practice. They made the season fun. They made every practice enjoyable. I miss them so much. 
Q: Are you pleased that the California Community Colleges and the NCAA are handing back the year of eligibility to Spring sports participants. How will that news affect what you do going forward?
Carmen: I'm glad that we are given another year of eligibility, but I see that as only useful for those who have to stay at PCC or at their university for another year than usual. Everyone must move on from this. I'm not sure how many of us would take extra classes just to compete for another year at their school. I'm going to move on from this year because I also have to stay on schedule with my academic classes. I want to earn my bachelor's degree in four years, but if I have to take five, then I'd be happy that I get to compete in my fifth year too. 
Q: What have you done to stay in shape and pass the time to replace the swim practice and meets?
Carmen: I've been staying in shape by exercising with my sister and my cousin. We run 2-3 miles around the park. Then, we do HIIT workouts and abs afterward on our yoga mats. YouTube comes in handy for our in-home workouts. Altogether, we work out for about 90 minutes every day. It's not a complete replacement from swimming because I know I'm not burning as many calories, but it's better than doing work on my laptop.
Q: What have you been able to do that you wouldn't have been able to do since the shut down, or what have you done to pass some of the downtime?
Carmen: I haven't had much downtime, to be honest. I constantly have work to do for school, so that has been keeping me busy. However, I have been cooking more than usual and I've been trying new recipes. I'm looking forward to my spring break, which is next week, to organize my workspace and clean out my closet. I also plan to do things unrelated to using my devices. I need a break from technology. It's been straining my eyes and hurting my head.  
Q: What has been the best part of attending and swimming at PCC? Do you feel you've grown as an athlete since high school?
Carmen: The best part about attending PCC is the people that I've met, whether they are my professors, coaches, counselors, teammates, and students. Everyone has their own experiences to share and I'm always in awe by how incredible everyone is at PCC. I have definitely grown as an athlete since high school. I've become "the player of the game" as Coach Stoddard has told me. I am "an astute athlete." I've learned to become mindful of my actions in and out of the pool. Over the years, I've learned to analyze my own technique and races. I can point out what I did wrong and how I can be better next time. It's always a great conversation with Coach Stoddard because as a better athlete, coach and I are able to exchange ideas, and I'm able to truly understand the feedback I'm getting. 
Q: You were likely to qualify in several events at the CCCAA State Championships. What are your feelings about not being able to swim for a possible first-place or high medal in 2020??
Carmen: I was initially disappointed and frustrated that I won't be able to meet my goals for the season. I was hoping to win State this year in the breaststroke events. But I remind myself that everyone is in the same situation as me and it is outside of our control. There isn't much we can do about it, but to stay safe and healthy. I understand what had to be done and I am okay with it. It just wasn't the right timing.
Coach Stoddard talked about the training process that was halted for his swimmers, especially Ung. He explained why times turned in by swimmers build to a faster crescendo late in a season.
Stoddard said: "Swimming and diving have a training load model that starts small and builds toward the middle, then tapers down near the end of a season so that peaking occurs at the right time--the conference championships then state meet. This process enables an athlete to be at maximum strength and maximum endurance at the destination rather than during the journey. Carmen was in the midst of that process when the season got cut short. She was on course to be one of the favorites to win the two breaststroke events at state. I think she would have broken a number of school records in the process. I feel for her and all of our team members during this shutdown."
Ung talked about some of the frustrations of today's routine, something that many student-athletes can sympathize.
"I hate staring at a screen all day, but unfortunately, that is the reality for the next few months. However, I am grateful that because of the technology we have I am still able to take my classes and connect with my friends and family. I wish I had a pool in my backyard though."
Ung's 2020 State Top Times in Various Events
Events competed at invitationals only
100 Individual Medley: #1, 1:02.06
50 Breaststroke: #2, 30.72

Events competed at conference/state level
50 Freestyle: #5, 25.58
100 Breaststroke: #2, 1:06.67
200 Breaststroke: #2, 2:26.26
200 Butterfly: #4, 2:18.82

PCC School Records set by Ung in 2019

50 Breaststroke, 30.14
100 Breaststroke, 1:03.20
200 Breaststroke, 2:20.72


Carmen Ung with a medal won from the 2019 state meet at De Anza College