Friday Feature: Lauren Mar

In her first season with the San Jose State University women’s swimming and diving program, Lauren Mar swam primarily backstroke, while Brie Marhenke starred in the sprint freestyle events on her way to an appearance at the NCAA Championships. As a sophomore, with Marhenke taking a redshirt year and Ashley Vrieze on hand to lead the Spartan backstroke contingent, Mar switched to freestyle. Marhenke’s return to the pool then signaled another return to backstroke for Mar as a junior.

The result?

All Mar did was score 103.5 individual points over three Western Athletic Conference Championship meets, an average of an incredible 34.5 points per year, and aided in 362 relay points to boot as the Spartans posted back-to-back-to-back program-best fourth-place showings at the event.

The native of San Francisco, Calif., and 2005 graduate of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in the City, is an 11-time All-WAC performer. She has garnered seven WAC medals, with three gold, one silver and three bronze. Mar is a three-time conference champion, all in relays, and has been a part of five school-record swims.

Now in her fourth and final year in the program, Mar is again swimming mostly freestyle as San Jose State’s top sprinter, with freshman phenom Heather Denman taking the reins in backstroke. Being as versatile and consistent a contributor as she has been for fourth-year head coach Sage Hopkins, there is no reason to think that Mar will produce anything short of another tremendous performance at her last WAC Championship.

“Coming in as a backstroker, and then switching to mainly a freestyler my second year, was not too bad,” says Mar. “It was a nice change in not only swimming backstroke, but having the option of doing freestyle as well. I just try to work on both strokes to keep a consistent balance of progression. I don’t have a preference of one stroke over the other.”

“Lauren is a very talented swimmer, and a great teammate,” remarks Hopkins. “She has really come in to her own this season. There’s been a lot of hard work put in, and great focus shown, over her previous three years, and this season is proving to be the culmination of a lot of that. She’s had just a stellar senior season thus far. We couldn’t be more pleased with her performance in the weight room, in the pool, and in the classroom. We’re just thrilled with her.”

Explains Mar about her start in the sport, “My friend started swimming at a local pool, and joined a club team there. Her father suggested to my parents that I try swimming, so I started taking lessons when I was nine, and joined the same club team, Fog City Hammerheads. In the very beginning, when I started taking lessons, I remember that I had to repeat a level seven times before I passed, which I was extremely embarrassed about. Competitively, my first memories were mainly of waking up early, traveling to swim meets almost every weekend, and swimming just about as many events as you could possibly swim per day.

“My club team used a high school pool, so we always had a set schedule on when practice would be, which would be later in the evening, after the high school students were done.”

Standing at five-foot-three as one of the three shortest among 22 Spartan swimmers, Mar may be small in size, but is not so in stature. A veritable bullet in the water, she was the varsity team’s MVP at Sacred Heart Cathedral in all four years for coach Aaron Wong, and rewrote the school’s record book, leaving as the standard-bearer in no fewer than nine individual events and several relays. Her high school feats gained her enough notice to pave a way toward top-notch college swimming.

“I spoke with the previous coach on the phone for a couple of weeks, and he wanted to see if I was interested in coming to San Jose State. He kept telling me about the program, and the new additions to the school, such as the library and the dorms. My mother and I came to look around the campus ourselves, and figured we might as well see the pool while we were here. When we found the pool, the team was there practicing, and I had a chance to meet the coach and the girls. I spoke with him and he offered me a scholarship then and there.”

Mar, who earned Most Improved honors at the conclusion of her freshman campaign, and shared Swimmer of the Year distinction in 2007 as voted on by teammates, has no shortage of fond recollections from three-plus years of success at San Jose State.

“I don’t have a top memory, but some that are up there, are when we came in first for the 200 free relay at the WAC Championship (in 2006), when I broke the backstroke record freshman year (50 back), going to nationals (USA Swimming Spring National Championships in East Meadow, N.Y., in March of 2007), and winning the WAC Shootout this year. I am very proud of the achievements that I’ve had over these four years, but even more so of the progress of the team and the program.”

A business administration major with a concentration in marketing, Mar looks forward to graduating by the end of the fall 2009 semester. In addition to her talents in the water, she is a two-time Academic All-WAC honoree and a two-time San Jose State University Scholar-Athlete.

“I’m working on an internship and finishing school. I should be done by next fall. Then hopefully, I can stay and work in the Bay Area in public relations for a company.”

Mar is still only halfway through her final season of college swimming, however. The Spartans are off to an incredible start through the fall portion, at 8-1 in dual meets with a perfect 5-0 mark at the inaugural WAC Shootout in October, and a program-best second-place effort at the annual Nike Cup last month.

The Spartans round out the 2008 calendar year with a home dual against area rival University of the Pacific on Saturday, December 6, beginning at 3:00 p.m. at The Aquatics Center on campus, as they look to improve to 9-1 heading into final exams and the holidays. They will resume competition on Friday, January 2, with an eye on the 2009 WAC Championship, to be held again in San Antonio, Texas, February 25-28.

“My goals for the rest of the season are to have fun, finish the season strong, place in the top three in all of my events at the WAC Championship, and most of all, for our team to win the WAC!”

2008-09 Friday Features
September 19 - David Richmond, Football
September 26 - Yonus Davis, Football
October 3 - Hiroki Akiyama, Men's Soccer
October 10 - Homecoming Spartan Style
October 17- Jessica Ingram, Women's Soccer
October 24 - Coye Francies, Football
October 31 - David Haefele, Men's Cross Country
November 7 - Travis Jones, Football
November 14 - Men's Soccer Seniors
November 21 - Football Seniors
December 5 - Lauren Mar, Swimming