The Heights

Updated: September 12, 2016

Article Image

Foothill swimmers dive into record-breaking season

Broken records, personal bests and gold medals rounded out the season for Foothill’s men’s and women’s swimming team. Under the leadership of Coach Jeffrey Bissell, Foothill Owls’ student-athletes finished in the top 10 at the California Community College Athletic Association Swimming & Diving State Championships.

“I’m proud that at the state championships, the Foothill men finished in 10th place, the highest we’ve ranked since the men’s team won six straight state titles in the ‘60s, and the Foothill women finished 9th–their highest finish in school history,” Bissell says.

The biggest splash this season was made by Foothill student Layna Auchard, 19, of San Jose, who repeated her championship-winning performance in the women’s 200-yard breaststroke. A Japanese major who will transfer to UC Davis this fall, Auchard was determined to end her competitive swimming career as a champion.

"It was important for me to swim competitively at Foothill because I knew that these two years were going to be the last competitive swimming that I would ever do," she says. "I'd already decided that I wouldn’t continue swimming when I go to Davis, so I wanted to put everything I had into these two years on Foothill’s swim team. Foothill has made a difference in my life by allowing me to figure out what I really wanted to do with myself. After spending two years here, I now have a clear goal for my future and I know what I need to do to accomplish it." She intends to continue advanced study of Japanese at UC Davis and pursue a career as a translator.

Layna is the most decorated female swimmer in the history of Foothill College,” Bissell says. “As a freshman, she was the state champion in the breaststroke. She broke her own state meet record and won the event again this year. In her short two-year career at Foothill, Layna has earned nine All-American Awards in swimming and one All-American Award in water polo. I couldn’t be more proud of her performance as the back-to-back state champion.”

In addition to Auchard’s record-breaking season, the Foothill men saw one of their own do some record-breaking when student-athlete Samson Sui, 20, an international student from Hong Kong, broke a 25-year-old school record in the men’s 50-yard freestyle. Sui broke the previous record of 21.03 by nearly a second—20.28—at the Coast Conference Championships in April. More records were broken earlier in the season when the Foothill's Dafne Gonzales, Natalie Thiel, Courtney Dean and Auchard broke the 4 x 50 freestyle relay school record. The foursome broke the 13-year-old record by more than a second with a time of 1:40.60.

The coach of the college’s women’s water polo team since 2001, Bissell began coaching Foothill’s men’s and women’s swim team in 2007. Each season, he recruits 10–15 student-athletes for each team, most of whom arrive at Foothill with some competitive swimming experience either from high school or swim clubs. Bissell’s programs emphasize responsibility and accountability in and out of the water.

“When you speak to my student-athletes, you’ll hear them parrot my philosophy which is made up of two rules: Ten minutes early is on time, whether it’s a practice session, competitive meet, doctor’s appointment or job interview,” Bissell says. “The other tenet? Look them in the eyes and shake their hands. These two elements are part of the larger picture in which my student-athletes learn about their responsibilities as individual competitors and teammates. Those responsibilities start far away from the pool. They start by attending classes, doing the work required to succeed in your classes, and performing at your optimum level in practices and competitions.”

Bissell reminds his swimmers that they came to Foothill College to get an education and then transfer to universities to achieve their academic goals. “It’s my goal to be a mentor to my student-athletes and instill a real commitment to respect,” he says. “I want them to respect themselves, respect their opponents and respect their commitment to completing their college education.”

"The most important thing I learned about myself as a Foothill student-athlete is how to become hardworking in order to achieve my goals," Auchard says. "I've had to juggle classes while also putting a huge amount of focus toward athletics. It can be grueling and stressful at times, but I've learned how to push through and go after what I want in life."

A member of the Coast Conference of the California Community College Athletic Association and NorCal Football Conference, Foothill’s men’s intercollegiate teams compete in basketball, football, soccer, tennis and swimming. Foothill’s women’s intercollegiate teams compete in basketball, water polo, soccer, tennis, volleyball, sand volleyball, softball and swimming. To learn more about Foothill intercollegiate athletics and opportunities for student-athletes, visit

Pictured: Foothill College Coach Jeffrey Bissell congratulates Foothill student-athlete Layna Auchard, who won the women’s 200-yard breaststroke state championship title for the second consecutive season.

Return to Heights Home

The Heights is written, designed, and developed by the Foothill Marketing Department.

See the archives page for past editions.