SUA’s Athletes Show Their Mettle in a Challenging Year

February 25, 2022
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Swimmer, Yoshki Wurtz, is competing in the pool

SUA athletic teams have been demonstrating their resilience since campus reopened after being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As students returned to campus this fall, Lion athletes resumed practice and competitions. It was not easy to maintain good academic results while competing during a pandemic with its restrictive measures. However, SUA athletes worked hard to overcome these obstacles and earned many prestigious recognitions.

“I am so proud of how the Soka student-athletes and staff have persevered during this challenging time,” Director of Athletics and Recreation Mike Moore said, “having to endure continuous testing and scanning before competitions and practice, all with the goal of representing their university.”

Let’s celebrate and take a look at the achievements of the Lions athletic teams so far this year.


Four women’s soccer players were named to the All-California Pacific Conference team. Cienna Irwin ‘25, a stalwart at central defense, and tenacious forward Araceli Soto-Garcia ‘23 earned spots on the second team. Ashley Bustamante ‘22 and Alex Bershtein ‘24 received honorable mentions.

Five men’s soccer players were named all conference. Striker Gera De La Torre ‘22 was named to the first team and central defender Chase Buchert ‘23 the second team. Riley Grosso ‘22, Noah Alexander ‘24, and Luis Barraza ‘25 earned honorable mentions.


The Soka Lions produced program-best results at the Arizona Christian Firestorm Fall Invitational at Verrado Golf Club, near Phoenix.

On Day 1 of the competition, Emi Brown ‘25, Kalen Yamamoto ‘25, Savanna Smith ‘23, and Kennah Watts ‘22 combined to shoot 373, improving to a 360 on Day 2, for a two-day total of 733.

Brown led the Lions, shooting 86 and 83, while Yamamoto shot 94 and 82. Each Lion player shot better than 100 in the second round, marking the first time in program history that the whole team broke 100. Smith shot 96 and Watts 99.


The swim program set two school records, and posted multiple personal-best times in the Pacific Collegiate Swim Conference championship meet, February 16-19 in St. George, Utah.

The men’s relay team of AJ Stewart ’25, Sean Li ’24, Zachary Holt ’25, and Josh Beam ’25 set SUA records in the 200- and 400-yard medley relays. The team finished sixth in the 200-medley relay in 1:36.99 and seventh in the 400-medley relay in 3:38.91, the school-record times qualifying them for a spot in the NAIA National Championship meet March 2-5 in Columbus, Ga. Holt, who this season broke the school-record in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, and Stewart have also qualified as individuals for nationals.

In January, SUA honored seniors from the class of 2022, including Mikiko Hashimoto, Sophia Greco, Lisa Ransom, Sydney Sansbury, Yoshki Wurtz, and the late Wyatt Balman, during a dual meet against Westcliff University.

Sydney Sansbury ’22 swam a season-best 18:33.36 in the 1650 freestyle, 18th in the NAIA.

In December, Stewart ‘25 and Sophia Greco ‘22 were named Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference NAIA Swimmers of the Week for their performances at the University of Puget Sound Logger Invitational.

Greco swam strong races in the 200 individual medley relay (2:21.66). She also competed in the 200-yard backstroke (2:13.18) and the 100-yard butterfly.

Cross Country

The men’s and women’s teams each finished fifth at the California Pacific Conference Championships in November at Woodward Park in Fresno.

In the men’s 8K race, Naoki Kasai ‘25 finished 20th in 27:32.4. Jordan Bravo ‘25 finished in 28:09.7, followed by Randal Lindenmayer ‘23 (30:10.6), Kory Brown ‘24 (31:04.6), Adrian Echavarria ‘24 (32:11.5), Ryota Kamiuchi ‘22 (32:56.0), Gudy Castillo ‘23 (34:02.9), and Kofi Sarkodie ‘22 (35:08.3).

In the women’s 5K race, Naomi Otsuka ‘22 finished 19th in 20:52.0. Miranda Lam ‘24 (21:54.7) finished 25th, followed by Hiromi Hashide ‘24 (23:08.2), Monica Donayre ‘24 (23:16.2), Wendy Wimmer ‘22 (24:02.7), Clam Belisle ‘22 (24:45.8), and Vitoria Robles ‘25 (25:20.3).

Track & Field

The track and field program hosted their seventh-annual indoor qualifier meet this month. Dylan Fox ’25 and Olivia Chung ‘24 set school records. Fox won the long jump, posting a 6.94-meter (22 feet 9.25 inch) mark. Chung was fifth in the 60-meter hurdles in 9.78 seconds, to break her own school record she set earlier in February. 

—Thuy Le ‘22