Making waves and reaching goals

Making waves and reaching goals

Maria Sandoghdar swims at Steven E. Schofield Aquatic Center at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif., on May 3, 2022. Photo by Nancy Corona

Breaking records and bringing justice.

Maria Sandoghdar is combining her dreams by majoring in criminal justice and starring on the Pierce swim team.

At 11 years old, she moved to the United States from Madrid. During her transition she put swimming on hold to get adjusted. 

Her freshman year of high school she decided to revisit the sport as a way to meet new friends, but to Sandoghdar’s surprise her love for swimming was rekindled. 

“I started taking the sport seriously during my freshman year of high school. I met the best people and seeing improvement is what really kept me going,” Sandoghdar said.

Sandoghdar is now a sophomore at Pierce, and she also attends California State University, Northridge (CSUN) as a Criminal Justice major.

Sandoghdar recently earned 37 points at the Western State Conference in Cuesta, being the most points ever earned by an individual on the team. She earned three medals in the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyle events. 

Maria said that earning 37 points at the Western Conference was a challenge in itself, but her determination to beat her times from every year is what led her to a successful season. 

“I like challenges and swimming was a challenge for me. Beating my time each year is what kept me going. I get huge satisfaction from seeing myself succeed,” Sandoghdar said. “This season I worked so hard and it paid off.” 

 Head swim coach Judi Terhar explained that there were challenges throughout the season such as not being able to practice through COVID, but through it all Maria stayed resilient and was a team player. 

“Maria was very nervous, but she channeled it into confidence and used it to her advantage. She was excellent in helping everybody be included,” Terhar said. “She basically put the whole team on her shoulders. She even helped the men drop their mile time by challenging them, and practicing with them every day.” 

This season, Sandoghdar naturally stepped into the role as a leader by using her experience to help guide and encourage her teammates along the way. 

“I feel like I have a lot of years behind me, and I can use that to help people,” Sandoghdar said. “I’d like to think I’m very encouraging, I try to be the comical person, make practice fun, and be supportive no matter who’s racing. I’m going to be there cheering.” 

 Elliot Geyzer echoed Terhar’s sentiment on Maria being a team player. 

“Maria is an amazing teammate. She is one of the funniest and sweetest people I’ve ever met, and she is always willing to help everyone out,” Geyser said. “You can always rely on her and have her support.”

Geyzer also mentioned that Sandoghdar has never missed a practice, and always tries her hardest while staying on top of all their sets.

“She worked hard for those 37 points and undoubtedly, I knew she would get them,” Geyzer said. 

 Allison Schamber said Sandoghdar is really supportive of her teammates and is a great motivator. 

“She is such a valuable teammate and a great person to be around. We have all been out of shape in the beginning of the season, but everyone, especially Maria, has improved by a lot,” Schamber said.

Sandoghdar expressed how lucky she is to have the coaches and teammates that she has. 

“I’ve been so lucky to have the best teammates and coaches. They make everything fun,” Sandoghdar said.

Although Sandoghdar is studying towards her criminal justice degree to become a criminal psychologist, she also plays water polo and hopes to see where swimming will take her. 

“Getting into coaching will be so much fun. I would just live off of teaching the kids and teenagers,” Sandoghdar said.