COC student-athlete shines in two teams

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When College of the Canyons student track and field athlete Sean Tomer lost the ability to compete due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he did not despair.

Instead, he channeled his energy into academics, becoming the first COC student-athlete to join the college’s aerospace and science team, earning the opportunity to lead a NASA student platform project, and finally walked away with a cumulative average of 3.71 and five associated diplomas, members of the 2021 class of the college.

“It was difficult to be a part of those two programs,” Tomer said of the balance between athletics and AST. “I’ve always been the type of person who has to constantly stay busy, so having a busy schedule was nothing new to me. But when the track season was canceled, my schedule became much more open. ”

While a high school student in Valencia, Tomer played on the basketball team his first two years before moving on to what was then a new sport for him, track and field.

“I knew I got into a competitive sport quite late in the game,” said Tomer, whose natural abilities matched the long jump and triple jump events. “With a little work, I knew I could be very good, even competitive. After graduating from high school, I joined the COC track team and started training for the 2020 season. ”

Around the same time, Tomer got to know the COC AST team as well and wanted to get involved.

COC AST – which includes High Altitude Student Payload (HASP) and RockSat-X – is a team of students, faculty, and alumni who build instruments to conduct research in the upper atmosphere and space. To date, the team has flown four high altitude balloon missions aboard NASA’s HASP system; two to collect interplanetary dust particles and two to neutralize harmful acids in the upper stratosphere.

“It sounded interesting, and when I studied more there and saw how intensive the program was, I got really interested,” Tomer recalls. “At first I attended a meeting just to see what it was about. It only took me a few minutes to realize that was exactly what I wanted to do.

“I learned too much to count from NASA HASP and RockSat-X,” he added. “My favorite part of the program is the whole hands-on experience. These teams have given me tons of leadership and engineering experience that otherwise would have been impossible. ”

Earlier this spring, COC AST was selected to participate in NASA’s HASP program for a fifth consecutive year. Using its 2017 HASP mechanical design, the 24-member student team quickly began work on building a compact scintillator – which converts high-energy radiation into visible light – to detect gamma rays and neutrinos. in the upper stratosphere.

“Our goal is to collect data on the frequency of antimatter collisions in the upper stratosphere,” said Tomer, who served as NASA HASP project manager for 2021. “This should allow us to better understand the composition and the origin of the universe. ”

Vacuum and thermal tests for Project HASP are scheduled to take place this month at NASA’s Columbia Science Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas. HASP is next scheduled to launch on September 6 from the NASA site in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Team spirit helps him to excel

While it is difficult for student-athletes to be able to devote time to after-school programs like the COC AST, it may have been Tomer’s athletic background and team spirit that has helped him to excel at as a HASP project manager.

“Sean introduces himself,” said Teresa Ciardi, COC AST co-advisor and physical science professor at the college. “It’s one thing for a person to say that they want to be part of the team, that they want a leadership position. It is quite another thing to always present yourself, to be present and to assume the responsibilities of this leadership position. Sean shows up even when the job is outside his area of ​​expertise.

Some of Tomer’s many tasks as a project manager on the ongoing project include overseeing project evaluation and process improvement, leading project plans, purchasing equipment, coordination of deadlines and reporting to NASA HASP leadership.

“In my opinion, his athletic team experience is probably what drives Sean’s ability to tell team members what he needs for the project and what they need to fill out for the next required NASA document. Ciardi added.

With an assured leadership role in the COC AST, Tomer continued to watch the start of the Spring 2020 season, working towards his goals on the track and in the sandboxes.

“The College of the Canyons offers the best in terms of academic resources and athletic competitions and Sean has been involved in both,” said Lindie Kane, COC head coach of athletics.

“He’s the type of student-athlete who is totally committed to the team’s group effort,” Kane added, noting that Tomer also runs sprints and fills relay teams when not jumping. . “We are very proud of his academic achievements and his participation in COC AST. ”

Things looked bright at the start of the season, with the Cougars competing in four meetings and winning the first Western State Conference event before having the remainder of the 2020 season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was pushing myself and really couldn’t wait to see what I could do,” said Tomer. “So yeah, I was really disappointed. But of course, I understood why.

Disappointed but not discouraged, Tomer continued to run and keep fit while refocusing on his classes, switched to the online format, and managing the HASP project.

“I just came to terms with my situation,” Tomer said. “I adapted as best I could and tried to stay on track academically. Keeping in regular contact with my coaches and teammates has helped me a lot.

A second blow came when the 2021 athletics season was also canceled due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite losing the ability to compete for the second time and the likely end of his track and field career, Tomer stayed the course.

Last fall, he was named one of the COC Sports Department’s 27 Canyons Elite student-athletes for 2020-2021, as the Athletics Program Leader and Representative and Cougar Athletics Ambassador.

It was also during this time off from sport that Tomer realized that he was within reach not of one, but of several associate degrees.

“It wasn’t intentional,” said Tomer, who started attending college as a high school student simultaneously enrolled in 2017. “I didn’t realize I was that close until then. let my advisor tell me. ”

Hard work pays off

With the finish line in sight, Tomer continued to do his best academically. That hard work paid off when he brought home associate’s degrees in computer science, physics, social science and two more in mathematics.

With several courses at his disposal, so far, Tomer chose computer science as his preferred specialty when he enrolled at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo this fall.

“I’m not sure what I want to do in the future,” Tomer said. “But I know I want it to be in the IT realm.”

And while he’s clearly an important member of the COC AST and track teams, Tomer struggles to choose the college experience he prefers.

“The two teams are different in almost every conceivable way,” said Tomer. “But they’re similar in that they’re both very encouraging and more effective when everyone is in sync to achieve a common goal.

“From COC AST, I learned to lead a team of smart, strong and talented people who share a common passion,” he added. “My experience on the track team has shown me the importance of teamwork and camaraderie. He illustrated the importance of teamwork and leadership.

“I enjoyed both teams the same way. The track is physically demanding, while AST requires a completely different skill set, ”Tomer concluded. “But both are tough and competitive. For me, they complemented each other.

As for taking early retirement from track and field, Tomer chooses to see the bright side of his situation.

“Like many varsity athletes, I am disappointed that everything has been cut short,” he said. “For me, however, the positive point is that I was able to devote more time and energy to my lessons and the AST teams.

“2020 is over and I will never get it back, but I think it needs to be put into perspective,” Tomer added. “I lost a couple of sports seasons, but others have lost a lot more.”


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