By Tiff Wells.
Fans of a school see the athletes perform on game night, and that’s about it. They read up about them in articles, see videos on social media or scan the player bios on the schools’ websites. But how do we really get to know about these players? By having them answer the questions first-hand, of course! With college sports in action, just how are UH athletes getting ready? What are they thinking? What do they like? In this Q&A, we go from the Taraflex to the pool with senior swimmer Lucia Lassman from women’s swimming and diving..
Q: You were born and raised in Queensland, Australia. When did you first get into swimming, and when did you know you wanted to compete collegiately?
Since growing up in Australia, water safety is a big deal, so I learned to swim at a very young age, but I didn’t start swimming competitively until I was nine years old. When I finished high school, I started looking into coming to college in the U.S. Swimming at home is very individual, and the main focus is to get yourself on the Australian team. I always loved seeing the team culture and atmosphere of college swim teams, and it was the change I needed to keep my love for my sport.
Q: What did it mean for you to win two golds (50 free, 100 fly) at the MPSF Championships this past February? Just how hard was it to defend your MPSF Championship 100 fly title from your sophomore season?
Winning those golds were a great reminder as to why I love racing. As a swimmer, there are a lot of long, hard hours spent in the pool, in the gym, as well as dryland work. Those gold medals represent not only the hard work that I put in but also the dedication of the coaching staff and the support of all my teammates.
Q: Describe the experience and feeling of representing an entire state every time you swim.
Something that the coaches always remind us of before we travel is that when we wear our uniform, we are not only representing our team, but we are representing the state of Hawai’i. The opportunities and life experiences Hawai’i has given me is something I am so grateful for and value. The people and the cultural history of Hawai’i also make it such a unique place that I’m proud to represent.
What goes through your mind as you take your mark on the block, waiting for your race to start?
Behind the block, I like to visualize my race and go through the race plan in my head. How many kicks I do off each wall, how many strokes I’m taking, and my breathing pattern. I try to stay relaxed, positive and focus on what can be controlled. When it comes to stepping on the blocks, my mind zones in as I wait for the starter to send us off.
Q: You’re a three-time MPSF All-Academic nominee and a two-time CSCAA Scholar All-American. Just how tough is it to remain focused on your studies while competing in collegiate athletics?
Time management plays a big role in staying on top and focused on my studies. My coaches and academic advisor have always been supportive in helping me do well in the classroom and the pool, whether that be letting me take a session off to get school work done or help with organizing a tutor.
Q: What is the hardest part about being a member of a relay team? What is your most challenging event, and why?
Relays are a lot of fun, but I would say the most challenging part of being a relay team member is the pressure I put on myself of doing well for the other three girls and the rest of the team who are cheering from the side. Relays are worth double the points, and in many cases, the overall winning team is determined by winning a single relay.
I would have to say the most challenging event is the 50 free. Even though it is the shortest event, it is the hardest technically. We only have around 22 seconds to nail every detail from the start, breakout, turn and finish. One mistake can cost you the whole race.
Q: We watch the Summer Olympics, and swimmers make it look so easy when they orchestrate a turn. Take us through how you make that underwater turn.
Throughout the season, we do hundreds of turns, so when it comes to racing, muscle memory takes over, and it’s not something I’m focusing on during the meet. We also do some underwater filming where the coaches and I will analyze the little details to execute a fast turn and underwater skills.
Q: Even though the NCAA Championships in March were canceled because of the pandemic, what did it mean for the program to qualify three divers? And how can this entire program continue to grow?
Each year, our NCAA team grows, which is a testament to how quickly our program is advancing. Unfortunately, the 2020 NCAA championships were canceled due to COVID-19, but I think that the team we had was the strongest the program has seen, especially on the diving side with the girls predicted to place well!
Q: When facilities were closed, how did you stay in swimming shape, and how did you stay mentally focused? How tough was/is it to train when you don’t know if/when the season will start?
Unfortunately, going home to Australia was difficult with flights and quarantining, so I stayed in Hawaii for the whole summer. I did my best to go on ocean swims and the occasional pool swim when the facilities were available, but I kept most of my fitness by doing dryland workouts with my roommates and friends on other sports teams. It was tough at first, but once we got into a routine, we really came to love it. It was something so different for me, and it turned out to be fun getting creative with making up new workouts each day with the limited equipment.
Q: For the fourth straight year, the women’s swim and dive team won the MPSF championships (you were a member of the 400 free relay team). What makes this the women’s program so good, and just how competitive are the training sessions?
Without support from the Wahine swim team, I wouldn’t be able to get through all of the hard hours in the pool. We are such a close team who motivate each other every day. Since many of us are international and live very far from home, we have become like family. We push and encourage each other to get the best out of ourselves. The training sessions are competitive, and I think that is one reason we see a lot of success at our competitions.
Q: All UH teams log a ton of airline miles every season. What are the must-have items in your carry-on bag when you board the plane? When on the road, do you have a go-to spot for a meal?
Some of the must-haves in our carry-on bag are practice suits, racing suits, caps, goggles, change of clothes, towel, and especially our water bottle to stay hydrated. These are the essentials since we usually go straight to the pool when we land. When on the road, our go-to eating spot. We are lucky to have coaches and managers that are so on top of things and pre-order our food to be ready for us straight after the heat session.
Q: Finally, take us through a typical meet day.
The typical meet day starts with an early wake-up, breakfast at the hotel, coffee is essential! We then drive to the pool and spend a good amount of time checking out the venue, stretching, and doing some land activation. From there, usually, one hour before our race, we get into our practice suits and begin our meet warm-up. After we’ve warmed up, we dry off and get ready to get into our knee skin racing suit, which takes quite a bit of time since they’re so tight. Finally, we spend time talking to our coaches before racing, discussing a pre-race strategy, then line up behind the blocks. After our race, we see our coaches again for the feedback on how we can improve for finals later in the day. Once the morning heats are over, it’s time to recover. We warm down around 1km, eat and then take a nap at the hotel before we do it all over again for finals at night.
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